In a world where even the BMW M4 will now be offered with all-wheel-drive, the likes of the Audi RS5 Coupe no longer have the monopoly on high-performance all-weather grip. But that doesn't mean it's totally irrelevant either. With a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 developing 444 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, the AWD RS5 is still an impressive performer. Thanks to a redesign for the 2021 model year that includes wider bodywork and styling mildly reminiscent of the rally heroes of the eighties, the RS5 looks as good as it goes. There are also two new launch editions on offer to make the RS5 even more attractive, but is it a true sports car, or is it just a big, heavy, luxurious grand tourer?
After a refresh for the new year, the new RS5 Coupe boasts a slimmer and wider front grille that sits below three narrow vents in the front fascia that are meant to remind us of 1984's Audi Sport quattro. The wheel arches are also 1.6 inches wider for a more aggressive stance, while a refreshed rear diffuser that mimics that of the RS6 Avant and RS7 Sportback brings the styling up to date. The old 8.2-inch infotainment display has also been shown the door to make way for a 10.1-inch touch display. Also offered in the USA are Ascari and Black Optic launch editions of the RS5, available as packages. But act quickly if you want one - just 25 examples of the Ascari will be made and only 100 Black Optic launch models will be offered.
See trim levels and configurations:
2.9L Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
The exterior of the 2021 Audi RS5 Coupe clearly states this car's intentions. Those aggressive intake vents and wide grille pair beautifully with Matrix-design LED headlights with laser light, while a taut hood and bulbous arches add to the muscular look. 19-inch wheels sit in those arches, with 20s available. At the rear, you get a subtle trunk spoiler and a large rear diffuser with an oval exhaust pipe on either end. With no soft-top variant available, this is the only RS5 you can get with two doors.
The Audi RS5 has slightly greater dimensions for the 2021 model year than its predecessor, thanks to those wider wings. It measures 73.5 inches in width excluding mirrors, while height is rated at 54 inches. It has a length of 185.9 inches with a wheelbase of 108.9 inches. In terms of curb weight, the RS5 tips the scales at 3,990 pounds. By contrast, the slightly longer and more spacious RS5 Sportback weighs 4,057 lbs.
Thankfully, the Audi RS5 is one of the few cars out there offered as standard in colors that are not black or white. Instead, you get Audi's trademark Nardo Gray, but a vivid Turbo Blue is also offered at no cost. If you're willing to spend extra, you can have metallic hues like Glacier White, Mythos Black, Navarra Blue, Sonoma Green, or Tango Red. Each of these cost $595, as does Daytona Gray pearl, but if you add a bunch of packages that cost a total of $25,500, you gain access to Audi exclusive paint colors. Choose the Ascari Launch Edition package and you'll get an exclusive Ascari Blue metallic paint finish, but this package isn't cheap at $20,500.
The Audi RS5 is less sports car and more luxury sports coupe; it comes with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that develops 444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, all of which is channeled to the quattro AWD system via an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Combined, these factors help it to achieve a 0-60 mph time of just 3.7 seconds, one-tenth quicker than the Sportback version can manage. Flat out, the RS5 will reach 155 mph, or, if you're willing to spend extra for the Ascari Edition, top speed only arrives at 174 mph. Thanks to six-piston brakes up front, the RS5 stops as well as it accelerates, and if you choose the Ascari Launch Edition, you get carbon-ceramic brakes for even better stopping performance. This package also adds Dynamic Ride Control, or adaptive dampers, as well as Audi Dynamic steering, but as the stereotype goes, this is still an understeering enthusiast.
There's only one powertrain offered with the RS5, but it's a pretty spicy one. The 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 develops 444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque, and throttle response with this mill is remarkably good. It pulls hard from low down and maintains its thrust far up into the rev range. That being said, it can't hold a candle to the V8's throttle response, sound, and linear power delivery from generations past. Nevertheless, pulling away from the lights with vigor is exciting, and overtaking on the freeway is easily achieved. The ZF eight-speed, here dubbed 'Tiptronic', is a perfect accompaniment to the engine, changing up smoothly and quickly in regular drive modes and taking on a crisp efficacy when you decide you want more sportiness. As is commonly the case, you can also take manual control with the steering-mounted paddle shifters, enabling you to change up or down as and when you please. Again, the transmission performs beautifully here, with no delay in providing smooth, clean shifts.
These days, the modern Audi is generally much more averse to the understeering tendencies of old. Cars like the TT RS handle beautifully, but sadly, even the latest iteration of the RS5 has failed to join the ranks of modern cars with AWD that remain balanced and neutral. It's a lot better than it used to be, but this is still not a precision tool like the M3 or M4. With an electric steering system now the norm, it feels a bit pointless to mention that the wheel is devoid of feel and doesn't communicate what the front tires are doing, but it really makes a big impact on how much you can trust the car. Fortunately, the firm yet supple ride helps make up for these shortcomings, and the RS5 remains quite flat even when you're pushing it. The brakes are also easy to modulate with good pedal feel and do an excellent job of bringing this hulking mass of Audi engineering to a stop. Ultimately, this is very much an Audi that you point and shoot. Go into the corners with caution and exit them with reckless abandon for the best results. Just don't expect a sonorous exhaust note to follow in your wake.
Interestingly, the heavier RS5 Sportback is one mpg more economical on the combined cycle than the coupe in the US, but neither could be considered hypermilers. The coupe's official EPA estimates are 18/25/20 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Thanks to a 15.3-gallon gas tank, you can likely expect an average mixed range of around 306 miles per full tank. Thanks to that marginally better combined mileage rating on the Sportback model, the five-door should manage around 321 miles on a tank.
The interior of your average Audi from recent times has always looked spectacular, combining minimalism with cutting-edge design. A sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel sits ahead of a 12.3-inch digital driver display, with a new 10.1-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash for infotainment. As usual, there's plenty of leather and aluminum perfectly offset by a classy wash of carbon fiber and subtle contrast stitching. To make your drive as comfortable as it is pretty, both front occupants get 12-way power-adjustable seats including lumbar adjustment and heating and massaging. Dual-zone automatic climate control keeps the atmosphere temperate while mood lighting makes it feel even more luxurious. And if you feel like parting with more money, you can spec upgrades like a head-up display.
The RS5 Coupe seats four officially. Audi doesn't attempt to cram a third individual into the second row - that's what the Sportback is for. Obviously, these seats are more commodious than in a Porsche 911, but we still wouldn't put anyone taller than a toddler back there. For those in front, ingress and egress are good and the 12-way (including lumbar) power-adjustable heated massaging seats offer an ideal driving position regardless of your stature, with the roof failing to encroach on your headroom in a way that makes even a six-footer uncomfortable. The view out is good too, even when checking your blind spots.
The 2021 RS5 comes with quilted leather as standard. This leather is black and can be had with plain black stitching or red contrast stitching, but the more adventurous among us may wish to opt for Lunar Silver leather with Rock Gray stitching. As mentioned earlier, carbon fiber inlays are standard. We like the gloss finish of these inlays, but if you prefer a matte look, you can have it - provided you drop another $12,300 over and above the base price of the car. Why? Because it's only currently available with the Black Optic Launch Edition package. Alternatively, you can spec the Ascari Launch Edition (while stocks last), but that's $20,500.
If you want an RS5 with loads of space, the Sportback is obviously the way to go. But if you don't care all that much about practicality, the coupe's 10.9 cubic feet (relatively small in this segment) is enough to carry a pair of large suitcases - assuming that you're half decent at Tetris. Fortunately, you can fold the rear seats if need be.
In the cabin, a pair of cupholders sit behind a little storage bin. Under the center armrest is another, larger little bin, but the door pockets are long, narrow, and shallow. The glovebox is of average size, but if it's not, you can always use the rear seats for any sundry items.
As standard, the RS5 comes with Matrix-design LED headlights with laser light and LED taillights with animation. But Audi hasn't just focused on the lighting systems. You also get heated and massaging power-adjustable front seats, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, wireless charging, remote keyless entry, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, lane departure warning, and forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking. You also get digital gauges in the display for g-force, boost pressure, lap times, and output. However, you'll have to pay extra for rear collision preparation, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive dampers, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, park assist, a surround-view camera, traffic sign recognition, and a head-up display.
For 2021, the Audi RS5 sees its infotainment system upgraded with a 10.1-inch touchscreen display that is hooked up to a whopping 19 speakers from Bang & Olufsen. As you can imagine, the audio quality in this car is phenomenal, and with the standard inclusion of features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and SiriusXM satellite radio, as well as Bluetooth and USB connectivity, choosing the right song to demonstrate your sound system to your friends is a breeze. The system is intuitive and easy to use too, but unfortunately, you have to pay extra for MMI Navigation plus.
Thus far, the 2020 and 2021 versions of the RS5 have been free of recalls, besides one in November last year for missing scuff protection on the rear light wiring harness. The last recalls prior to this pertained to the 2019 version which is similar to the 2020 version. These were for a battery terminal cover that could mess with the power supply (December 2020) and a passenger airbag that may deactivate (July 2019). No other faults have been found since.
To maintain your peace of mind, limited and powertrain warranties cover the RS5 for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. You also get complimentary scheduled maintenance in the first year or the first 10,000 miles of ownership.
At present, no version of the Audi RS5 has undergone comprehensive testing at the NHTSA. Over at the IIHS, there is no Audi RS5 Coupe review, but the similar A5 has. Fortunately, it got the best possible score of Good in its crashworthiness tests.
As standard, every 2021 Audi RS5 comes with the usual amenities that you'd expect: a rearview camera, tire pressure monitoring, rain-sensing wipers, and the usual stability and traction management systems. You also get Matrix-design LED headlights with Audi laser light, lane departure warning, and forward collision detection and mitigation. However, you must pay extra to unlock adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition and traffic jam assist, a head-up display, lane keep assist, park assist, a surround-view camera, and blind-spot monitoring.
The Audi RS5 Coupe is a sports car conundrum. It provides great performance but doesn't sound that good anymore, and many rivals will outrun it. It comes with quite a few advanced conveniences but expects you to pay more for commonplace items like the navigation package. Furthermore, its AWD system is expected to endow you with more confidence, but the way the car understeers when you're approaching the apex of a corner at high speeds has the converse effect. It also tries to be practical with four seats but has a relatively small trunk. What's more, the options you really want are ridiculously expensive. We quite like the way this car looks and goes, but it just feels like there's something missing. From our point of view, the RS5 Sportback is a more logical choice, and for those who insist on a coupe, we recommend looking at competitors, either waiting for the all-new BMW M4 or shopping for a C63. It's not that the RS5 Coupe sucks, it's just too vanilla to be our first choice.
The Audi RS5 comes with a base price of $75,100 before a destination charge of $1,045. If you want a Black Optic Launch edition, you'll need to spend another $12,300. The Ascari Launch Edition costs more, with a surcharge of $20,500. This is the model closest to being fully loaded, and the cost of the Audi RS5 luxury coupe in this configuration works out to a final MSRP of $101,645.
Although Audi refers to "launch editions", the same car is underneath all the glitz before these packages are added. Thus, the RS5 Coupe is a one-model offering, with the Sportback version considered separately. Under the hood is a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. This output is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that helps the RS5 post a 0-60 mph time of 3.7 seconds. However, like Mercedes and BMW, Audi has been known to be conservative with its timing estimates, so you may well find that the RS5 is even quicker in the real world. In any case, top speed is limited to 155 mph. Choose the Ascari Launch edition package and you'll unlock access to 174 mph of fate-tempting speed. As standard, you get forged wheels in 19-inch sizing, as well as Matrix-design LED headlights with laser light, animated LED taillights, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, dual-zone automatic climate control, wireless charging, and heated massaging front seats. You also get lane departure warning and forward collision mitigation. A 19-speaker sound system from Bang & Olufsen is also standard.
We've spoken a lot about these launch packages, so let's see exactly what they entail. First up is the cheaper of the two offerings: the Black Optic Launch Edition package. This costs $12,300 and adds unique 20-inch wheels in high-gloss black. You also get Alcantara on the shift lever and center console, along with matte carbon fiber interior trim inlays, MMI Navigation plus, blind-spot monitoring, Audi Dynamic steering, and various high-gloss black accents including the roof. Adaptive dampers, red brake calipers, and gloss black exhaust tips are also included. The Ascari Launch Edition package is similar but dresses the RS5 in Ascari Blue metallic paint. You get carbon-ceramic brakes, another unique wheel design, a 174-mph top speed limiter, a carbon fiber engine cover, and the same driver aids that you get in the Black Optic Launch Edition package (adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a head-up display, park assist, and a top view camera system). However, this package costs an additional $20,500 over and above the cost of the car. Furthermore, you have to spec the safety equipment mentioned above, and that adds another five grand. Fortunately, you can add some smaller touches like black Audi badges or a black roof for 300 bucks a pop.
As tempting as it is to consider getting the fastest model, we're pretty sure that Audi will offer many of its features as standalone options on the regular car once the 25-strong allocation of Ascari models is sold out. In any case, we think that paying six figures for an RS5 is a bit ridiculous when it's not exactly a class-leading vehicle. Since this is more of a GT than an all-out sports car, we'd go for the RS Driver Assistance package. This costs $3,000 and adds adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a head-up display, park assist with a top view camera system, and traffic sign recognition. We'd also consider the Navigation package at $1,500, but anything more is superfluous.
The 2021 BMW M4 hasn't arrived yet, so we can't give a full verdict on it. But on paper, it looks like it'll give the 2021 RS5 sports coupe a real run for its money. Starting at around $72,000, it'll be cheaper, and with the availability of RWD and a proper manual gearbox, it's certainly the enthusiast's choice. It also has a bigger trunk with 15.5 cubic feet, and with 473 hp under the hood for the base entrant, it'll outrun the Audi any day of the week. The M4, polarizing looks aside, is also more practical for rear-seat passengers thanks to more legroom. We also love the way BMW's modern iDrive infotainment system works, and with far more customization options promised, it'll be easy to make the M4 stand out. As we said at the outset, a test drive of the car will shed more light on things, but for now, the specs favor the Bimmer.
The C63 is also due for an overhaul, but it's only coming as a 2022 model. While it is yet to be seen whether losing the V8 will dramatically alter the way we feel about this car, for now, we can still enjoy a 4.0-liter twin-turbo motor that develops an RS5-pummelling 469 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic sends power to the rear wheels exclusively in traditional AMG fashion. However, this is one of the few cars in the segment with an even smaller trunk than the RS5, with the Merc's measuring just 10.5 cubes. Still, for luxurious comfort with rip-roaring power, the C63 is a highly attractive offering. Thanks to the recent addition of Merc's MBUX infotainment system, the C63 is finally a good car to fiddle around with too. For those who don't like the intricacy of Merc's interiors, the Audi is probably a safer bet. But if you like noise, power, and sideways fun, the C63 is the better choice. And what's more, Merc even offers a bonkers C63 S with over 500 horses. Sorry Audi, but you're out of your league.
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