2018 Audi RS5 Coupe
A stoic beast.
Shoehorned between Spain and France, the tiny, landlocked principality of Andorra is draped over 180 square miles of the Pyrenees mountains. Fewer than 90,000 people call it home, but many more stream over its borders to enjoy its duty-free shopping, myriad ski resorts, and extremely friendly income-tax code (as in, there isn’t one). While winter sees the country’s peaks blanketed in snow, in summer they’re laced with lush, green scrub and encourage a different type of frolicking: exploring the sinuous, two-lane ribbons of asphalt that climb up from the valleys and back down again. It was across this landscape and past shops stuffed to their rafters with discount booze that we drove the latest Audi RS5 coupe.
Supremely comfortable over distances long and short; faithful and capable chassis easy to exploit; the V-6 sounds fantastic but . . .
. . . it’s still too quiet; overly serious personality
For 2018, the RS5 has been updated to ride on Audi’s second-generation MLB platform—the same kit serves under the A4, A5, Q7, and others—and with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V-6. The V-6 takes the place of the particularly sonorous naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8 that served in the previous-generation RS5. The V-6 may be down two cylinders, but horsepower is unchanged at 450, and the turbos increase torque from 317 lb-ft to a far meatier 443 lb-ft and also push the output peaks further down the tach: Max power is available at 6700 rpm, 1550 lower than before, and peak torque comes online at 1900 rpm, a full 2100 rpm lower.
The 90-degree six is 44 pounds lighter than the V-8 (the car is 132 pounds lighter overall), all blower hardware included, and its two turbochargers are nestled in the valley between the cylinder banks. This “hot vee” configuration’s largest benefit is to emissions, according to Audi Sport chief Stephan Reil, since the catalysts warm up more quickly, thanks to shorter distances between the turbos, the exhaust valves, and the catalysts. Less plumbing also reduces lag, and this V-6 is indeed one hell of a hard charger, with power, torque, and speed coming in a near instantaneous wave that intensifies proportionally to the angle of your right ankle. Audi estimates the zero-to-62-mph run at 3.9 seconds, or about half a tick quicker than the zero-to-60 time we recorded for the outgoing RS5. We think Audi’s number is just about right.
The Audi-engineered V-6 makes more torque than any of the company’s dual-clutch automatics can handle—Porsche uses its PDK with this engine in the Panamera but doesn’t share that gearbox with other Group members—and so the last RS5’s seven-speed S tronic transmission has been supplanted by an eight-speed ZF automatic. Compared with a dual-clutch ’box, this torque-converter unit’s gearchanges are slower; yet this is not to say it’s slow by any means. The ZF can handle the V-6’s torque, and Reil asserts that customers favor the new transmission’s smoother and more predictable step-off behavior from a stop. There is no manual transmission available, and the ZF automatic’s programming is so good and the plasticky shift paddles so unsatisfying to use that we simply let it work on its own the majority of the time.
A Livable Express
Even as the weaponized version of the A5/S5 brood, the RS5 is easy to live with. It’s tautly suspended yet displays a supple ride quality despite its 20-inch wheels and low-profile rubber. It rides superbly in the optional active suspension’s Comfort and Auto modes, and it smoothed out heaving pavement on French autoroutes and the patched surfaces of Andorran B roads with no bobbing or bounding. Dynamic mode is for fun-time only, though, as the ride can get choppy, inducing a slight bucking during straight-line cruising on anything but the flattest pavement.
The RS5’s handling is also docile. While it’s hugely capable, with high levels of front-end grip, there’s little in its behavior to make even a novice driver nervous. It’s sure-footed in both wet and dry conditions, and you can get up to speed with its behavior as quickly as the car itself piles on miles per hour. This follows Reil’s philosophy for Audi Sport’s RS creations; he believes that a car is too difficult to master if an owner goes to a track all day and is still lopping off chunks of time lap after lap. He wants his team to deliver a machine in which it’s easy and safe to quickly find its limits, and they’ve done so here.
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Music: Brave Epic Cinematic Music Roalty Free
NCM Epic Music Ender Guney
“interior 2017 Test Drive”