Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

DBDR: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V coupe
Test Drive: 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Manufacturer’s web site
Audi Canada

(Epic) review and (loads of) photos by Jonathan Yarkony

Photo Gallery:
2013 Audi RS5

We automotive journalists are a spoiled lot.

Here we have the 2013 Audi RS 5, a gorgeous, powerful, sumptuous (yes, I said sumptuous about a car) coupe, and I keep coming back to the fact that it is too subtle for its own good. Refinement, I understand, but Audi has layered the iron fist of the RS 5 in perhaps too many layers of velvet…. And perhaps I am having trouble forgiving Audi for sending us the RS 5 Coupe rather than the RS 4 Avant—yeah, I know I’m not in the market for one of these cars, and the market here in North America wants sporty coupes and not sporty wagons, but how awesome is the RS 4?

By all accounts, I should be well into gushing about its sophisticated yet glowering look, or the wonderful materials throughout the cabin, and a truly spectacular V8 engine paired with one of the best gearboxes in the business, the S Tronic dual-clutch transmission. Okay, I guess that qualifies as gushing, but it all comes together in a surprisingly subdued and well-mannered package. Wait a minute, maybe that’s the point.

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

Take this car out for a highway drive as I did, and you soon forget that you are in the penultimate Audi sports car (some might make a case for the TT RS, which is also a fair choice as second fiddle to the R8). The ride is so smooth in Comfort mode, it just purrs along quietly eating up the miles and you have to keep a conscious eye on the speedo because the speed climbs with almost no difference in feel up to 150 km/h—it scared the heck out of me when I saw what speed I reached and dialed it back right quick. Bred for the Autobahn? I don’t doubt it. I can well imagine clipping along at 180, 220, 240 or up to its electronically limited 280—and stopping at every gas station along the way. The RS 5 is officially rated at 13.7 L/100 km city and 9.2 L/100 km highway. I made a conscious decision to enjoy myself and not to look at my final consumption. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.

Unfortunately, our Canadian speed limits meant I set the cruise control for a more reasonable 120-ish km/h to curb my heavy right foot, and instead reveled in wasting as much gas as possible from every stoplight, on onramps, or in corner. In those situations, scroll through the Drive Select menu that controls the vehicle’s transmission shift characteristics and engine response. Use Auto if you trust the car’s brain to adjust on the fly, keep it in Dynamic, which has everything permanently on high alert, or set up Individual, in which you can tailor specific functions to suit your tastes (i.e. sharp steering and throttle response, but smoother, more relaxed transmission).

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

Included with the RS 5 Quattro drivetrain is a sport differential that actively redistributes power to compensate for differences in wheel rotation when cornering (toque vectoring). Audi claims “You can feel the difference at every turn,” but really, what you don’t feel is excessive understeer plowing into corners as the big V8 seeks to keep going straight when you want the car to go right.

The Pirelli PZero 275/30ZR20 tires may have had something to do with that grip, too. They were mounted on the optional Titanium rims, a five-arm rotor design with dark powder-coated inner arms and polished to a satin effect around the outer rim with little waves cresting into each arm. I probably took 18 pictures of those wheels alone. They are subtle, simple, modern, yet aggressive and intriguing. When it comes to rims, I have to give Audi the nod—they always kill it, although Mercedes-Benz’ AMG division makes some that are more classically appealing.

The Titanium rims come at a cost, though—$2,000 for the Titanium Package to be exact, but it also nets you the “Black Optics Package” (black chrome exterior trim), body-coloured exterior mirrors, carbon sigma design package for engine, and those rims. When set against this Misano Red Pearl (another $750 option), it’s hard to imagine the exterior with any chrome—it just looks perfect in its understated menacing combination, though my favourite look for Audis is always white with the dark Titanium trim giving it a Star Wars stormtrooper effect. There is also an aluminum optics package that dresses the front lip spoiler and rear diffuser in matte aluminum trim

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

As a beautiful and intimidating coupe, it doesn’t need all that much performance to look good, but as the alpha dog in the A5 line, and in the balance of power with the BMW M3 and C 63 AMG, you better bring the big guns. Audi has been tweaking and pumping up their 4.2L V8 for years, and it has seen service in all of their big cars like the A6, A7, Q7, and A8. In this application, Audi has tuned it to produce 450 hp, but you won’t see that power unless you keep on it right up to its 8,250 rpm redline, our test car’s optional sport exhaust ($1,500) gurgling a muted rumble out back.

While it boasts direct injection and revs like it’s coated in Teflon, this is an old-school racy engine that produces a whack of horsepower at the top of its range, but relatively meagre torque—316 lb-ft from 4,000 to 6,000 rpm. For reference, the supercharged V6 in the S5 makes 325 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic is one of the fastest shifting, but also most intelligent gearboxes I’ve driven. In regular operation it shifts smoothly and efficiently, but offers a Sport mode that dials up the aggression, holding gears longer for better acceleration, and manual paddle shifters offer you ultimate control at your fingertips whenever you want a gear.

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

Audi claims it can reach 100 km/h is 4.7 seconds, and Car and Driver about confirms that with a 4.4-second 0–60 mph run and 12.8-second quarter-mile at 111 mph (179 km/h). The RS 5 also offers a launch-control mode so you can launch like a pro on demand.

Not bad for a 1,820-kilo coupe—that’s over 4,000 lb. for those that like nice even numbers. Still, this car is heavy, but not as heavy as the corpulent 1,955-kg S5 Cabrio Mike Schlee drove recently.

You feel it when accelerating, you feel it when braking, and you feel it when turning. Despite the weight you feel when turning, you rarely feel the magic that is Quattro all-wheel-drive managing power to all four wheels so transparent is its operation, the car simply accelerates and sticks every turn in any condition we encountered in the fall week we had it—mostly sunshine, but occasional bouts of cold and rain. Didn’t phase the RS 5 a bit.

In every aspect, the RS 5 drivetrain never overwhelms the tires or the driver with its power, it is more of a gentle giant, surging with confident grip, changing gears and speeds with alacrity, and delivering every shred of that power effectively.

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

Also effective is Audi’s dynamic steering, which offers a light, easy steering at low speeds, but firms up as the speed increases, and weights up significantly during long, sweeping turns. It’s my favourite adaptive steering system as it always seems to measure out just the right amount of assistance when you want it and allows the right level of resistance to filter through when driving hard.

One option that I did not have a track sufficient to test thoroughly was the carbon ceramic brakes. At $6,000, it is a pricey option, and I would recommend saving that money unless you plan to spend a significant amount of time at the track. Surely even the standard brakes could handle an occasional lapping session or autocross duties, but the added durability and immediacy of the carbon ceramic brakes would mean sure stopping power for long, hot days on the track. That being said, these brakes are strong, though a bit too sharp and quick for regular commuting. However, their lighter unsprung weight likely contributed to the exceedingly smooth-for-a-sports-car ride the RS 5 exhibited. Good for a sports car, yes, but you will still notice any major bumps or expansion joints on bridges and other such road imperfections. Clearly.

Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
Test Drive: 2013 Audi RS 5 car test drives reviews luxury cars audi
2013 Audi RS 5. Click image to enlarge

Lastly, the interior. The RS 5 features the familiar Audi dash that wraps around the nav screen (the navigation and parking camera and sensors are a $3,200 option) and console filled with high quality switchgear to match the impeccable materials throughout. And while I normally cringe at interiors dressed in carbon fibre, Audi keeps it from being gaudy by using it sparingly around the shifter console and in door inserts, and mixes in satin-effect aluminum and piano black plastic for a monochromatic but multi-textured environment. With the interior spared the carbon-fibre overload, there was enough leftover to cover the engine in a large plank of it—in this application, I think it’s pretty damn cool!

The sport seats are smooth but supple nappa leather that lock you into place with high bolsters and are thoroughly adjustable for a solid fit. However, they are firm, and remind you that these are sport seats, not like the luxury thrones in the Mercedes-Benz SL 550 and S 350. Apparently there is a back seat, although I didn’t really notice when I was driving it. Will anyone care? They might care that there’s a reasonably sized trunk, easily enough for a weekend road trip for a couple, and even enough for my monstrous hockey bag.

The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a masterpiece of ergonomic sculpting wrapped in rich, perforated leather. The stereo was a $1,000 Bang & Olufsen upgrade, but I can’t imagine the stock stereo would be insufficient, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for a 505-watt 14-speaker sound system.

Then again, by the time you’ve packed this many options onto the RS 5’s $77K base price, you might as well fork over the grand for the stereo. If you’re looking for the grand touring aspects of this car, skip the hardcore ceramic brakes, and if you’re looking for the performance qualities, skip the fancy paint, stereo and cosmetic upgrades, either way saving about half of the $14,450 in options on this test car. Then again, if you’re looking for the cachet and conversation starters, get ‘em all.

As capable as the RS 5 Coupe is, I just don’t see it as a true performance car (as I would the M3)—perhaps some track time is required to convince me… It is a spectacular drivetrain wrapped in one of the most alluring designs on the market, dialed all the way up to eleven with the Titanium package and rims, but for the as-tested price of 95 grand, you can find better dedicated sports cars. However, within its niche of supersports compact luxury coupes, it is the more refined and sophisticated of the triumvirate of German compact sport sedans (A4, 3 Series, C-Class). The Mercedes C 63 and BMW M3 both edge towards single-minded track dedication, while the RS 5 offers a much more livable compromise for everyday life. This is a car that might be limited in its appeal—mostly to devoted Audiphiles—but it is all that is good about this brand and a spectacular piece of automotive decadence for the few that opt for it.

Pricing: 2013 Audi RS 5
Base price: $77,000
Options: $14,450 (Titanium Package, $2,000; Misano Red Pearl, $750; sport exhaust, $1,500; carbon ceramic brakes, $6,000; navigation and parking system, $3,200; Bang & Olufsen sound system, $1,000)
Freight & PDI: $1,995
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $95,640

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