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2015 Audi RS 5: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2015

Automakers are putting on a brave face about tightening fuel economy regulations, but they know that there's no substitute for a high-performance, naturally aspirated V8. That's why Ferrari continues to use this type of engine in its purest car, the 458 Italia. It's also why the 2015 Audi RS 5 exists.

No, mentioning the RS 5 and Ferrari's finest in the same breath is not hyperbole. Here's the backstory: Audi already makes a dynamic coupe called the S5 that looks great, handles well and goes pretty fast, but the S5 no longer features Audi's excellent 4.2-liter V8, instead making do with a more fuel-efficient but less engaging 3.0-liter supercharged V6.

That's where the RS 5 comes in. It boasts a heavily modified version of the old V8 that tops out at a stratospheric 8,500 revolutions per minute. If you treat that number as a shift-now indicator, you'll be rewarded with a soundtrack that's genuinely worthy of an Italian badge. You'll also enjoy 450 purebred German horsepower versus the S5's 333 hp. Various suspension tweaks ensure that the RS 5's handling likewise eclipses that of its more sedate sibling.

Given that the RS 5 is aimed at the small subset of drivers who truly appreciate the V8's added value, we're surprised that it's only offered with Audi's admittedly superb dual-clutch automatic transmission. If you care that much about engines, you may also prefer to handle the clutching duties yourself.

But who are we kidding? This Audi is pure awesome. And with the BMW M3 having ditched its epic V8 in favor of a turbocharged inline 6, the 2015 RS 5 has one less bogey on its radar.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 RS 5 receives only minor tweaks to its optional equipment.

What We Like

Scintillating V8 engine; beautiful to behold; sticks like glue in corners; classy interior; technology aplenty

What We Don't

No manual transmission; top-shelf MMI system with Audi connect costs extra

How Much?

$71,825-$80,125

Fuel Economy

The RS 5 is powered by a naturally aspirated 4.2-liter V8 that makes 450 hp and 316 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual.

Fuel economy isn't that bad for a high-revving V8. The coupe checks in at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, while the Cabriolet drops a smidge to 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Audi RS 5 is offered as either a coupe or convertible (Cabriolet).

The RS 5 coupe ($71,825) comes standard with 19-inch alloy wheels (20-inchers are optional), adaptive xenon headlights with LED accents, LED taillights, special wide-body exterior panels, an automatic power rear spoiler, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry/ignition, a panoramic sunroof, tri-zone automatic climate control, 12-way sport front seats with driver memory, Nappa leather upholstery, carbon-fiber interior trim, Bluetooth phone and iPod integration, the Multi Media Interface system (MMI) with a dash-mounted control knob and a 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang & Olufsen audio system.

The RS 5 Cabriolet ($80,125) features a power-operated soft-top that remains functional until the car exceeds 31 miles per hour. It also substitutes a fixed trunk-lid spoiler for the coupe's automatic spoiler.

Opting for the Technology package adds upgraded MMI software with navigation and a console-mounted joystick knob, Audi connect with online services, front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a blind spot monitoring system, Bluetooth audio and HD Radio. The Cabriolet is eligible for a Comfort package that adds different seats with neck-level heating vents built into the seatbacks (the coupe can be equipped with the same seats minus the neck heaters). Additional packages contribute niceties such as adaptive cruise control, variable-ratio steering and Black Optic exterior trim. A sport exhaust system is a stand-alone option, as are ceramic front brakes.

With regard to the back seat, we've said it before of the A5 and S5, and we'll say it again: Only pint-sized humans will be happy back there for more than a few minutes. Trunk space, though, is respectable, measuring 12.4 cu ft. in the coupe and about 10 cu ft. in the Cabriolet. The rear seatbacks also fold flat in both models to expand cargo capacity.

Safety

The 2015 Audi RS 5 comes with standard stability control and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The coupe features eight airbags (front, front-side, front-knee and full-length side-curtain), while the Cabriolet does without the side-curtain airbags. A blind spot monitoring system is optional.

Like the A5 and S5, the RS 5 has not been crash-tested in the U.S.

Behind the Wheel

The RS 5's interior is highlighted by extraordinarily high-quality materials and a low-slung, intimate driving position with a cool flat-bottomed steering wheel. The aggressively bolstered front seats buck Audi's tradition of skimping on lateral support, yet they remain exceptionally comfortable on longer treks. We wish that they were standard in every Audi. The tilt-telescopic steering wheel has a wide range of adjustability, so most drivers should be able to find a comfortable configuration.

Ergonomics, however, are hit-or-miss in the RS 5, just like in the A5 and S5. For example, adjusting the climate control's fan speed is a 2-step process rather than the simple twist of a knob, making it difficult to do while driving. Still, Audi has made huge strides lately with the MMI system's intuitiveness, at least if you get the Technology package's superior version. It's now possible to accomplish the most important tasks without consulting the owner's manual, and that's real progress.

Under the hood, the 4.2-liter V8 is one of autodom's true gems. At full throttle, with the tachometer needle sweeping effortlessly toward 8,500 rpm, this motor is about as close as you can get to nirvana without ponying up for a Prancing Horse. And it's not just the speed that impresses; it's also the astounding lack of vibration through the controls and the exquisitely refined noises from both engine and exhaust. As for the transmission, it may only have two pedals, but it's as good as any automated manual that we've tried, including Porsche's PDK. Rip off a few rev-matched downshifts with the standard paddle shifters, and you'll be a believer, too.

On winding roads or racetracks, the RS 5 starts with the confident high-speed demeanor of its lesser siblings and cranks it to 11. There's a real sense of invincibility: Just plant your right foot midcorner and let the magical V8 and quattro all-wheel-drive system sort out the rest. Notably, the RS 5's version of quattro comes standard with the sport rear differential (optional on S5), which virtually eliminates understeer by sending extra power to the outside rear wheel as required.

In normal driving, the RS 5's ride proves rather stiff. We think that the fixed damper settings could stand to be relaxed, but you can still feel that characteristic German suppleness in the suspension, so impacts are rarely harsh. Moreover, the quiet cabin makes this Audi a stellar road-trip companion.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 BMW M4 -- The coupe version of the M3 is now known as the M4. It's equipped with a twin-turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine and some pretty mean styling.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG -- The C63 coupe lacks the RS 5's heroically controlled handling, but it'll do power slides all day if that's your thing. Plus, the 6.2-liter AMG V8 makes beautiful noises of its own.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 -- We know it's a dark-horse candidate, but the ZL1's unique suspension gives it world-class handling, and there's something to be said for its supercharged 580-hp V8 and look-at-me styling.

Used BMW M3 Coupe -- We're talking about the previous-generation model here, the one with the high-revving 4.0-liter V8. It's at least as capable as the RS 5, and you can get a certified pre-owned example for tens of thousands less.

AutoTrader's Advice

We recommend the RS 5, period. If you have the means, you're not going to be disappointed.

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2015 Audi RS 5: New Car Review - Autotrader