The Audi RS5 is incredibly fast in a straight line, sticks like little else in the corners and yet itís refined, comfortable and easy to live with at the same time. However, buyers can get 90 per cent of that feeling from a slightly less powerful car in the A5 range, the S5 being the obvious choice - and this top-end model just isnít as sharp as its high-performance rivals from BMW and Mercedes. Itís also missing a crucial ingredient that made previous models fun - a great engine. The new modelís V6 is just too plain to make an impact.
As youíd expect, the RS5 is mighty in a straight line, especially as that four-wheel drive system means the wheels stick to the road - and itís the same story in the corners. Itís easy to throw into bends and power out of them, relying on the clever torque control system to send power where it can help pivot the car around the bend.
Thereís loads of grip, but the RS5 is still behind the M4 and C63 on fun in the corners. It tends towards understeer unless you push it really hard - something that requires perfect road conditions (or a track). The others feel more playful and rewarding. Itís great if you simply want to go really fast down a great road, but weíd still like it to be more involving.
The RS5ís quick steering and grippy chassis are complimented by a stiff suspension set-up when you select Dynamic mode. This reduces roll and makes the car feel sharper - and the steering is weighted well and has a decent amount of feel. Itís still a little way behind an M4 on that front, though.
Flip the adaptive dampers into comfort mode and the RS5 settles down very well. Itís much more refined than a BMW M4 when youíre driving normally, and felt pretty comfortable on our French test route. While the RS5 has a dual character with its driving modes, itís clearly focused on comfort over ultimate sharpness, as the Dynamic mode doesnít make it feel like a totally different car, just a slightly stiffer one.
On the motorway the RS5 is quiet, composed and comfy - itís what this car was built to do. The seats, driving position and high-quality interior all contribute to the RS5ís Ďfast cruiserí feel. Of course the torquey engine means overtaking is a cinch.
However if youíre thinking of buying an RS5 on that basis, an S5 - or even the 249bhp high-power four-cylinder petrol - is a lot cheaper to buy, and you still get all of those things that make it a top motorway cruiser.
The RS5ís eight-speed tipronic automatic gearbox is pretty good, changing gear quickly and smoothly. A parp from the exhaust on each upshift will please some (and annoy others), but the gearboxís only real issue is the set of plastic, clicky paddles on the back of the wheel that seem cheap in a car of this price.
The new engine is a disappointment, as it feels - and sounds - flat. Itís nowhere near as exciting as the old V8, nor the V8 in the Mercedes C63 AMG - and even the boosty straight-six in the BMW M4 has more character.
Similar to the unit in the S5, the V6 appears to have been designed to deliver performance on a spec sheet rather than excitement on the road. Itíll do 0-62mph in 3.9 seconds, and does feel extremely quick when you hit the throttle, but the dull engine note and torquey power delivery mean itís more like a big diesel than a frantic, exciting petrol in character.
The torque figure of 600Nm is eye-catching on the spec sheet, and you can certainly feel that on the road. From 1,900rpm to 5,000rpm it surges, though that does sacrifice the top-end somewhat, so short-shifting is the way to go here.