Audi builds a muscle car with the RS5
In an automotive age that’s heading toward automation, efficiency and greater regulation, it would seem high-performance coupes have had their day.
But if that’s the case, someone forgot to tell Audi. The 2018 Audi RS5 is what happens when a German luxury brand decides to build a muscle car.
But the RS5 is not crude and rude like a typical American pony car. This two-door Audi with two-plus-two seating is suave, sophisticated and loaded with advanced technology. And it’s blisteringly fast in the bargain.
With its twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 pumping 444-horsepower to all four wheels, the RS5 will rip through the 0-60 mph sprint in 3.7 seconds and blast on to a potential top speed of 174-mph.
The RS5 is hardly a bargain. It starts at $69,900, with typical as-equipped prices expected to be in the $80,000-90,000 range. But in the context of its primary rivals, the BMW M4 and Mercedes-Benz C63, the Audi does offer value for money.
For example, the RS5 provides 19- or 20-inch wheels as standard versus the 18-inch rims on its competitors. Inside the Audi cockpit, expensive carbon-fiber and Alcantara trim is liberally applied, but is an added cost in the Mercedes.
In Audi nomenclature, RS designates the tip of the spear, the models with highest performance, sharpest handling and most sporting character in the range. For U.S. enthusiast buyers, the good news is that unlike in the past when RS models would come to our market toward the end of their lifecycle, the latest versions are being launched here soon after their European introduction.
RS models include the RS3, RS5, RS7 and TTRS. All are sold under Audi Sport, a brand division that leverages the company’s extensive motorsports activities.
The sporting side of Audi is resonating with consumers. RS sales overall are up 74 percent year over year, according to Anthony Garbis, Audi product manager. Special orders are on the rise, with over one-in-eight R8 buyers choosing a custom color.
In the case of the RS5, the variant is founded on the latest-generation A5 coupe. The A5 had already established itself in its previous generation as one of the best-looking and most compelling coupe designs on the market.
The completely redesigned new version builds on that legacy with a somewhat more aggressive persona, expressed in the more muscular overall body design, wider wheel arches and sharper-looking front-end styling features.
Simply put, the 2018 RS5 is more direct in expressing its sporting intentions. Shod with the striking, optional five-spoke, forged aluminum 20-inch wheels and dressed in a striking newly available green finish, this Audi coupe looks stunning. It’s wide but lean, svelte with a subtle touch of menace.
The power of the RS5 is impressive, but it’s the engine’s broad spread of torque, 443 pound-feet available from 1,900 to 5,000 rpms, which makes this car such a high-performer. Using a slick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, rapid acceleration is immediate and virtually effortless.
A drive-selection system allows the driver to choose between quiet and smooth commute-to-work mode or full-on race-track ready mode. In the latter “dynamic” mode, everything is firmed up: steering, suspension and engine sound. As such, the RS5 is a bit unsettled on anything other than super-smooth road surfaces. However, the system allows individual parameters such as suspension to be set to “comfort” while other aspects are in dynamic mode, creating a good recipe for typical public roads.
Compared to its performance coupe rivals, the new RS5 is not quite as hardcore, and the Audi is better for that. When it comes to speed and handling, the RS5 lacks for nothing, but it can also be driven quietly and smoothly, a combination that’s hard to beat.
John McCormick is a columnist for Autos Consumer and can be reached at email@example.com.