In-depth Reviews

Audi RS5 Coupe

“The Audi RS5 is easy to drive fast – but falls short of providing the necessary thrills”

Carbuyer Rating

3.5 out of 5

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Pros

  • Sharp looks
  • Ferocious speed
  • Decent economy for a fast car

Cons

  • Lifeless handling
  • Expensive to run
  • Many features optional

Audi has been offering RS versions of its popular saloons, estates and hatchbacks ever since the Porsche-developed Audi RS2 turned the innocuous Audi 80 Avant into a supercar-humbling backroad battler. That was over two decades ago, and since then the RS prefix has adorned Audi’s rivals to BMW’s M cars and Mercedes’ AMG-developed models.

The RS5 is Audi’s answer to the BMW M4 Coupe and Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe. As with previous versions, it comes as the result of giving the Audi S5 coupe a thorough going-over, and this is evident when you gaze at the spec sheet. The first thing you notice compared to the previous RS5 is that its V8 engine is no more – in the quest for better fuel economy and lower emissions, a twin-turbocharged V6 has taken its place. However, while the car hasn’t lost any power, you soon find that this change has had a huge effect on how the RS5 drives.

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Judging a book by its cover, a glance at the RS5 tells you the insides are well worth investigating. The Audi A5 Coupe is a great-looking car, and while the S5 model sharpens its appeal with a more dynamic character, this full-blown RS5 has a real air of understated menace. The RS5 is also available as a five-door Sportback model, which we’ve reviewed separately.

In 2019, Audi celebrated the 25th anniversary since the introduction of the first RS model with the introduction of a special anniversary styling pack as part of a minor facelift to the RS5 model range. It adds unique ‘RS’ styling and the famous Nogaro blue paint finish. A colour that was first seen on the iconic Audi RS2 Avant estate back in 1994.

The facelifted RS5 comes in three different trim levels with each adding unique styling touches and additional equipment. In its base form, the RS5 boasts 19-inch alloy wheels and contrasting silver detailing on the bodywork. Higher specification Carbon Black and Vorsprung models get unique black or aluminium contrasting trim throughout the bodywork and larger 20-inch alloy wheels as standard.

The racy theme continues inside. The Audi A5 dashboard is one of the classiest out there, with plush ‘Nappa’ leather trim on its figure-hugging sports seats and Audi's 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit is now standard across all versions of the RS5. Elsewhere, Audi’s new 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system looks slick and is a pleasure to use, while the materials surrounding you are top-notch.

On paper and in the metal, the RS5 looks like the whole package. And as if to dispel any doubts about the change to a smaller, twin-turbocharged V6 petrol engine in place of the monstrous previous V8, exactly the same 444bhp power output is claimed. There’s good news, too, in the 3.9-second 0-62mph acceleration time – not only is this a little quicker than the old car, but it gives the RS5 an edge over the BMW M4, too.

Press the start button and, rather than the guttural, booming supercar roar of the previous version, the noise you hear is rather more mundane, with only a carefully tuned exhaust preventing it from sounding like any other V6-powered executive coupe. The noise becomes more entertaining as you build up speed, but is still rather characterless. Unfortunately, you soon realise that the same is true about how the RS5 responds when you drive hard.

While we can’t criticise the RS5 for precision, grip or responsiveness, it simply doesn’t feel like as willing a partner for driving fun as the M4 or C63. The latter is tops for tyre-smoking flamboyance, while the BMW M4 is almost telepathic in the way its steering and controls communicate with the driver.

The RS5 simply reels corners in and spits them out, without you feeling especially involved in the process. This means it’s terrifically easy and relaxed to drive quickly, but doesn’t raise your heartbeat in the same way as its rivals. On the other hand, it’s quieter, smoother and more comfortable than either of its German competitors, so it could be a better choice for frequent high-speed motorway (or unlimited Autobahn) road trips.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to think of the RS5 as being an opportunity missed. Legislation meant that the move away from a V8 was inevitable, but it’s a shame Audi couldn’t increase driver involvement to make up for the lack of aural and physical drama.

As it is, if you can live without the RS5’s blistering speed and pumped-up looks, the still-rapid Audi S5 is almost as sporty and, at nearly a third of the RS5's price, the far less expensive regular 2.0-litre A5 is just as good an all-rounder. The RS5 has rather more appeal in the showroom than it does on the road.

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“The Audi RS5 is undoubtedly very, very fast, but it lags behind its main rival the BMW M4 in terms of driving fun. It’s starting to feel its age, too…