Posts Tagged ‘June’

Audi RS5 Driven

Posted: September 3, 2010 in Articles
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Grrrrrr from 06|2010
Everything about the RS5 is proper, from its engine bay to its attitude. All hail the new Top Gear hero car.

THE ROAD IS SLICK WITH recent rain, the footing slimy, a veil of mist has descended. Drops of hundreds of feet yawn away to the left, guarded by paltry shreds of Armco that look like they might well be recycled from Kit-Kat foil wrappers. The car is a powerful four-seat coupe, the traction control is in the ‘off’ position and the throttle has just been applied some two seconds before the apex proper with all the finesse and discretion of a drunk punch.

If this were a BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63, the ensuing oversteer would involve windmilling arms and the very real prospect of sucking future dinners through a tube. There’s an audible click as the metal throttle pedal meets the stop in the driver’s footwell and a deepening of the already phlegrny V8 roar. An almost-felt knot of tension in the transmission shunts direction-changing grunt to the front wheels, loosening just short of the l end of the corner and ending in a cheeky little wiggle some way short of the expected lurid powerslide. I don’t mention it to my passenger, who has just made a faint l ‘unnng’ noise, but even I thought we were pretty much screwed on that one. Mind you, this is the new Audi RS5. And this is a new kind of fast.

There was a time when Audi produced one RS model at a time. We had the RS2, the RS4, the RS6 and the repetition of the latter pair in more modern guises, all existing in their own little bubbles. But apparently demand Or RS models has reached a customer-led peak and Audi likes tO cater for every possible niche, so we have the five-cylinder TT RS, the current biturbo V1 0-engined RS6 and now this: the naturally aspirated V8 four-seat coupe that is the RS5. You can see the thinking: RS is a sexy brand, and a super-fast version of the slick A5 coupe is a neat and easily applied halo for endless 2.0 TFSi variants that wander around the nation’s arteries. It is also unlikely to eat into the sales of either of the other two RS-branded models, and prods angrily at the sore bits of the perennial blue-collar battle of the nearly attainable super-coupes.

Prod it most certainly does. Equipped with a brawny V8 (it actually has more to do with the V10 with the end two cylinders chopped offthan the old RS4 motor), the RS5 produces 444bhp at a wince-inducing 8,250rpm, 3171b ft of multi-cylinder torque and is equipped with four-wheel drive that includes a new type of ‘crown-gear centre differential’ designed lo cure some of the quattro drivetrain’s predisposition for undeniable grip slathered in fun-killing understeer. It’s supposed to be ‘more dynamic’, by which Audi means ‘more fun’. More fun is good. Audi RS cars always demand respect but invariably seem a little po-faced about going fast. They cover ground like nothing else, but don’t tend to sweat joy in the doing.

The RS5 is different. And you can tell from the first time you apply some decent throttle. It’s quite loud, even without the delicious (and expensively optional) sports exhaust. The V8 is naturally aspirated, vocal and immediately feels like it’s got big, linear lungs. The ride in ‘comfort’ mode is perfectly acceptable, if a bit knobbly in town, the steering accurate but devoid of any kind of feel. It’s just dead. Nerveless. Like driving on an icy carriageway with recently burnt hands. Still, the gearbox makes up for it, being one of those revisions of tech that suddenly starts to make lots of sense in a car that aims to be used every day.

The RS5 has a new version of Audi’s seven-speed double-clutch gearbox, reinforced with extra girders to cope with a torque curve that punches eerily northwards in the early part of the rev-range, peaking at a suspiciously flat table top from 4,000 to 6,000rpm. The antiseptic numbers mean very little, but translate into a car that seems to always have enough left in reserve to drag you around the car in front, even if the car in front is actually going very quickly indeed. You have to work it, but when you do there’s fire in the belly of the beast.

A lot of that is to do with the engine always having that I ittle bit more left in it, and partly because the gearbox’s expanse of ratios and ability to snap between them in a glorious instant means that you can wring every little last bit out of the 8,500rpm redline. If you have the car in ‘dynamic’ and ‘manual’ mode, it’ll even stutter itself hoarse against the rev-limiter, with the V8 searing the eardrums of anyone in a five-mile radius.

Mind you, if the car is in ‘dynamic’ mode, you’d better be on a racetrack or a very smooth road, because the ride is so tied down it’ll wobble your fat bits off. It feels as if someone has cut the springs with a rusty hacksaw and absolutely will not work in the UK. Audi has pre-empted that one: all UK cars get Dynamic Ride Control – the only market to get it as standard – and we’ll need it.

Audi ‘drive select’ controls other adaptive stuff and is accessed through the familiar system. You can button-push to your heart’s content and never really find the right combination of effects. There are three modes; comfort, auto and dynamic, which adjust the usual parameters like gearbox shift points, steering weight, aggression of the diff, exhaust naughtiness and dampers. If you spec the MMI nav. you also get the option of setting up an ‘individual’ programme. This is a good thing, because it would allow you to tailor a more specific set-up. The ideal for the UK would probably be something like diff, steering, gearbox and exhaust all turned up to 11, but the damping eased off to facilitate actual seeing and keeping one’s organs internal.

But when you start to push the RS5, it has an eerie ability to get from one place to another without the scary intensity of its biggest rivals. This is both good and bad. In the RS5, you can stamp on the carbon-ceramic front brakes (a 16k-ish option I’m not convinced you need on the road), turn in aggressively and be on the throttle crazily early. The rejigged diff and 4WD spurts torque wherever it’s needed, with up to 70 per cent running to the front wheels or 85 per cent to the rear depending on the conditions, but crucially with a neat release of oversteer feeling on corner exit. That’s not to say that the RS5 is oversteery: it doesn’t really go for drifting like the M3 or C63, but it no longer drowns in fun-killing 4×4 understeer as a default. You get all the fun feeling without so much of the dangerous level of skill needed to tidy up after your enthusiasm.

And all that’s before we even discuss the way the RS5 looks. The interior may be a little sombre, but it’s well put together and eminently reasonable in its ergonomics. Outside, fat square arches bulk out the stance, changing the A5’s slightly banana’d side profile into something more squat and muscular. There are big intakes up front, thick oval pipes and a pop-up spoiler out back, but nothing that screams boy racer, or makes you think the driver must be suffering from micropenis syndrome. You can even have a ‘black pack’ that deletes the silverware on the front splitter, window frames and wing mirrors. In a flat-ish muted colour with the black exhaust tips of the sports exhaust, the RS5 looks restrained but intense. Even the engine looks superb, exposed rather than shrouded in plastic something you’d pop the bonnet to show your mates.

So is the RS5 an M3 killer? Well, yes and no. For 99 per cent of people, they will be faster in an RS5 than either the M3 or the C63 over an unknown road. The RS5 is like having God’s own cheat code for the laws of physics. You instantly gain ability previously unheard of in someone with your experience, allowing you to access levels of performance usually associated with dull stufflike practice and talent. It’s brilliant. But co provide that experience, it shaves off the last 10 per cent of delicacy that makes an M3 so delicious. If you want the possibility of the ultimate thrill of mastery over rear-wheel drive, the M3 is still king. If you want a car that satisfies everyday needs in a spectacular fashion, the RS5 is the way co go.