First Look

2018 Audi RS5 First Look Review: Is It Still A Sports Coupe?

It doesn't tick any of the old sports car boxes.

When Audi announced it wanted to double the number of RS models offered in the US, we were ecstatic. Audi has never sold more than a handful of RS models at any given time in the US, and the current wave of fresh RS models is proof that the US was missing out. The RS3 looks fantastic, and we have swooned all over the TT RS. Unfortunately, we think that Audi Sport may have missed the mark a bit with the new RS5. The old RS5 was often overlooked in its segment, and we think the new one is business as usual.

The BMW M3 has long been the benchmark of this segment, and the current model is offered as a sedan as well as an M4 Coupe and Convertible. Likewise, Mercedes offers the C63 as a sedan, coupe and convertible. Oddly, Audi has always taken a different approach in the US. The B7 RS4 was only available as a sedan or convertible (and as a wagon in Europe). For the B8 generation, the US only received the RS5 Coupe and Convertible (the RS4 Avant was exclusively for Europe). We think that the lack of choice always made people a little less receptive to the RS4/5, and so far, the B9 RS5 has only been announced as a coupe. We can only pray for an RS5 Sportback model or RS4 Avant.

An RS5 Sportback would compete in a class of its own because BMW doesn't offer an M4 Gran Coupe and Mercedes doesn't do a four-door-coupe C-Class. Lack of variety aside, we do have a few other gripes with the new RS5, many of which we also had with the new S4 and S5. For the B9 generation, the RS5 loses its 4.2-liter V8 in favor of a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6. Even though this engine has the same displacement and layout as the new Porsche Panamera, Audi swears that it was developed from the ground up for the new RS5. This engine produces 450 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, which like all RS cars is sent to all four wheels through Quattro AWD.

Disappointingly, the new engine doesn't produce any more power than the old 4.2-liter V8, although it does produce way more torque (442 lb-ft compared to 317). Even with the extra torque, the new RS5 still hits 60 mph in the same 3.9 seconds (although the new car may be quicker when tested in the real world). The biggest improvement with the new V6 is fuel economy. The B9 RS5 averages 27 mpg, which bests the old car's 23 mpg highway rating. Although, this is supposed to be a sports car so who the heck cares about fuel economy? We wish that Audi focused a little more on making this car match BMW on driving dynamics than trying to match Toyota on fuel economy.

What Audi has ended up with is a comfortable car that happens to go pretty quickly. However, we think that there are far better options for enthusiasts, even in Audi's own range. The old RS5 was never the enthusiast's choice for a track day, but we think that this new one is even less suited for people who do a lot of spirited driving. The quick-shifting dual-clutch and the awesome manual transmission are both gone in favor of an eight-speed automatic, which should eliminate it from enthusiast's shopping lists. The interior of the new RS5 still looks great, like most RS cars, but in a more soft and subtle way. We would rather blast on the autobahn in the RS5 than carve up a canyon road.

The B9 RS5 also lacks some of the uniqueness that the old model possessed. That old V8 may have been thirsty, but it sounded special. We don't think that the new V6 can match the V8's throaty roar. Even the smaller 2.5-liter five-cylinder in the RS3 and TT RS sounds better.

We would recommend that anyone looking for a truly fun sporty coupe get the TT RS instead of the RS5, because it looks much more special on paper. Anyone who needs four doors can look at the RS3 or CLA 45, or the M3 and C63 if they need something bigger. We always tried to go against the trend of bashing Audi RS cars for not being as dynamic as their M and AMG counterparts. Unfortunately, we cannot shield the RS5 from this criticism. It may be a lovely car to drive, but we see many better alternatives in the market, even from the Audi model range. An RS5 Sportback would make us waver a bit, but we still pine for that lovely V8 in the B7 and B8.

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