The Audi RS5 may be a new car, but it follows a recipe that was created way back in 1980 by the original Audi Quattro.
And while we’re now very familiar with Audi’s cookbook, the combination of four-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine in a four-seat coupé was little short of revolutionary back then.
Does the RS5 really retain the spirit of the Quattro, though, or has the extra power, luxury and technology turned it into little more than a very fast cruiser?
New Audi RS5 vs Audi Quattro – styling
There’s no doubt the Quattro is an icon. Its boxy form found fame in the 1980s on rally stages and later on the television show Ashes to Ashes. Back in the day, it looked far more modern than the chrome-bumpered cars people were used to.
Both the 'quattro' script and boxed wheel arches are referenced on the RS5, even if overall it’s a very different shape. But what it doesn’t do is differentiate itself from the regular A5 as effectively as the Quattro did from the regular Audi Coupé.
New Audi RS5 vs Audi Quattro – engines and driving
The Quattro was only ever available with one engine: a five-cylinder petrol with a turbocharger. This was developed over the years, starting at 2.1-litres before growing to 2.2-litres then gaining four valves per cylinder instead of two. The late 20-valve version we’ve got here produces 217bhp, enough for performance that’s still pretty rapid.
It drives all four wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox that doesn’t like to be rushed. Throw in a heavy clutch and plenty of clonks when you engage a gear, and it feels almost agricultural.
The steering is numb around the straight-ahead, but has reasonable feel with some lock on and weights up nicely. Once you’ve got used to the nose-heavy balance and brakes that require a firm shove, the Quattro is both fast and rewarding to drive.
Tread on the accelerator of the RS5, and it feels like you’ve gone into warp speed by comparison. The new car's 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V6 produces 444bhp, which, combined with a swifter-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox, is enough to weld you to the back of your seat under hard acceleration.
It’s a very easy car to drive quickly thanks to loads of grip and much faster steering, but one that is ultimately less rewarding. It feels like it shows you everything it can do quickly, whereas the Quattro slowly reveals its huge talents. Even so, the RS5 is technically better thanks to being quicker, quieter, almost as comfortable, yet with far less body lean in the corners.
Page 1 of 3