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Audi RS5 review – finally an M4 beater?

James Disdale
16 Apr 2018
Verdict:

Unfazed by all weathers, the RS5 offers huge performance and refinement, although it still wants for more character.

Evo Rating: 
Price: 
£63,615
For 
Effortless performance, confidence-inspiring handling, impressive refinement and comfort
Against 
Characterless engine, lack of driver involvement
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Audi has left no stone unturned in its quest to make the RS5 a more engaging drivers’ car than its predecessor. A key aim of the development process was weight reduction, with the result that the car is up to 60kg lighter than before, tipping the scales at 1,655kg – the Mercedes-AMG C63 weighs in at 1,710kg, but the BMW M4 is just 1,585kg.

The use of aluminium and high-strength steel in the structure means that the body is 15kg lighter. The front and rear axle assemblies are 6kg and 5kg lighter respectively, while the electro mechanical steering gear shaves a further 3.5kg.

The biggest reduction, however, is reserved for the engine. With fewer cylinders than before, the 2.9-litre unit is an impressive 31kg lighter than the old V8. That’s a big saving, and one that aims to boost performance and, crucially, improve the handling.

> Click here for our BMW M4 review

And if that’s not enough for you, then the optional carbon fibre roof panel cuts a further 3kg, while the milled and forged alloys are 8kg lighter than the standard rims. Unsprung mass is further reduced by the ceramic brakes, which chop a further 8kg from the total.

Elsewhere, the RS5 features a specially developed version of the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system. It’s permanently engaged with a standard torque split of 40/60 front to rear – a set-up that’s claimed to deliver more agile handling. Yet it has the ability to vary the torque channeled to either axle depending on the conditions, with front able to take up to 85 percent of the engine’s effort and the rear 70 percent. More importantly, this process now happens more quickly, helping to promote more natural handling characteristics.

Also included on all UK cars is the Sport rear differential, which can shuffle power across the axle and, in extreme situations, overdrive the outside wheel for a more rear-wheel drive feel.m the kerbweight.

Leave the car to its own devices in Auto mode (there’s also Comfort, Dynamic and Individual, where you can pick ‘n’ mix your favourite engine, steering, suspension and transmission settings) and the RS5 is impressively easy going. The optional adaptive dampers soak up bumps that would send a shudder through the M4 and C63.

Turn into a corner with and it’s immediately clear the RS5 feels lighter on its feet than the old car. With less weight over the nose and quicker steering the RS5 turns in more eagerly, while the firmed-up dampers help keep it on an even keel during harder cornering. And with the benefit of four-wheel drive traction, the Audi fires out of corners with the sort of rocket-propelled energy that its rear-drive rivals can’t match. If you want to travel from point-to-point as quickly as possible, the RS5 has few equals in this class.

It’s more organic in feel than before, flowing down roads that the old car often felt like it was taking in scrappy chunks. This is largely down to the improved quattro four-wheel drive, which seems more natural than before. Power hard out of a tight corner and there’s a sense the rear axle is helping rotate the tail a little, reducing understeer and helping you carry more speed down the next straight. Be more aggressive and in slippery conditions the car will start to slide – although the system quickly sends torque to the front wheels to counter this.

The steering is quick, accurate and naturally weighted, it lacks any real feedback. The Audi RS5 isn’t as throttle adjustable as its rivals either, meaning you have fewer options into and out of corners. Carry a little too much speed into a bend and you get mild understeer, which can be cancelled out by lifting off. However, try and tighten the car’s line with a little more throttle, and the Audi washes even further wide.

To really appreciate the Audi’s deep reserves of talent you’ve got to put the dampers into their sportiest settings and really drive it hard. It’s at this point that you can appreciate the cast iron body control, limpit-like grip and impressive balance. No it’s not as exciting as its rear-wheel drive rivals, but as way to cover ground quickly, effortlessly and with a modicum of engagement it’s in a class of its own. 

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