Video: Is Audi's latest RS lacking as a driver's car because of the advanced technology?
Check out Steve's video review
As an auto electrician, Audi’s immortal Vorsprung Durch Technik, or advancement through technology philosophy, is something I lived by. It went further than the literal sense - I relied on the latest technology, or the repair thereof, to put food on the table, too. I honestly agree with it, well, mostly.
I’m all about driving the industry forward, that’s why I’m against cars that take a backwards step in terms of the important things like safety technology, Geely and Great Wall, I’m looking at you.
But here’s the catch with Audi’s latest RS model, the RS5. As a driver, I think high-tech isn’t staying true to the heritage, and the car is lacking because of it.
It’s not lacking in terms of specification, all the creature comforts one expects from an $185,000 super coupe are built into the carbon fibre-dressed interior, and then some.
Standard fare includes the supportive seating from the brand’s S-range of models, rather than the race-inspired buckets offered in the past RS4 - this improves rear legroom so the cabin is adequately comfortable for four. Tri-zone climate air, electric handbrake, front and rear parking aids and camera, satellite navigation, Bluetooth and voice control, tyre pressure monitoring and heated seating.
19” alloys / tyres may improve the ride, but you’ll want to option the desirable titanium-look 20” alloys to be the envy of your friends - not bad buying at $4800. Add another $4250 and you can have the electronic speed limiter raised to 280km/h, and while you’re at it maybe you should consider ceramic brakes, a small extravagance sir, ahem, $17,000.
All that’s well and good. Great, even. The build quality is flawless, and all the complexity that comes with having a full-fruit interior has been removed with Audi’s intuitive Multi Media Interface system. I love it.
But where the RS5 comes of the rails is the drive train, which ironically is so heavily-controlled it drives as though it’s well and truly tied down to those preverbal rails.
That’s the problem; Audi’s RS heritage has been a refreshing devil on the shoulder of an otherwise angelic model range. The RS2 originator, built afterhours by rebellious Audi engineers raiding the Porsche parts bin, channelled the monstrous Groub B Audi rally cars. Cars like the RS2 and the earlier RS4s and RS6s were horrifyingly scary, yet utterly desirable at the same time.
Despite 331kW (450 horses for old schoolers) being pumped out from a new, reviver 4.2 litre V8 FSi mill, the RS5 feels far too sensible. It’s endowed with one of the most technically-advanced all wheel drive systems known to man, Audi have added ‘torque vectoring’ to their Quattro system. This enables torque to be sent to individual wheels and actually aid the turning characteristics; it’s similar but naturally far more complicated than the all-paw system in an EVO X.
To be fair it is stunningly competent, combined with electronically-adjustable suspension and a sports diff, grip is mind-blowing - the RS5 can corner faster than possibly any other mass-produced car I’ve driven. But, even with the stability control’s sport setting activated, it’s void of honest to goodness feedback to the driver; you’re not reigning in the car at the limit, more just going along for the ride, forever aware the technology has all the talent, not you.
Of course, this car still puts a smile on your face. I question anyone not to activate the factory launch control and accelerate from 0-100km/h in 4.6 seconds, snapping through the superb seven-speed S-Tronic transmission along the way without being impressed. But I think this is one instance when looking back, rather than forward could make for a better car. I admire the innovation here, but lament the loss of heritage and a truly engaging drive.