Audi Sport is really killing it these days. Just like Mercedes’ AMG division or BMW’s M cars unit, Audi Sport is the brand’s high-performance unit that develops and builds its Audi RS models, as well as handles corporate motorsports, customer racing, Audi Sport collection, and S-line performance parts.
While its relatively new on the scene, you need look no further than this year’s Monterey Car Week for its impact, where Audi revealed the stunning new PB18 e-tron concept – an electric supercar with 764 horsepower and race-inspired underpinnings.
The Audi PB18 e-tron concept car represents our radical vision for the high-performance sports car of tomorrow. Its name also refers to the DNA it shares with our #LeMans24-winning R18 e-tron quattro – DNA that has been implemented by Audi Sport GmbH. #etron #LeagueofPerformance pic.twitter.com/OrvUBZEqy0
— Audi Sport (@audisport) August 24, 2018
Audi has ambitious goals for Audi Sport. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Audi revealed Audi Sport will pump out 20 new cars in 2018, with Audi calling it the “biggest model initiative in its history.” It’s an astonishing figure and shows Audi’s deep commitment to the top end of its A4, A5, and A6 segment (among others) as brand definers that not only make money, but drum up interest in the brand.
One of the cars revealed at the 2018 New York Auto Show was the RS5 Sportback, a high-performance sedan with a stealth hatchback in the back. While that car isn’t going to come out for a few more months, we’re testing the car it’s based on — the RS5 Coupe. While all new for 2018, technically it debuted last year, but is only now in dealerships.
Audi did a good thing here with the RS5’s styling. Starting with the wide front end with hexagonal-detailed Audi grill, the car starts aggressive and gets even more so, with scoops and strafes in all the right places, and fanning out to a seemingly wider track in the rear, with wheels sporting beefy 275/30/20 summer tires. The rear end wraps nicely with a small overhang and surprisingly useful trunk. There’s been some criticism in certain circles about the hood on the RS5 looking a bit too power dome-y (forgive the description), but it didn’t really bother me.
Then there’s that engine. Let’s start with the numbers. The RS5 swaps out the 2.0L turbocharged V-4 found in the standard A5 with Audi’s twin-turbocharged, 2.9-liter V-6 — a snarling, rev-happy power plant cranking out 444 horsepower, and 443 lb-ft of torque. All that torque is seemingly available right at the get go, in fact Audi claims peak torque is available at 1900 rpm.
Inside the cabin is Audi’s tried and true cockpit layout with MMI display and input controls, only more Audi Sport-ified. This means carbon fiber everywhere, an Audi Sport steering wheel, and a repeat of the hexagonal theme from the grill, only now on the seats and interior trim. Our tester in Sonoma green metallic paint had green hexagonal-shaped stitching to accent its black leather seats. The sport seats were comfortable and offered no pain in my trouble areas of lower back and thighs even after a couple hours of aggressive driving.
But really, the facts don’t matter. When you fire the RS5 up, set up your individual driving characteristics for settings like suspension setup, throttle, and steering, hit the gas and grab that right paddle shifter for that first upshift — that’s when you really feel what this car’s about.
The RS5 leaps into action, pushing you into the driver’s seat. The engine surprises with the amount of power it can generate quickly, and that’s echoed by spirited, throaty roar coming out the sport exhaust system. And you get those oh so nice gurgles and exhaust overruns when you let off the gas in full dynamic mode, but because this is still an Audi, you can quiet the noise coming out of the exhaust with a couple clicks if the neighbors start to complain.
In it’s stiffest setting the suspension is quite aggressive, almost bone-jarringly so — on the track and smooth pavement is where it’s warranted. Thankfully our RS5 allowed us to adjust suspension settings to a more conformable ‘comfort’ driving mode that did a good job eating up New York City potholes and cracks, although sometimes it did create something of a floaty feel. It’s hard to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to sport suspension settings.
Starting at $69,900, but pushing over $90,000 with the trim delivered to us, the RS5 is something only deep-pocketed enthusiasts would consider. But when it comes down to it, what competitor in this class offers this kind of performance, combined with the practicality of all-wheel drive and back seats?
BMW and Mercedes have lots to say in this regard with the latest M4 and C63 S Coupe respectively, but even James Bond himself would be hard pressed to find a car this technologically capable, blindingly fast, affordable (relatively), with just enough style to blend in the streets of Monte Carlo than the RS5.
Perhaps Audi Sport is like 007’s ‘Q’, an imaginative lab that reengineers regular items for performance in any situation; the difference being here Audi, unlike the British government, aims to profit from the venture.