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Audi RS5 review – engine, gearbox and technical highlights

The Porsche-shared 2.9-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 is now well ingrained into the VW Group and comes with pros and cons

Evo rating
Price
from £63,615
  • Covers ground effortlessly; superb build quality and refinement
  • Lacks the excitement and precision of its rivals; muted soundtrack

Under the RS5’s crisp bonnet you’ll find a familiar twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6. The 2894cc hot-V unit was co-developed with Porsche, and finds a home in an array of Audi and Porsche products, most recently being the sidekick to hybrid offerings in the Porsche Panamera and Bentley Flying Spur ranges. It’s this factor that puts into context precisely what sort of engine the V6 is.

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Unlike AMG’s M177 or BMW’s new S58, there’s not much in the way of high-end performance components – it’s very technologically advanced, yes, but also fairly unstressed and not designed specifically for the job of making the car it’s in a brilliant sports car. In the RS5, it delivers the same 444bhp as the RS4, and torque sits at 442lb ft available right across the rev band between 1900 and 5200rpm.

As is now common practice in this class, the transmission is an eight-speed torque converter auto, a ’box that shifts very cleanly, and when Sport Manual mode is selected accompanied by a nice little thump in the back, but it’s nothing like as dynamic as the previous dual-clutch, and the unit in BMW’s latest M4 Competitions seems to have a response advantage, too.

As is usual in high-performance Audis, the quattro four-wheel-drive system splits the engine’s torque 40/60 front to rear, but the system can send up to 70 per cent of the output to the rear axle in extreme situations.

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There’s no doubting the V6’s effectiveness when it comes to outright performance, but it can’t match rivals from AMG and Lexus for visceral appeal. This is partly down to the engine’s delivery, and partly the drama-dulling effects of four-wheel drive and a slick, seamless gear change. Also playing its part is the muted soundtrack, which in our post-WLTP era is all too common an issue.

> Click here to read our Mercedes-AMG C63 review

There is something of a muted growl when you really start to work it, but it’s not a noise that has you deliberately holding on to each gear just to hear it again. You are further discouraged from doing this by the small, cheap-feeling plastic paddles on the wheel, which are a far cry from the gorgeous aluminium items on the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio.

The transmission slurs unobtrusively up the gears as quickly as possible. Yet with so much torque available at such low revs, the Audi still accelerates strongly. As a car to use every day on everything from scarred city streets to smooth motorways, the cultured Audi is unrivalled.

Selecting the car’s Dynamic mode sharpens the gear changes, plus it adds some bass to the engine note, as well as a more obvious exhaust rasp on upshifts. It also initiates a strange noise on the overrun that sounds like there’s someone trapped in the boot and they’re playing the drums to attract your attention.

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