The all-new 2013 Audi RS 5 almost feels like a race car for the street, with its glued-to-the-road suspension, strong brakes and awesome, high-revving 4.2-liter V-8 that generates 450-horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque.
That naturally aspirated V-8 is good for an oh-my-gosh 0-60 mph time and, says Audi, an electronically governed top speed of 174 mph. A rear spoiler automatically raises at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph —or can be manually raised and lowered via the push of a button.
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The exhaust system has two chromed oval-shaped exhaust outlets integrated within the bumper. They emit a performance sound to fit the RS 5’s character and look as if designed by a skilled artist.
Audi says the $68,900, all-wheel-drive RS 5 looks like a “classically elegant coupe.” Rather, I think it looks downright slinky. (Audi later says in a press release that the RS 5 styling is “dynamically elegant.”) But the low front end must be kept in mind when pulling into a parking spot with objects such as a high curb at its end.
The car is nicely equipped, with items including a Nappa leather interior, tilting glass-panel sunroof with a retractable sunshade, heated power front seats, decent sound system and push-button start.
Safety items include front and side curtain air bags and front/rear acoustic parking sensors.
This Audi is too quiet, comfortable and heavy, at a little over 4,000 pounds, to be a race car. The horsepower and weight conspire to result in estimated, mediocre city fuel economy of 16 miles per gallon. The highway number is far better at 23.
The newly developed crown-gear center differential operates with electronic torque vectoring to allow greater performance. The differential can vary torque distribution widely between front and rear axles. If necessary, up to 70 percent can flow to the front or as much as 85 percent toward the rear end. The 40:60 ratio of the standard rear-biased configuration helps ensure sporty handling.
Assisting handling are quick, nicely geared electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering and a rather firm sport-tuned suspension (which lowers the body).
Standard are 19-inch alloy wheels with 35-series performance tires with an exclusive ten-spoke forged design. Five-spoke 20-inch wheels and 30-series tires are optional.
My test RS 5 had the 35-series tires. I don’t recommend the 30-series ones for most RS 5 buyers because the Audi’s generally supple ride got choppy at legal speeds on poor side roads with the standard tires.
Some sports car buffs will gripe that there’s no availability of a manual transmission. Instead, the engine is hooked to a responsive seven-speed, double-clutch “S tronic” automatic transmission that can operate in responsive fully automatic mode or be manually shifted via the gear selector or shift paddles near the flat-bottom steering wheel. There’s also a launch-control program, which seems silly for this car.
A driver can select auto, comfort, dynamic and individual Audi drive select settings, making the RS 5 suitable for a “potent drive for a weekend excursion, as well as on the track,” as Audi puts it.
The track? Naw. There’s no doubt, though, that the RS 5 has “track-tested performance.” For instance, my test car securely took decreasing radius curves onto freeways so fast that it almost made my ears bleed. Electronic stability control will help keep unskilled drivers safe during hard motoring. It integrates a sport mode and can be switched off entirely. But most should leave it alone because the RS 5 coupe has capabilities far beyond those of most drivers.
The brake system has powerful and internally-ventilated discs, controlled by a firm pedal with a progressive action. Audi can optionally fit the front axle with ceramic carbon-fiber brake discs measuring 15 inches in diameter.
Long, heavy doors are a problem in tight parking spots, and athletic moves are needed to get into the tight backseat area, which only seats two—preferably children or pets.
While front seatbelts are difficult to reach, the power front sport seats with pronounced side bolsters are supportive in curves, and gauges can be quickly read.The digital speedometer accompanies a regular speedometer and is appreciated because this car accelerates so quickly you may be moving much faster than you think. Controls are easy to use, and the driver can rest his left foot on a large footrest next to the brake pedal.
The upscale black interior has sporty rock gray seat piping. The decorative dash inlays are made of carbon fiber, and the pedals and the footrest are trimmed in aluminum. Aluminum inserts adorn the door sill trims, and there are RS 5 logos scattered all over the interior.
It costs a fair chunk of money but the $3,550 Navigation-plus option package contains a rearview camera and an acoustic warning system that helps drivers enter or exit safely from parking spots. It also features an upscale sound system.
Also optional are adaptive cruise control to help regulate the distance between the driver of an RS 5 and traffic ahead. It initiates emergency braking at speeds below 19 mph.
The large trunk has a wide, but rather high, opening and manual hinges, with no interior strap or indented area to help pull the lid down. Although the tight rear seat really isn’t for adults, rear seatbacks flip forward and sit flat to enlarge the cargo area.
The hood raises on a hydraulic strut to reveal an engine compartment that’s so crowded and looks so technically sophisticated that it must look scary to anyone but a highly trained Audi mechanic.
Pros: Racy styling. Lightning fast. Refined. Superb handling. Advanced all-wheel drive.
Cons: Tight backseat. Mediocre city economy. Choppy ride on poor roads. Long, heavy doors.
Bottom Line: Docile despite its awesome V8.
Dan Jedlicka has been an automotive journalist for nearly 45 years. To read more of his new and vintage car reviews, visit: www.danjedlicka.com.