Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Short Test - 2014 Audi RS5
"You ok boss?"
"Yeah, I good."
Cruising around some B roads, I remarked at how smooth the ride was. This being a performance car, the Audi RS5 I was piloting rode quite comfortably in Comfort mode, though the firmness in the suspension was apparent.
"Switch it to Dynamic mode."
A few seconds later: "Holy %#$!"
Through the bottom of my seat and the steering wheel in my hands, I felt the RS5's personality do a pretty dramatic shift. Everything suddenly felt tense. Gone was the docile steering, the soft (relatively) ride, the purring of the engine in the distance and slurring of the transmission through the gears. The suspension got tighter, the throttle got touchier (the exhaust got notably louder), the steering went extra firm and the transmission dropped a gear as if anticipating a corner. And then I got the nerve to goose the gas. In an instant, the dual clutch transmission dropped to second gear, the revs swung to the far right of the 8200 tachometer and the cabin was positively filled with the glorious sound of a naturally aspirated, direct injected 4.2L V8 clearing its throat and belting out a ferocious battle cry. Or it could've been the sound of Zeus firing off multiple lightning bolts milliseconds apart in Hades' direction. All I know is that the Bob Marley song being piped via Bluetooth through the fantastic sounding Bang and Olufsen audio system suddenly became irrelevant.
Bob Marley being irrelevant doesn't ordinarily happen. Bob Marley being turned down doesn't ordinarily happen.
This wasn't an ordinary occasion.
I'm behind the wheel of a 2014 Audi RS5, the tip of the spear as far as the A5 lineup is concerned. Gone is the dinky 2.0L turbo four of the base A5, gone is the supercharged 3.0L V6 puppy of the S5 and in their place sits a Quattro GmbH-tuned 4.2L V8, fortified with direct injection, forged pistons, a strengthened aluminum engine block and a screaming 8200 rpm redline. All in, output registers at 450hp and 317lb-ft of torque routed through a seven speed, dual clutch transmission to all four wheels via Audi's signature Quattro all wheel drive system.
Outside, you can tell the more aggressive nature of the RS5 relative to its tamer stablemates by eyeballing the lowered ride height as it sits, hunkered on its massive 20" wheels. The Daytona Gray paint is also an RS5 exclusive and, though a tad plain, goes quite nicely with the silver-finished mesh grille and the forged aluminum, turbine wheels. A positively bonkers front splitter underlines huge intake openings, themselves framing the one-piece grille and topped by Audi's signature LED running lights. Looking at the RS5 from the side, "ready to pounce" would be an accurate descriptor. At the rear, large dual oval exhausts announce the RS5's presence and frame the lower diffuser. Equipped with the Sport Exhaust option, the 4.2L V8 becomes deliciously raucous with every dip of the throttle, opening flaps in the mufflers and enticing you to drop a few gears just to hear the motor's pops and crackles on overrun.
Despite the meager torque figure, the Quattro AWD system makes this car seriously quick. From a standstill, booting the throttle pressing you into the cosseting seat as the RS5 rockets forward with nary a hint of wheelspin. Just all four tires digging into the asphalt like a cheetah in full acceleration. The free revving nature of the engine makes it quite easy to hit the redline before you realize an upshift is necessary. Attacking a tight corner reveals just how nimble this chassis is when equipped with Rear Sport Differential. Just like the Audi S4 I tested last year, the differential can route power between the rear wheels, adding more torque to the outside wheel when cornering to aid in rotating the car. Unlike the S4 however, the RS5's huge tires cling to the road with such alacrity that there was no wheelspin to be had. Just the relentless acceleration through the corner and a planted, confidence-lending feeling. Yes, you have to ignore the initial brain command to back off the throttle once the first hint of understeer shows up but bury the throttle mid-corner and the RS5 rewards you by tucking in its nose and thrusting you through the apex and on to the straight, the V8 on full boil.
Once back to calmer, saner speeds with the Audi Drive Select switched to Comfort, I had a chance to take in the RS5's sumptuous cabin. Bumps are felt but don't make their way through the sports seats to your behind and the exhaust, which was all LeMans racer a few minutes ago, is barely heard in the sumptuous cabin. Audi cockpits are arguably the industry standard when it comes to quality and design and here the RS5 doesn't disappoint. Leather is buttery soft and the seats are at once supportive and comfortable for long distance stints. The steering wheel is grippy and features paddle shifters that fall easily to hand while the gauges are legible and easy to read at a glance.This being a coupe, rear seat room is marginal at best but surprisingly I was able to sit behind myself without too much trouble. Wouldn't want to take a road trip back there though.
With a base price of $69,600.00, the RS5 does battle with the likes of BMW's new M4 and the outgoing Mercedes C63 AMG. To that price, my tester was fitted with the $750 Matte Aluminum Optic package which features the silver finished grille, aluminum painted front splitter and silver finish 20" wheels on summer tires, Sport exhaust system with black outlets for $1000, the $2750 Driver Assist Package that brought adaptive cruise control and dynamic steering and the always-brilliant $4000 Audi MMI navigation package. Other doodads pushed the as-tested price to $79,600 (destination not included).
If you're a fan of naturally aspirated engines, you'd better order your Audi RS5 pronto as this is the last and only place you'll still find the magnificent 4.2L V8 in all its unboosted glory. While Audi's new 4.0L twin-turbo V8 is a marvelous piece with big horsepower and greater efficiency, the 4.2L still has it on the ropes with a sound that is earsplittingly good. The RS5 might be getting on in years but its designed has aged beautifully and still offers enough performance to make that M3/M4 driver in the other lane think twice.
Special thanks to Mr. Khan for his time and support!