What Car? says...
Sometimes wallet-friendly fuel economy and a cheap starting price aren’t a priority. Some buyers just want a performance car that goes fast. Really fast. And that's where the Audi RS5 comes in.
Or, more accurately, the Audi RS5 Coupé and the RS5 Sportback – the two quickest variants of the Audi A5. They both have the brand's RS (for Racing Sport) lettering and astonishing performance, but the Sportback gets two extra doors.
In some ways, the RS5s are as far removed from the regular A5 as chalk and cheese, as shown by their red-hot spec sheet. You get a 2.9-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine powering all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
That delivers 444bhp and 443lb ft of torque for a 0-62mph time of just 3.9sec. For reference (and in case you plan track runs), top speed is 174mph. That's even quicker than the 'hot A5', the Audi S5 – a version also available in Coupé and Sportback forms, but only with a diesel engine.
Externally, you can tell the RS apart from a regular A5 by its more aggressive bumpers, twin oval exhaust pipes, wider wheel arches and fatter wheels. It looks similarly aggressive to its main rapid performance car competitors, the BMW M4 and Alfa Romeo Giulia QV.
On top of the exterior tweaks, Audi has also given the RS5 a sexier interior, with plenty of luxurious materials, massaging seats and other top-notch tech.
So, how does it compare with its epic rivals for performance, handling and – for those who do care about such stuff – practicality and running costs? Does it thrill on every journey, and is it still easy to live with on a daily basis? That's what we'll tell you over the next few pages of this Audi RS5 review.
Once you've read our verdict and decided on your next new car, make sure you get it for the lowest price by searching our free What Car? New Car Deals pages. It's a good place to find the best new performance car deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The RS5’s turbocharged V6 petrol engine has an Audi badge glued to it, but it's actually shared with the Porsche Panamera 4S. It feels much more urgent low down in the rev range than the previous, V8-powered RS5, and with help from the traction offered by the quattro four-wheel-drive system, you can slingshot off the line and hit 62mph in 3.9sec. That's half a second quicker than the Audi S5, and matches the BMW M4 Competition and the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV.
The eight-speed automatic gearbox operates smoothly when you’re driving sensibly, and changes are swift when you’re accelerating hard. There is some initial hesitancy when you ask for a sudden burst of acceleration, though.
While this RS5 is there or thereabouts for straight-line pace against its rivals – with an evocative soundtrack of howls and parps as it does so – its appeal as a true performance car fades on twistier roads.
For a start, the steering is quite heavy and artificial-feeling, regardless of the driving mode you choose. You get Dynamic Steering on Vorsprung models (which varies how far you have to turn the wheel depending on your speed), but while it helps you get round tight turns more easily, it doesn’t give you any greater sense of connection with what the front wheels are doing.
The latest RS5 is lighter than previous version, but still feels a bit more hesitant than rivals to change direction quickly. That's a little more noticeable with the Sportback variant, which is 120kg heavier than the Coupé.
The Giulia QV and the M4 have lighter, more natural-feeling steering and superior body control, so they feel more agile and precise at speed.
For the most part, the RS5’s ride is fairly well settled and comfortable by performance car standards, but it's not as composed as the rivals. The standard sports suspension feels better tied down than the adaptive set-up you get on range-topping Vorsprung models.
The interior layout, fit and finish
The driving position in the Audi RS5 is tough to fault, with plenty of seat and steering-wheel adjustment, and a comfortable backrest that provides plenty of upper-back support. You can adjust the bolster and lumbar support to find a supportive position, and the heated front seats have a massage function.
You’re unlikely to have any complaints about how far back your seat slides or how much room there is above your head. The panoramic roof you get in top-spec Vorsprung models reduces space above you a little, but you'd have to be extremely tall for it to affect you.
The RS5 comes with a 12.3in digital driver display with crisp and clear graphics is standard, along with a 10.1in touchscreen infotainment system.
Unfortunately, during the latest facelift, Audi took out the user-friendly rotary dial that sat in the centre console of earlier cars. Without that, infotainment functions can only be controlled by prodding the screen or using the voice command function – neither of which is as easy as twiddling a dial.
The RS5 does far better when it comes to build quality, with a classy look and feel, upmarket materials and a sense of robustness throughout. It’s certainly a cut above the Giulia QV’s cheaper-feeling interior.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Clearly, you won’t be considering the Audi RS5 Coupé if space is your number one priority, but it's not as impractical as you might imagine. Two six-footers can squeeze in the back, although they'll have to slouch to keep their heads from brushing the rooflining, and won't get much legroom unless the front seats are quite far forwards. The BMW M4 is more generous in the back.
The four-door RS5 Sportback is obviously a better choice than the Coupé if you’re looking for space. As well as the extra doors, you also get some more room in the back.
The boot is a good size, with a similar capacity to the M4's (which took seven bags when we tested it). The load bay is deep, long and wide, but the narrow saloon opening has quite a big loading lip. That could make loading in big, bulky items challenging, although the same can be said of rival cars.
The rear seats in both RS5 variants split 40/20/40. When the seat backs are folded down, they leave a gentle slope in the floor of the extended load bay.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
As you'd expect, it will require deep pockets to run, and like its thirsty rivals, it has an official fuel economy of less than 30mph.
Audi gives you a choice of three trim levels, and even the entry-level trim (just called RS5) is very well equipped. Mid-spec Carbon Black has different styling and bigger alloys, while top-spec Vorsprung adds matrix LED lights, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assistance, plus adaptive sports suspension and dynamic steering.
Independent safety experts Euro NCAP gave the Audi A4 – on which the RS5 is based – the full five stars for safety, but that was so long ago that the rating has expired. Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) and blind-spot monitoring are included as standard to help prevent accidents in the first place.
Will the RS5 be reliable? Well, Audi didn’t perform particularly well in the 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing 18th out of 30 manufacturers. That’s better than Alfa Romeo (26th place) but behind BMW (13th).
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|RRP price range
|£76,760 - £94,660
|Number of trims (see all)
|Number of engines (see all)
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)
|MPG range across all versions
|29.1 - 29.7
|Available doors options
|3 years / 60000 miles
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)
|£5,560 / £6,885
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)
|£11,121 / £13,770