Audi RS5 First Drive

Posted on Jul 3 2017 - 6:02am by Lisa Chan

The last Audi RS5’s crowning glory was its 4.2-liter naturally aspirated V8. It revved hard to a 8,250rpm power peak, gave the classic muscle car soundtrack an engaging high-tech remix, and snapped through gearshifts courtesy of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. But it was far from perfect, and its Achilles’ heel was a ponderous, flat-footed chassis and steering that cranked with the tactility of a rusty submarine hatch.

Audi RS5

Good news: the second-generation RS5 rides on Audi’s new MLBevo architecture. This mixes a high-strength steel and aluminum structure with updated five-link suspension at the front, while another five-link layout at the rear replaces the old car’s trapezoidal-link set-up. It not only promises sharper handling, but a 132lb weight reduction too.

Bad news? The RS5 is still chunky at 3,649lb, and 68lb of its weight loss comes from swapping out the V8 for a V6 that’s downsized to 2894cc with twin turbochargers nestled in the vee. It makes no more power than its 444hp predecessor, bangs on the redline fully 1550rpm sooner at 6700rpm and actually has less capacity than the 3.0-liter S5. The dual-clutch ’box also makes way for a more conventional ZF eight-speed automatic.

That keenness to turn encourages you to feed in the throttle early, and when you do it feels like releasing a stretched slingshot; there’s a fraction of attitude from the rear end, and so much traction you wonder if you’ve just pulled up the road surface. Rear-drive rivals like the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 are certainly more flamboyant, more of an interactive challenge, but the RS5’s ability to pick apart a twisty road with almost psychopathic composure brings its own enjoyment.

All told, the Audi RS5 is one seriously rounded performance coupe, and a big step from its predecessor. US pricing is yet to be announced, but it’s pitched close to the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe in other markets. Expect something close to $67,000 when it arrives here early next year.