The cabin is typically with swathes of premium material

 The cabin is typically with swathes of premium material

The majority of high-performance Audi products are dark horses. They offer unexpectedly high levels of performance, without making that too obvious with their looks. Even the outgoing (globally) Audi R8 supercar was undoubtedly more approachable in the way it looked and drove, without carrying the menacing appearance usually associated with performance-focussed machines. This is one of the reasons why many fail to notice Audi’s RS models as frequently as BMW Ms and Mercedes-AMGs, despite these being offered in nearly all the segments that its compatriots are positioned in.

The other, more relevant reason in a market like India (where the complete range of Audi’s RS-badged cars isn’t available) has to be the notion that Audi might have begun focussing entirely on all-electric performance cars. As we found out after driving the RS5, there’s no reason to believe why Audi would — even if they could — think of abandoning its internal-combustion-engined cars like that. There’s still a lot of life left in these, and while electric might be a part of the future, driving a twin-turbocharged, all-wheel-drive-equipped fastback is still an inimitable experience.

Powering the RS 5 is a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 engine, which makes 444 bhp and 61.18 kg-m. While the car is definitely more than the sum of its parts, the engine does justice to the hallowed RS badge. It is German engineering at its finest, and more than just the headline figures, it’s how the engine seamlessly delivers power that makes you want to hit that throttle at every possible opportunity.

The endless surge of power is such that you’ll be pinned to your seat more frequently than you’d expect. Complementing the addictive power delivery is the exhaust note, which starts with a deep growl, but gains more aural character as the engine is worked harder.

Twin-turbo power

With the adoption of twin turbos, Audi has essentially reduced turbo lag to the point that power delivery is near-instantaneous. This makes driving the RS 5 a much better experience, especially in conjunction with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, which is eager to respond to your inputs.

As you’d expect with any performance car, you can take over the shifting duties and use the steering-mounted paddle shifters.

What might go unnoticed on good/clean tarmac, especially under the legal speed limit, is the presence of a quattro all-wheel-drive system. It’s on nearly all of the high-performance Audis as standard fitment.

When the car’s pushed hard, it ensures grip and superlative confidence in cornering by intelligently distributing power among the four wheels. Even under acceleration, the car feels composed, almost as if it’s persuading the driver to go faster.

Apart from the AWD trickery, there’s also a solid amount of mechanical grip that the RS 5 boasts.

The suspension is set up in a way to allow hours of ‘Bahn-storming’ without breaking a sweat — or losing stability. Having said that, the ride is firmer than what you’d witness in modern luxury cars available at the same price as the RS 5, but the Audi displays an inherent ability to take corners faster than them. Because that’s what driver-focussed cars do!

Upmarket interior

The cabin is typically Audi, with swathes of premium material, unquestionably high levels of fit and finish, and a long list of features.

The puddle lights, for instance, project the neat RS 5 logo as if inviting its owner to step inside and experience the beautiful cabin. The interior is made with the driver in mind, mixing an upmarket feel with a clear focus on making the one behind the wheel feel as much at home as possible. The sports seats, well-bolstered with Nappa leather, replete with contrast stitching and RS logos, are a good example of that. The rear seats aren’t bad either, although taller folks might have a slight issue with the legroom.

You’ll find the dashboard dominated by what is a driver-centric design approach. As we’ve seen in many special Audis (of the recent past), the RS 5 also gets a flat-bottomed steering wheel, which not only feels excellent to hold but enables making the minutest of steering corrections possible.

At the centre of the dashboard is the Audi MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system, which is slightly unconventional as it is controlled with the help of a rotary dial and touchpad. The Audi Virtual Cockpit, on the other hand, is a fully customisable screen that works as the instrument cluster and shows a variety of information to the driver.

Sporty appearance

What the driver might spend less time enjoying than the onlookers is the well-proportioned exterior of the RS 5. It’s a nice-looking car, with some aggression infused with the help of standout details.

Its fastback body style is definitely what catches one’s attention first. Plus, with the added room inside the cabin (than a conventional coupe), it’s not just about aesthetics, either.

Audi India’s press car is finished in Nardo Grey, which certainly adds to the overall visual effect. The shade has become very popular in the last few years, and while grey used to be considered boring earlier, this is anything but.

The grille is definitely sharper than on standard models, and the Audi Matrix LED headlights complement the look, but it’s how flared the arches are that becomes the easy giveaway of the car’s high-performance positioning. The quad exhaust at the rear gels rather well with the rest of the design, and hints that this a special model indeed.

The performance

In the high-performance segment where the RS 5 sits, cars are required to have as much character as looks, features, or brand value. Its V6 engine and quattro AWD system prove to be a combined tour de force, ensuring that it can keep up with rivals, while offering enhanced grip and everyday usability.

The latter is a very important bit in the RS 5, because as much as you’d want to experience fast-paced driving with it, the moment it’s asked to be driven sanely, it obliges without hesitation — a trait not very common with other high-performance cars.

Another interesting thing worth noting is the imminent shift towards hybrid power or fewer cylinders (as exhibited by the Mercedes-AMG C 63), but like the BMW M3, the RS 5 is still ‘purer’ in comparison. That it offers an exhilarating drive with practicality similar to that of a three-box sedan is the proverbial icing on the cake.

Priced at ₹1.13 crore, ex-showroom, the RS 5 sits between the mid-tier performance models like the Audi S5, Mercedes-AMG C 43, and BMW M340i and more powerful cars like the BMW M4. If you are solely after driving fun, there are some excellent alternatives like the BMW M2, but if it’s a mix of adrenaline-pumping driving with everyday usability, with the appearance of a purpose-built sports car and the sophistication of a German luxury sedan, the Audi RS 5 gets our vote.

© Motoring World