This has never happened before. There’s the sound of thunder in the air. But it’s not the rain-lashing clouds above that are producing it. It’s those twin exhausts connected, it seems, to my right foot. This is the kind of rain that prompts people to build arks. It doesn’t matter – the speedo shows 180. A right-hander looms – my mind says understeer. The RS5 says quattro, and sweeps around the storm-ridden corner at (what I’d like to believe was) 200 kph. I glance at the shiny ‘quattro’ badge on the dash and let out a disbelieving whistle. I admit it. Battling a resolute rainy gloom in a bright red car is fun.
Close on the heels of Audi’s win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I’m on our version of the autobahn, shattering personal lap records like a playing-card castle. The last Audi I drove on this road was the R8. How fitting that I should be driving this, the RS5, with whom it shares its 4.2 FSI heart. Only, the RS5 gets 30 bhp more than the supercar. Yes, you read that right. And you can imagine what a bonkers car the RS5 is. If you can’t, well, read on.
I’ve driven in the rain many times. But this is different. I’ve driven a few Audis as well. But this too is different. The personal milestone described above took place less than an hour into my time with the RS5. I don’t think there’s another car in this segment that allows you to reach ‘stupid fast’ as easily. But more on that later.
An hour ago, I was standing outside the car, trying to decide whether I like the way it looks. As is always the case, whenever I’m faced with a powerful car, I’m overcome with an immense urge to open the bonnet to see the engine. I don’t particularly know what I’m looking for... perhaps it’s the ‘lift and look under the skirt’ syndrome being carried over to cars. But what I do know is, in most cases, I’m disappointed to see an illegible black plastic mass. Not this time. This Audi is quite the babe, and teases you with two bright red engine heads. A German V8 that’s playful – who said the Bavarians are always serious and understated?
Coming back to the question – so what did I decide? Well, I love the tiny Audi four rings detailing on the tyre valve caps. The ‘RS’ on the brake calipers is hot. Those huge alloys and those anorexia-profile tyres – what a stance they provide! The frameless windows are cool. However, the most important thing I decided was this – I’m a sucker for bright red. In any other colour, I’m not sure I’d fall for the RS5’s ‘one-big-happy-Audi-family’ look, even though the details are all present and accounted for. I think the problem is that I’ve grown up expecting all four ring-clad cars to look like the Auto Union Type C.
Walking towards the rear, I saw the cutout in the bootlid – a spoiler that pops out! A swan dive into the car and a quick search for the required button saw it come up. I swear I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this underwhelmed. Being the wild optimist (and mild unreal-ist) that I am, I expected a giant whale tail of a spoiler to rise out and tower over those shapely haunches, bathing the RS5 with such divine aerodynamic magnificence that my few remaining reservations about the RS5’s looks would be put to rest. However, the red band that meekly arose about two inches was only something that halved my field of vision in the rear-view mirror. Well, if it’s impractical, it must be cool. But what the RS5 is really all about, is the motor. And what a motor it is.
That 4.2-litre FSI V8 is one of the finest engines in the world, and now I got to see for myself exactly why it is so. Every flex of the right foot whips 450 well-trained horses out of those eight stables... er, cylinders that stampede all over your adrenal glands, tearing them to shreds in the process. Being naturally aspirated gives the V8 an unrestrained and seamless demeanour. You never have to hunt for power on this one – downshifts are simply to release those thundering booms from the exhausts, and you can either choose to row through the gears with the lever or flick through them with the paddles behind the steering wheel.
I’m sure after I was done with the full-bore runs, my body left its shape imprinted into that excellent, sporty seat. I’m not even going to throw numbers at you, simply because I can’t bear to look at them myself. However, I will say this – the RS5 is electronically limited to a top speed of 280 kph. It’s a marvel, really. And then there are the driving modes. Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual – these modes allow you to set the mood with the RS5. Comfort equates to a light steering, very acceptable ride quality (despite those rubber-band tyres) and a mellow feeling to the drivetrain. Individual allows you to tailor each of the three parameters – the steering, the suspension and the engine mapping – which means everyone can find what they want with the RS5. But nothing beats what comes next.
Dynamic can also be called Surreal and is the equivalent of all hell breaking loose – I press the button, and deep inside the RS, something stirs. The V8 rumble becomes deeper – it’s something you cannot ignore, let alone miss. The steering becomes tighter (the transition feels very artificial), the suspension feels like there’s none and the RS5 reroutes the throttle response through your brain. It simply wants to run wild and free. Amazing what an innocent-looking button can do. And it stops as well as it goes too. The brakes have great feel through the pedal and effortlessly halt the rampaging RS.
And under all that red metal, there’s a whole lot more that keeps the car pointing where you want it to, no matter what the conditions. Of course, there’s the famous quattro, which features a 40:60 front-to-rear split as standard, to allow for more sporty behaviour. However, if things start getting a bit too frisky, power can be directed to either end in the correct amount, keeping trouble at bay. And then there’s the torque-vectoring system that essentially brakes the inside wheel/s in corners to tighten the car’s line. The combination of quattro and torque-vectoring is devastating. Even on wet twisting roads and with disrespectful kicks to the throttle, there’s more grip here than I’ll ever need in my life. But there’s no way I can really know for sure; the chassis plays its cards close to its chest. And that’s the thing – the RS5 knows and does everything; it’s a god maker.
Honestly, the steering could do with more response. It’s the only chink in the RS5’s considerable armour. But that’s about the only thing I can pick fault with. The RS5’s mix of goody-two-shoes practicality and asylum brand of madness means that this just might be the supercar beater you’ve been waiting for – a German redhead with a big heart that you can take home to meet mom. Just don’t tell her what the ‘average’ is.
Price: Rs 74.59 LAKH
Displacement: 4163cc, V8, petrol
Max Power: 450 bhp@8250 rpm
Max Torque: 43.8 kgm@4000-6000 rpm
Specific output: 108.09 bhp/litre
Power to weight: 260.86 bhp/tonne
Torque to weight: 25.4 kgm/tonne
Transmission: 7-speed auto
Type: Rack and pinion with power assist
Turning radius: 5.8 m
Front: Five-link; anti-roll bar
Rear: Trapezodial-link; anti-roll bar
Front: Ventilated discs
Rear: Ventilated discs
ABS: Standard with EBD & ESP
(F/R): 265/35 R19
L/W/H (mm): 4649/1860/1366
Wheelbase: 2751 mm
Track (F/R): 1586/1582 mm
Kerb weight: 1725 kg
Boot volume: 455 litres
Tank capacity: 64 litres
0-60 kph: 2.78 secs
0-100 kph: 5.48 secs
80-120 kph: 3.2 secs
100-140 kph: 3.8 secs
Top speed: 220 kph (achieved)
Overall: 4.8 kpl