What is the purpose of the Audi RS5? It’s a question I had on returning the beast to its holding pen. Not that you’d ask that when you first set your eyes on it. The RS5 squats at rest, all dark greens and blacks, daring you to take a ride. It is a car which looks terrifying and alluring in equal measure. With large aggressive alloys, bonnet slashes and an Audi permafrown, it seems to be telling other cars to back off… or else.
On the road, the RS5 performs as you’d expect – frighteningly rapid, with a four-wheel-drive Quattro system which refuses to accept the limits of low traction surfaces. Other car writers far more wizened than I whisper that the new RS5 engine, endowed with a 2.9 litre Porsche-developed twin-turbo V6 putting out 444bhp, doesn’t quite give you the same raw thrills as the scream of the previous 4.2 litre V8. All I can say, not having had the pleasure of that V8, is that this powerplant really is a thing most brutish. In S mode, when you put your foot down, the needles rise with alacrity and the cabin is filled with the growling hum of mechanical progress. Fire and forget – although whether it’s shooting yourself out of a corner or taking fast straights through the forests of Hampshire, the RS5 really doesn’t feel like the sports coupe it is claimed to be. It’s too heavy, too muscular, too refined. With its virtual cockpit, it’s really more a fighter bomber, a long-distance GT which is at its best bearing down on prey in the fast lane. Move aside or die.
Sounds good so far. However, most car fans know that the car industry is currently subject to powerful winds of change. A world turned upside down, where an already dwindling demographic of new buyers has less spending power than in times of yore and where past formulas for success need to be evaluated for longevity. I don’t envy the person at Audi who has to play Prospero, deploying financial and PR magic to keep things like the RS line under control. Yeah, the RS5 is cool, and green, and elemental, but rather like its rival the BMW M4, who is it really for? The RS5 will monster a test track and catapult you to 60mph in almost no time at all; but as a tricksy millennial, if I need the functionality of a saloon, there are far better uses for my money, and if I am a boomer daddy in need of a true performance car, I just buy an RS6 Avant and pretend that I will take the kids for a ride every so often.
If money is no object, of course, you will get an RS5 and be very pleased with yourself. But then I’d ask, tempestuously, why you didn’t get an R8 instead. Because the RS5 is a good car, a great car, which in my mind needs to be endowed with a purpose. I just couldn’t shake the feeling of not being able to place it. The new definitive super saloon? A sports coupe on steroids? Jet fighter German GT? Answers on a postcard, please.