Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

The £62,900 RS5 may have lost its glorious N/A 4.2-litre V8, but it makes up for it with a surprisingly angry V6 and a significant weight drop
Matt Robinson
03 Jul 2017
Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

I’m going to get this out of the way now, as there’s no easy way to say it: Audi’s 4.2-litre V8 is dead. Yep, that glorious, naturally-aspirated eight-banger with its 8000rpm red line and howling soundtrack has been consigned to the history books, with the previous generation RS5 being the last car in the line-up to have it fitted.

It seems appropriate, then, that the new RS5 comes with the replacement for that paragon of eight-pot excellence fitted in its handsome snout. The only trouble is, on paper, it’s not exactly something that got our pulses racing initially. It’s a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6, co-developed by Porsche. It’s already been doing service in the Panamera 4S since its launch, and in Stuttgart’s sportified limo, it’s a bit muted, and just a bit meh.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

Much as I tried to keep an open mind before taking the keys to a new RS5 for the week, I was worried I’d be left similarly underwhelmed. But in the lighter RS5 with a considerably shoutier exhaust system and what seems to be a much more aggressive throttle map, it’s an absolute weapon.

Put your foot down, and so long as you’re anything over 2000rpm, you’ll feel as though The Hulk just kicked you up the arse. Incidentally, ‘our’ test car was finished in Sonoma Green, which is reminiscent of the big green guy. If he had a sun tan.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

The thrust shouldn’t be too much of a surprise: power is identical to the previous model at 444bhp, but torque is up 40 per cent to a healthy 443lb ft. 0-62mph is ruthlessly dispatched in 3.9 seconds.

That’s only a tenth quicker on paper than the BMW M4 Competition Pack and bang on the benchmark time for the Mercedes C63 S coupe. But it feels much quicker and more dramatic than both - partly because of the hugely potent V6, and partly because the all-wheel drive system means the performance figures are achievable consistently.

The thing is, amazing though that old V8 was, no Audi fitted with it ever felt that fast. Some might argue chopping an 8000rpm redline for one at 6600rpm takes away a lot of the drama, but if you don’t find the sheer force of the acceleration offered up by the new car anything but exciting, I fear there’s something wrong with you. The V8 RS5 sounded fast, but the new one is fast. Massively so.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

It doesn’t sound anything like as good as an N/A V8, because it was never going to. But it’s not bad, and was a pleasant surprise: it’s a sound that’ll see you nodding in appreciation, rather than weeping with joy. It’s an angry, throaty sound, accompanied by the usual array of artificial (but pleasant) pops and bangs.

Throttle response is decent for a turbocharged car, too, if not spectacular. The two turbochargers (nestling between the cylinder banks to make a neat and efficient ‘hot V’ layout) are relatively small, meaning quicker spool-up times.

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The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox has disappeared, because Audi says it can’t reliably handle the torque, and also because conventional torque converter automatics are apparently getting so good that the difference in upshift speed is negligible. We can’t really argue with that: there’s a brutal efficiency to the way it swaps cogs. It’s less on the ball for downshifts, though.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

Even with all the related turbo gubbins, the new engine is 30kg lighter than the older one, and since it’s shorter, the centre point of its mass has been pulled back. All told 60kg has been cut from the new car, most of which is on the front end. This shows: it really is an eager thing on the turn-in, egging you on to throw it around.

Outrageous grip - in the dry or the wet - means the RS5 is keen to indulge your childish side as you demand more and more of the all-wheel drive system with ever ambitious entry speeds and bouts of greedy throttle usage on corner exits.

The steering is good rather than exceptional: it’s fast an accurate and you even get something vaguely akin to feedback through the wheel at times, but it’s maybe a little on the light side.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

Judging from what we discovered of car on the road, we suspect it’d be jolly keen to wash wide if you put it out on the track. The torque split from the Torsen centre differential varies, generally settling on a 60/40 split in favour of the rear axle, but it’s a neutral thing on the whole, with the rear tyres rarely getting excited.

This I can cope with: although a little more rear-end movement would be rather nice, there’s something to be said for a nimble, grippy car that doesn’t require a whole lot of effort or thought to drive fast. If you want something more physically and mentally taxing, there are other options out there.

What I can’t cope with is the optional adaptive dampers. On paper they sound great: they’re hydraulically linked, allowing fluid to pass between them as necessary to reduce body roll and stop the car diving under heavy braking. Two things they do quite well. The problem? That’d be the ride.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

Unless you’re completely masochistic or have bones made entirely out of jelly, you’ll find the Dynamic setting unacceptably firm. There’s barely any give in the dampers in this firmest setting, smashing every last imperfection through the cabin, which makes the car nervous and horribly uncomfortable.

Switch the car into Comfort mode on the other hand, and body control almost vanishes as the dampers take on the rigidity of an undercooked Victoria sponge cake. This makes it fabulously comfortable on a long cruise or pottering around town (the RS5 really is a great cruiser), but rubbish pretty much everywhere else.

Audi RS5 Review: Why The Loss Of The V8 Isn't As Big A Deal As You'd Think

My solution was to use an Individual set-up with everything turned up to full angry bastard mode and the suspension in ‘auto’. Do that, and the dampers seem to have a handle on how to behave, although they still seem to stray into needlessly firm territory from time to time.

We’re yet to try an RS5 with the standard suspension, but right now I can’t help but think you’d be better off saving £2000 and not ticking the option box. Nor the £1350 option to raise the electronic speed limiter by all of 19mph to 174mph. Unless you think £71.05 per MPH is good value.

The RS5 may have lost two cylinders and a scintillating sound track, but it’s gained so much more. It’s a likeable, entertaining car with depth, if one with a few flaws. While a little voice in the back of my head wants to vent its frustration at Audi still not being capable of going toe-to-toe dynamically with the likes of the BMW M4 and Mercedes C63 coupe, as an all-round package that’s good at pretty much everything, the RS5 is awfully appealing.

Comments

Duke RocketBunny Nuggets
Duke RocketBunny Nuggets

Finally an audi with an original non bland design. I’m dreaming over it alot, hope I can afford one in a few years!

07/09/2017 - 09:00 |
70 | 6
German Perfectionist
German Perfectionist

In reply to by Duke RocketBun…

The old one looks way better…

07/09/2017 - 09:11 |
26 | 20
Anonymous
Anonymous

In reply to by Duke RocketBun…

Most people dislike Audi design because of the badge however.

07/10/2017 - 09:57 |
0 | 2
Evoist
Evoist

Holy, this car looks so sick!

07/09/2017 - 09:13 |
2 | 0
Peanut_guy
Peanut_guy

Ok the RS5 looks good and can do 0-60 in 3.9, but what about the V8 ?? Ok the V6 has a good performance, is lighter, etc … but nowadays EVERY performance car has a twin turbo V6 ! It’s boring ! Everything have a twin turbo, and now when you have a car with a N/A engine it’s rare !
But the good news it that now, the RS5 with the V8 will be cheaper and could be affords able :)
But

07/09/2017 - 09:36 |
34 | 6
Tomislav Celić
Tomislav Celić

In reply to by Peanut_guy

Yeah but performance=/= fun.

07/09/2017 - 10:03 |
2 | 2
Tiago Bernardo
Tiago Bernardo

In reply to by Peanut_guy

But the environment tho

07/09/2017 - 23:40 |
2 | 10
Tomislav Celić
Tomislav Celić

Am I the only one who prefers this design over the old one. Performance cars should be flashy, have sharp edges, and generally looking like a serial killer.

07/09/2017 - 10:02 |
24 | 2
Anonymous
Anonymous

In reply to by Tomislav Celić

Same.
But I wish this have a V8.

07/09/2017 - 10:25 |
8 | 2
Anonymous
Anonymous

I really like the look, but the sudden sound change, i dunno …. Seems too quiet compared to the v8 .

07/09/2017 - 10:32 |
4 | 0
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Even in dynamic mode I don’t think the old 4.2 was THAT loud. Volume wise it’s not bad, but you can’t get away from that fact it’s ‘just’ a V6. Very, very strong unit though.

07/09/2017 - 17:13 |
4 | 0
Tiago Bernardo
Tiago Bernardo

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

But the environment tho

07/09/2017 - 23:38 |
0 | 8
TheMindGarage
TheMindGarage

It’s cool in its own way and I think it’ll sell well since it’s quite a different approach to its competitors (M4, C63). But I’d rather have the C63. Also, Audi options are stupidly expensive - have a look at this:

07/09/2017 - 10:45 |
12 | 2
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by TheMindGarage

Impressive! Our test car was optioned up to a ‘mere’ £80k…

07/09/2017 - 11:35 |
6 | 0
DL🏁
DL🏁

Here’s my problem with the RS5. Most owners I met don’t give a s**t about cars (in the way we do) and they didn’t buy the car to enjoy it. But rather to show off or as a status symbol.

That’s not just the RS5, but indeed many other cars.

But that’s also why I love cars like the Focus RS or Golf R. Nobody would buy a Ford Focus or a VW Golf to show off and so if you see one on the road you can be 95% sure it’s a carguy behind the wheel.

This what would deter me from the RS5

07/09/2017 - 11:19 |
24 | 2
Tomislav Celić
Tomislav Celić

In reply to by DL🏁

That’s what I love about Focus RS too
While driving it, you will only get looks from petrolheads. (And 6 yo, becuz big wang yo!)

07/09/2017 - 21:39 |
0 | 0
Anonymous
Anonymous

In reply to by DL🏁

Caring so much about how others perceive you, or some random material object you own, or they own, that you actually allow it to dictate what you do and buy seems like a real signal to seek counseling honestly.

07/09/2017 - 22:31 |
2 | 2
Jia the Supra Fanboy
Jia the Supra Fanboy

In reply to by DL🏁

It’s unfortunate that this type of super GT car attracts more posers than enthusiasts, but give me a choice between an RS5/C63/M4/RC F and a Focus RS/Golf R/Civic Type R, I’d take the super GT any day of the week.

In the end, getting the car you personally enjoy the most for whatever reason’s the most important, I guess. Even if it’s to visually qualify you as an enthusiast instead of a poser.

07/09/2017 - 23:08 |
10 | 0
prizrak
prizrak

Here is my problem with downsizing motors, it’s just not the same, there is the sound difference, the difference in response, etc… Driving is a totality of experience and going from a V8 to a V6 changes that experience negatively.

07/09/2017 - 11:44 |
6 | 0
Jia the Supra Fanboy
Jia the Supra Fanboy

In reply to by prizrak

It depends if hearing epic sounds is more fun for you, or experiencing supercar levels of acceleration is more fun to you.

07/09/2017 - 23:11 |
0 | 0
Tiago Bernardo
Tiago Bernardo

In reply to by prizrak

But the environment tho

07/09/2017 - 23:34 |
4 | 4
5:19.55
5:19.55

From a r35 gtr fan (me), how do you feel audi guys considering the rs5 is now similar to the gtr?

07/09/2017 - 13:47 |
2 | 6
Tomislav Celić
Tomislav Celić

In reply to by 5:19.55

Not really. GTR is 10 years old and has 100 bhp more

07/09/2017 - 21:42 |
0 | 0
Anonymous
Anonymous

To claim that a V6 is better due to the weight difference with a V8 … is … b@ll@cks!!!!!!

07/09/2017 - 14:06 |
0 | 10
Matt Robinson
Matt Robinson

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Kinda feel like you didn’t read the piece properly…

07/09/2017 - 17:17 |
12 | 0

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