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AUDI RS5 COUPÉ QUATTRO

PRECISION: THE NAME OF THE GAME |

Audi recently dropped updates to its RS and S model lines, including exterior and interior revisions and a suspension tweak for the RS5 coupé quattro. The changes may be subtle and few, but the RS5 offers a better experience for them.

Audi knows its customers well and has, over the years, risen to meet their demands in ways that set the brand apart from its German rivals. Yet, save for a few genuinely exceptional cars – think RS4 Avant – their offerings haven’t always been as aggressive and purposeful as similar AMG or M cars.

That said, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have certainly learnt a thing or two from Audi on the all-wheel-drive front, and while being sometimes slow to respond to the quattro challenge, are now aggressively pursuing Audi’s leadership on this front.

But I digress.

For 2021, Audi introduced a slew of updates and changes to its RS models, making nips and tucks to most of the range, and introducing changes to the exterior and interior of the RS5, in particular. The car’s suspension system also did not escape the surgeon’s scalpel.

SHE’S HAD SOME WORK DONE

Of the German triumvirate, Audi’s designs have been the most daring to me in the recent past. Save for the new BMW M4 – that I find rather appealing – the RS5 offers the sharpest design of the lot, despite its relative age. It follows that Audi needed only a mild update to the front of the car to add gravitas. This comes in the form of Audi’s now standard single-frame grille and a set of three slats above the grille that are purely decorative despite looking like they serve some air-intake purpose. Flanking the grille, optional LED headlights also get the fake air intake treatment on the outside of each light cluster. Redesigned air intakes below the headlights also add to the new look.

Down the flanks, the side skirts can be optioned to gloss black, and the updates are rounded off with a gloss black diffuser at the rear. Audi seems quite enamoured with the idea of fake air vents and has also added a set to the outside of the rear light clusters.

The interior changes are abundant, and they’re immediately apparent as you enter the RS5. I have been a massive fan of the Volkswagen Group digital information cluster since it first appeared on the previous generation Audi A4. The immersive 12.3” full-screen experience is the best in the business, and Audi has updated the system for the new model year. Also, the upgraded infotainment system now features a 10.1” MMI touchscreen with Audi’s upgraded MIB 3 software, which is quick, responsive, logically laid out, and beautifully rendered. Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Audi Connected Services, and device charging come along for the ride, as does a standard Bang & Olufsen audio system. 

Our tester came fitted with the Audi Design Package that adds interior upgrades, including beautifully crafted Alcantara leather seats with red contrast stitching in a honeycomb pattern. Audi interiors are arguably some of the most comfortable already, and the new seats do much more than add style to the interior environment. They’re noticeably firmer yet more forgiving than before.

BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

While petrolheads hark back to Audi’s fire-breathing V8-era, the RS5’s 2.9-litre twin-turbo TFSI V6 is an imposing piece of equipment that, despite now being fitted with an air-particulate filter, manages to hold on to the car’s previous 3.9-second zero to 100 km/h sprint time.

Since it is a quattro car, power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There is 331 kW of the good stuff on tap, with 600 Nm of torque available from a low 2,000 r/min, all the way up to 5,000 r/min. 

On paper, the RS5 competes very favourably with its German rivals, despite the aforementioned being significantly pricier. For that reason, I’ve added the Lexus RC-F to the line-up of challengers, as the Lexus offers similar performance, plus extreme levels of interior panache, at a more comparable price point. For a base price of R1,998,906, the BMW M4 Competition X-drive is the most expensive in the line-up, yet also the newest and, arguably, the most advanced. In second place, the rear-wheel-drive Mercedes-AMG C63 S comes in at a milder R1,922,960, while the Lexus RC-F drops the bar to R1,470,100, just a tad above the Audi’s R1,422,500 ticket.

On the road, the RS5 is excellent at squeezing every inch of fun out its powertrain and chassis, that wide torque band adding a sense of awe to the experience as it feels like the car just keeps on pushing Gs as you keep your feet down. Having fiddled with the suspension quite significantly, the RS5’s adaptive dampening responds quicker and feels smoother than before, as it makes light work of even significant high-speed bends. 

LAST WORD

The RS5 is exceedingly handsome and quick as a whip, but rather than training its full arsenal on its intended targets – the BMW M4 or Mercedes-AMG C63 S – it serves restraint rather than raucousness, which in my mind makes it a significantly easier car to live with. Naturally, the quattro all-wheel-drive system makes for excellent progress in any weather, but don’t expect as much of a thrill as, say, the M4 with its tail-happy theatrics. Bottom line: it’s not a wild child like its rivals, but it carves a clear niche in this segment and, at the price, is impossible to ignore.

Report & Images © BERNIE HELLBERG JR

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