You have to ask yourself who the RS5, the car that sits atop Audi’s A5 lineup, is for.
The correct answer to that question is “anybody”.
It helps if said anybody has $389,080 to spend on a car and is in the market for a 2+2 coupe, but anyway.
The reason being that the RS5 is supposed to the grand tourer in the Audi Sport range (nee quattro GmbH and the equivalent of BMW M or Mercedes-AMG). Where that will leave the upcoming RS7 Sportback and its position as the de facto ‘bahn-stormer in the lineup is perhaps a bigger question, but we digress.
So the RS5 as a junior grand tourer, then. Based on appearances alone, it’s hard to believe it’s anything but a muscle car. The jutting front grille with Audi Sport’s familiar gloss black honeycomb motif, fender flares (making it 30mm wider than regular A5s) and twin oval tailpipes make the RS5 look more steroidal than genteel.
So is the noise emitted by the car when you thumb the starter button. Thankfully, there’s a semi-secret neighbour-friendly mode, accessed by holding down the starter button, which sees the motor start with a purr, as opposed to a bark.
And even with the car’s exhaust in Dynamic mode, which sees it emit all sorts of borderline obscene pops and bangs on hard upshifts and downsfhifts, the new RS5 is still far more civilised than its predecessor.
Most of its newfound maturity can be put down to the RS5’s new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6, versus the 4.2-litre V8 from before. While both engines make 450bhp, the newfound forced induction has made it a good deal more grunty in the lower half of its rev range, with peak torque of 600Nm available from just 1,900rpm, with that number plateauing all the way to 5,000rpm.
At the same point in the rev range, its predecessor could only muster up a little under 240Nm, with peak torque of 430Nm only arriving at 4,000rpm. What this increase means is it requires less throttle input to get the RS5 moving, and which results in less engine noise.
But if you do decide to bury the go-pedal, boy, does the thing shift. It gets from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds, or 0.2 seconds quicker than before. And it does so with muscular ease, much like any good grand tourer should.
And like all the best cars of the breed, the RS5 will happily gobble up the miles. Remember what we said about its engine being less peaky? This, in conjunction with the looooong eighth ratio, allows the RS5 to lope along with the engine barely ticking over 2,000rpm, even at speeds well north of the speed limit.
But crucially, the RS5 performs great at city speeds as well. It’s happy to pootle along at 30km/h in the city, with the eight-speed automatic delivering a touch more smoothness than the seven-speed dual-clutch box that it replaced.
At any speed, however, the steering is light and the cabin hushed. All the more impressive since the RS5 does much of what a full-sized grand tourer like the Bentley Continental does, but at roughly half the price and three-quarters the size.
But while individual elements of the RS5 are an undeniable triumph, we can’t help but feel it doesn’t all quite gel. Those expecting a rip-snorting two-door in the vein of the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe will be disappointed, because while its chassis certainly is up for a spanking, its engine doesn’t hit the right notes. The thrum of a V6 compares very unfavourably with the rolling thunder of a V8 engine.
And its interior. The cabin of an Audi is one of the finest in the business, and when you’re talking about a range-topping RS model, the effect is absolutely eye-popping, peppered with beautiful details. The interior door handles are satin-finished with a central cutout, the perforated leather covering the gearlever is mesmerising to touch and the deep bucket seats are upholstered in contrast-stitched leather with a honeycomb motif.
Which is great, but that raciness is offset somewhat by the presence of massage seats, a feature more commonly found on luxury limos. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher as to why Audi saw fit to include it on the RS5 as standard.
Even more head-scratching is how a carbon fibre roof and carbon-ceramic brakes are available as (costly) options. Again, these items are fine in and of themselves, but when you drop them in a car with massage seats and this level of refinement, it’s just bizarre.
So, just what do we make of the Audi RS5, then?
If we’re honest, we’re not really sure. It doesn’t have the sledgehammer performance to match up to its gut-punch looks and on that note, its beefcake lines won’t fly on a ‘proper’ grand tourer.
Or then again, it could also be that we’re just not “everybody” enough to appreciate massaging, high-backed bucket seats. Which is a perfect microcosm of what the RS5 is — simultaneously brutish and cosseting.
Not the most coherent thing out there, what with the RS5 trying to do everything at once, but with prices at just under 400 grand, you can’t say you’re not getting your money’s worth.
ENGINE: 2,996cc, 24-valves, V6, turbocharged
POWER: 450bhp at 5,700-6,700rpm
TORQUE: 600Nm at 1,900-5,000rpm
0-100KM/H: 3.9 seconds
TOP SPEED: 280km/hr
TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.8L/100km
VES BAND: C2 ($20,000 surcharge)
PRICE: S$389,080 (including COE, excluding options)