2018 Audi RS 5 First Review
Engineered specifically to battle the BMW M4 and Mercedes-Benz C63 Coupe is Audi’s new 2nd-generation RS 5, a high-performance 2-door coupe with aggressive bodywork and a powerful turbocharged engine complementing luxurious accommodations. With class-leading performance, and an opulent passenger cabin, Audi has crafted a premium sport car that is both track- and touring-ready -- the best of both worlds for the discerning automotive enthusiast.
Beautiful European exterior styling with RS-only wide-body sheet metal
Audi has been hitting the ball out of the park for the past decade when it comes to exterior design, and the new 2018 RS 5 continues that winning streak. Building on the standard A5’s design, the RS takes things one step further with unique body panels that include new fenders and door panels, both widened to accommodate its aggressive stance. The overall appearance is functional, with the gaping front intakes swallowing large volumes of air for the intercoolers. The new RS 5 will turn heads from any angle.
Beneath that skin is new chassis architecture that relies on lightweight alloys to reduce overall vehicle mass. While the new curb weight of just under 4,000 pounds won’t put the Audi in the featherweight fighting class, it is lighter than its predecessor. Keep in mind that reducing curb weight improves handling, acceleration, and fuel efficiency.
A futuristic and luxurious interior, optimized for two occupants
Audi’s interior styling is as stunning as its exteriors. Ergonomically correct, and lavishly crafted, function and form are equally balanced -- the RS 5 boasts one of the best driver-oriented cockpits in the industry. Premium leather upholstery, which is beautifully quilted on seating panels, contrasts standard carbon-fiber trim while a touch of bright aluminum increases the contrast. The automaker’s user-configurable digital Virtual Cockpit is standard on the RS 5, as is a helpful head-up display. Kudos to Audi for retaining rotary dials for the cabin temperature (with the digital reading on the dial face) and volume control -- they are effortlessly functional. Unfortunately, the digital-based transmission shift lever, which returns to center after being actuated, takes some getting used to (and a confirming glance at the dashboard to ensure the vehicle is in the proper gear).
The front seats are firm and aggressively bolstered, yet very comfortable for torsos of all shapes and sizes. Plus, there is plenty of legroom for passengers well over six feet tall. However, the rear seats are a different story. The two passengers in the second row -- there is a small plastic console in the middle that precludes a third occupant -- will find accommodations cramped. We suggest kids only in that row (Audi fits the rear seats with a pair of child seat LATCH anchors).
A powerful engine accompanied by a wondrous soundtrack
Dropped into the nose of the RS 5 is a twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 rated at 444 horsepower 443 lb-ft of torque (while some lament the loss of the predecessor’s V8, the new V6 develops significantly more torque than the outgoing powerplant -- by a whopping 126 lb-ft). The new turbocharged engine, which shares architecture with a Porsche Panamera powerplant, is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic transmission driving all four wheels through Audi’s celebrated Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system. The driveline is enhanced with active torque distribution and a sport rear differential to maximize the power delivery to the pavement.
Nobody will question the V6’s power after a test drive, as the RS 5 launches off the line in a blink -- the automaker claims the 0-60 mph sprint takes just 3.7 seconds. Keep your right foot buried and the 2-door won’t run out of steam until it hits an (electronically limited) top speed of 174 mph. The sound accompanying the acceleration, bellowing angrily out of the vehicle’s signature twin oval tailpipes, is jaw-dropping.
Driving dynamics to match its appearance -- with a touring disposition
Audi has tuned its new RS 5 for the track. This is immediately apparent when the drive-mode selector is spun to "Dynamic." Throttle and gearbox response is heightened, which is welcomed, but the ride becomes harsh and brutal as the adjustable dampers move into their firmest setting. (Audi engineers said that they wanted drivers to feel a difference between the three settings -- mission accomplished.) Our suggestion is to reserve that setting for nothing but glass-smooth surfaces.
That avoidable quirk aside, the 2018 RS 5 is plenty of fun in the twisty sections of road. Even though most of its weight is over its nose, Audi engineers have done an admirable job delivering favorable driving dynamics. Impressive grip from the wide tires (275/30-R20), and near-perfect tuning of the suspension, mean the coupe is stable and predictable at velocities well above posted limits.
But don’t be led to believe that the Audi’s only strength is driving hard, as a quick drive-mode change to “Comfort” diminishes its mechanisms to a much more civil temperament. We put hundreds of highway miles on the new RS 5 in this mode, and it emerged as an excellent grand tourer. With effortless passing power, comfortable seats, and responsive steering -- plus a full suite of available advanced driving assist systems -- we’d drive it across the country tomorrow without hesitation.
Demonstrating that six cylinders are greater than eight
Many Audi loyalists cried foul when the new RS 5 was announced with a turbocharged V6 instead of its celebrated V8, but we are pleased to confirm that there is no reason to be alarmed -- the new model is better than its predecessor in nearly every aspect. The new chassis is lighter and more refined, efficiency has improved (estimated fuel economy jumps from 16 city/23 highway to 18 city/26 highway), and real-world performance is notably better thanks to the tremendous boost in torque.
While we aren’t ready to claim that the RS 5 is best in its premium segment -- more seat time will be needed -- this redesigned Audi left us with a very favorable taste in our mouths. It is available in Audi showrooms now, and priced at $70,875.