The Audi RS 5′s the emotional car in the Audi A5 range, according to the morning preso, and it’s holding true. The V-8 rips to life, even snarkier than the old S5′s eight and way more vocal. Building up speed comes quickly: there’s still some body roll even with the RS 5 tightened down into its most aggressive setup, but it moves with predictable footwork. You get confident quickly, and the grip on the wheel gets less white-knuckled, more sensitive–more open to a light touch. It’s all understeer, almost all the time, until the RS 5 takes a set into a corner. Then your right foot can make the call.
As little as it has in common with those other trailblazers, the 2013 Audi RS5 keeps its distance from the Audi A5 and Audi S5, too. It only shares its hood, roof, and doors with those coupes–everything else is new, though Walter d’Silva’s subtly erotic shape is in full effect. The telling details are specific, not brash: 19-inch wheels (or 20-inchers as an option), LED detailing front and rear, an active rear spoiler that deploys at 50 mph and above, and oval exhaust tips, so you know exactly what’s just blown you off.
The 2013 Audi RS5′s also the last of this genre of Audis to carry a V-8 engine, at least in the current generation. The Audi RS 5′s crisp exhaust bark issues from a 4.2-liter V-8 with its roots in the R8 semi-exotic and its V-10 (not the older V-8). Noisy and excitable off idle, the V-8 hits a torque wave at 4000 rpm, climbing through 6000 rpm on the way to an 8250-rpm redline, and through stratospheric numbers that still fall shy of those generated by the awesome supercharged eight in the Caddy CTS-V. The Audi rumbles with 450 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque–darting to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds like it’s evading a summons, surging to a 174-mph top end you probably can hit in a state where triple-digit speeds don’t end in multi-year penalties. The S5 can’t rival those rivals; the RS 5 pulls up smartly along their flanks.
How it gets to speed is important, because the RS 5 abandons some of the pretense of lightness and simplicity that colors the other Teutonic and mock-tonic cars chasing the same money. The new Audi RS5 does it with a dual-clutch automatic and quattro all-wheel drive, with picture-perfect launches within reach thanks to launch control, shift paddles, and all that constantly redistributed traction. The quattro setup here’s tuned for 60 percent of the weight to distribute to the rear until it needs to move around–when a Torsen differential sends it on its way, 85 percent to the rear if needed, or 70 percent to the front, and torque vectoring balances power side to side between the rear wheels.
All told, the $69,795 Audi RS5 can push $80,000. Audi says it’s the most fuel-efficient of its exclusive set, without a gas-guzzler penalty at 16/23 mpg, versus 14/20 mpg for the BMW M3, 12/17 mpg for the Mercedes C63 AMG, and 14/19 mpg for Cadillac’s CTS-V.