Saturday, 16 October 2010


What is probably the most anticipated sports car of 2010 has just shown me what a gentleman it can be as we got to known each other around the legendary Khayalami race track in Johannesburg. A gentle fellow with the body of hard-edged steel. Not even when all the driving aids have been switched off does it so much as twitch. The Audi RS 5 Coupe is possibly the most composed car I’ve ever driven.

Before you start heaping praise on me for being brave enough to switch off traction control on one of the world’s most celebrated race tracks, while commanding a beast with something close to 500 hp, please allow me to confess that I was not the one who switched off the electronic nannies. That was Philip Kekana, the multiple racing champ giving the RS 5 the big stick during a hot lap at the South African launch. And I’m happy to be a passenger, learning the craft from a master whose racing pedigree is unquestionable.

I’m ahead of myself. Some time before Kekana had pulled out said spikey whip on RS 5 it had been entrusted to my care, rightly or wrongly. With a large smile on my face there was no saying no. What? Unlimited laps around the track in an RS 5? Show me the key! And they (Audi’s sadistic voyeurs) dutifully obliged. Surprisingly the engine sounded quite mute at start-up, the first sign of a gentleman. Even a little tap on the accelerator paddle returned a mild response.

But as soon as the safety marshal dropped the flag, signalling that I could now take the little beast out on a run around the track, did I hear a change in personality. Flooring the pedal produced the most glorious soundtrack since the R8 V10. Hello Dr Hyde! No sooner than we’ve been introduced, Dr Hyde is approaching the first corner. Rapidly too. My little brain expects a tough encounter, possibly even some understeer. I know this car is equipped with the latest rendition of quattro AWD but Audi told me up to 85% of power will go to the rear wheels, sending me and this million rand chunk of metal out to farm on Khayalami’s runoff sands.

However, no such thing happened. In fact the opposite. I braked, pointed it leftwards, accelerated and headed up towards Nashua corner. No drama, only compliance. Same story at the top end on Turn 4. Under normal driving, a 40:60 rear-biased split is maintained. Thanks to the crown-gear centre differential, “if the load on the inside wheel is reduced too much while the car is being driven with vigour, that wheel is braked slightly before it loses grip” according to Audi.

So I reckon this thing will slide until the avalanche comes home if those support systems go off-line via me switching off that safety button. Not so. Well, not in the hands of Kekana, to whom the words “traction control” could very well mean “something about your mama”. What a comfort then for the layperson looking to get the best thrills possible, in accordance with his driving skills set. After all, not everyone is a Dr Phil Kekana.

Where does the RS 5 get its confidence from? A new 4.2-litre V8 with natural aspiration – loosely based on the old RS 4’s - is probably the best place to start. Audi admitted that this motor has probably seen its last days as stringent C02 emissions laws have taken hard grip in Europe, forcing manufacturers to look elsewhere for greater power/efficiency measures. We’ll probably see a smaller V6 with either two turbos or a supercharger being fitted in the next-generation RS 5 around 2014.

Maximum potency is 331kW, attained at a Carlton Centre-high 8250rpm. While it may seem one has to practically strangle the motor to access this thrust, it’s worth noting that around 80% of its 430Nm of torque is viable from below 2000rpm. It’s also worth saying that the previous-generation RS 6 produced 331kW also, but at lower revs. Of course it had two turbos so that is no surprise. Making all the power decisions is a 7-speed S tronic gearbox with two clutches (DSG) that changes with quick precision and accuracy. You can let it change automatically in Comfort mode or allow it more aggression during Dynamic mode. Auto mode varies between the two, depending on driving the situation. A manual gearbox is out of the question.

Audi claims a 0 – 100km/h time of 4.6 seconds for the RS 5 Coupe and top speed is electronically limited to 250km/h. I bet our upcoming road test result will show a higher speed limit, typical of Audi performance claims…incidentally there is a delimiter function that costs over R12 000 which will take top end to over 280km/h. If you can find the road, you can get this option.

Another confidence booster is the power assisted steering which comes optional with the dynamic mode. Hard core enthusiasts will complain of over-assistance from this system, while the everyday driver will find it comforting to say the least.

Speaking of comfort, the interior is loaded with nice gadgets and other sweets such as satellite navigation (optional), the MMI system, two SD card slots for playing media such as music, and leather sports seats. Unfortunately these seats are not the same winged ones used by the previous RS 4. Audi says customers complained about the low comfort levels offered by those seats and thus they are not even optional in the RS 5. Pity because these softer ones don’t offer as much lateral support and aren’t even that comfortable.

Aluminium-look switch gear is evident in the centre console, gear lever, door panels, steering wheel (no flat bottom this time), dash board and foot pedals. Thanks to the rubber bits, the foot pedals are quite sticky.

Exterior enhancements include the single-frame front grille with a glossy anthracite grey grid, xenon lights with LED daytime running lights, larger air intakes, side sills with RS 5 logos, side mirror housings in a matt aluminium finish and the RS-type two oval tailpipes. I took a closer peek at those and found four normal trapezoidal tailpipes, two on other side, housed in oval casings…Curiously Audi calls this car the RS 5 Coupe. Why specify the obvious, that it’s a Coupe, unless you are planning an RS 5 Sportback and Cabriolet?

Standard wheels are 19-inch cast aluminium types, shod with 265/35 R19 tyres whose relationship with tarmac is of Siamese proportions. For the first time an RS model is fitted with a dynamic rear spoiler which shoots up at speeds from 120km/h, and automatically retracts at under 80km/h. It’s for aiding cornering. An 18-inch braking system works with ABS and EBD to provide braking power when needed.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best RS car ever built (I say that with slight hesitation though because of my heavy bias towards the old RS 4 Avant…). It’s highly composed, behaves like tux in everyday conditions, but changes into a lethal road assassin within milliseconds when called upon. And now, for the famous question: is it better than its most natural rival, the BMW M3? Yes it is. It is better than the M3 Frozen Edition to which it’s closely matched powerwise? That I can’t answer yet.

Audi RS 5 Coupe Pricing
RS 5 Coupe (R907 540)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Best Audi of all time in my mind.