Speaking of aerodynamics, the front fenders are 0.6 inch wider to accommodate the wider track (an additional 0.43 inch up front, 0.8 inch out back) and wider tires, and the underside of the car is covered with panels from the nose to the transmission to improve aero, while the rear diffuser also smooths out air back there. A rear lip spoiler helps create 25 pounds of downforce at 124 mph. That’s not a lot, and there is no active spoiler, but I found that the RS 5 does feel stable at speed…don’t ask me how. All this adds up to coefficient of drag of 0.32.
The top speed is 155 mph in base form and 174 mph with the Dynamic Plus package, which includes the carbon ceramic brakes, a carbon fiber engine cover, and a tire-pressure monitoring system that also indicates tire temperature.
It has a Porsche engine with an Audi twist
The Porsche-developed twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 is based on Audi’s single-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, but Audi has tweaked it to make more power than the version in the Porsche Panamera S. It uses a different crankshaft and a lower compression ratio. Output is 444 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque compared to 440 horses and 405 lb-ft in the Porsche. Both engines breathe in the same 21.6 psi of turbo boost, but different ECU mapping helps the Audi version create that additional twist.
The Audi-Porsche-Audi engine, in conjunction with the standard Quattro all-wheel-drive system, rockets the RS 5 from 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds. Floor it from a stop and the engine wakes up after a hint of turbo lag then vaults the car forward. Use the launch control feature, however, and take-off becomes nigh on violent. To do so, engage the standard Drive Select system’s Dynamic mode, put the transmission in its Sport mode, hold the brake, rev the engine to 2,500 rpm, then unleash the fury. Magnificent.
Fanboys may bemoan the loss of the V-8 growl of the old 4.2, but this V-6 sounds serious, too. An RS exhaust system is standard, and all the test cars at the drive program were equipped with the optional RS Sport exhaust, which has active exhaust flaps. A low, rumbling resonance is the standard note, but engaging Dynamic mode turns the baritone into a base and makes the sound more prominent. It’s not the aural delight that the 4.2 was, but it does sing a really good tune.
You’re going to want to play with Individual mode
Audi Drive Select has Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic modes for the steering, suspension, engine/transmission, and exhaust.
The standard suspension is a five-link setup front and rear with fixed dampers, but the vast majority of RS 5 buyers will choose the Dynamic Ride Control system, which offers three levels of damping firmness. These aren’t the typical adjustable dampers. The dampers are cross-linked, front-left to right-rear and front-right to left-rear, with hydraulic lines. Two air tanks, each with 290 psi, push fluid through the lines to both change the valving and create more resistance in the dampers on the side experiencing more force. In a left turn, for example, the right side takes the weight, so the fluid flows to that side to further stiffen those dampers. In this way this system essentially does the same work as active roll bars, keeping the car remarkably flat in corners, especially in Dynamic mode.
I didn’t want to run the suspension in Dynamic mode very often, even on Arizona’s open highways, as the ride becomes overly firm and bouncy. I stuck with Comfort for everything but backroads purposes, and programmed the Individual mode accordingly. I love the Dynamic engine sound, though, as well as the locked in 13.5:1 ratio of the variable-ratio steering (which varies between 10.5 and 25.0:1) in Dynamic mode. The engine and transmission don’t become too high-strung in the Dynamic mode for my taste, but buyers will have to decide that for themselves.