The Recombu Cars team road test and review the performance poser that is Audi RS5 Cabriolet.
It all started with the 1994 RS2; Audi’s sporting lineage was born and – with a little help from Porsche – the RS brand has been a part of the company’s line-up ever since. Larger, more powerful engines, up-rated brakes and chassis, plus interior and exterior enhancements make RS models the performance pinnacle of each model line.
And so to the latest edition; the RS5 cabriolet powered by a 4.2-litre naturally aspirated V8 petrol engine. A 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds is an expected stat, as is the talented quattro four-wheel drive chassis, but this car’s equally adept at posing as it is at performing. We dropped the roof on this £68,985 four-seater to see just how deep its abilities lie.
The Audi RS5 isn’t really an all-new car; the RS moniker has already been applied to the A5 coupe and this car simply takes its cues from that. That means there’s square-blistered arches, aluminium detailing and a deep single-frame grille. As with the updated RS5 Coupe this cabriolet gets sharper LED headlamps, with the daytime running element running around their perimeter and a set of new 10-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels.
Of course it’s the roof that makes this car. It boasts a lightweight acoustic lid said to be as quiet as the metal-topped model on the move. Handily you can open and close it on the move, at speeds of up to 31mph, which is perfect for the changeable weather we experience in the UK.
Compared to some of the other RS models in the Audi range – RS4 and RS6 for example – the RS5 is rather lacking in practicality. Although it boasts of being a full four-seater, the rear pews lack legroom, especially if the driver is anywhere near six-foot in height. The thick C-pillar of the roof can mean that with the fabric in place it can feel more claustrophobic than it really is back there. Up-front you don’t notice any such problems, and the multi-adjustable sports seats ensure the driver can get into a perfect position behind the wheel. Leave the roof raised and maximum boot space is 380 litres, while folded it only takes 60 litres off that total. The only real blot on this car’s copybook in terms of comfort is the firm suspension, which often sends sharp shocks through the cabin and into the seats as it deals with broken and lumpy tarmac below.
Performance & handling
This is where the Audi RS5 Cabriolet should be in its element, displaying prodigious grip from its quattro four-wheel drive system, startling performance from that hand-built 444bhp 4.2-litre V8 and strong stopping from the larger brakes. And it does; grip is available in abundance, there’s an electronically limited 155mph top speed (with the option to raise this to 174mph) and a 4.9 second 0-62mph time. The standard brakes (carbon Ceramics are an option) haul the cabriolet to a stop with ease.
But, driving the car like this also shows up its largest dynamic shortcomings. Sure it’s fast, but there’s no real sense of involvement, the RS5 offering little in the way of feedback. The steering lacks response off the dead ahead, and while you can add weight to the helm via the Audi Drive Select, there’s no way of adding road information to the rim.
As a blunt and bludgeoning instrument the chassis fulfils its brief, but while there’s grip aplenty there’s no feeling of playfulness like you’d find in a BMW 3 Series. The RS5 does offer torque vectoring through it’s new locking rear differential, and there’s no arguing with the lines it scythes through corners though. But sitting on 20mm lower RS suspension, the biggest failing is the overly-firm ride which sends shudders and shakes through the cabin so frequently you expect the dashboard to shake itself loose. At least the engine is a peach, a little light in mid-range torque thanks to a lack of forced induction, but happy to sing its head off past 8,000rpm on its way to the redline.
Economy & environment
Four-point-two litres of V8 petrol engine aren’t words normally associated with economy, and so it is here. Audi has fitted start/stop in a bid to decrease the CO2 emissions output, resulting in a figure of 249g/km. To be fair the car is hamstrung by the extra weight of the quattro four-wheel drive system and the BMW M3 convertible emits a similar 269g/km. Take it really easy and you might see close to the firm’s claimed 26.4mpg combined economy figure, though if you make any use of the considerable performance on offer the numbers are more likely to be the wrong side of 20mpg.
Equipment & value
At nigh on £70,000 (£68,985) the Audi RS5 jumps straight into a ring already occupied by some seriously capable contenders. Ignoring the cheaper BMW M3 the biggest issue comes in the shape of Porsche’s venerable 911 Cabriolet – just £13,417 more will find you behind the wheel of this rear-engined four-seat convertible from Weissach. For sheer driving thrills, the Audi doesn’t even come close. However, while you’d be piloting a basic Porsche for that cash, in the Audi you’re already enjoying a comprehensive equipment list that includes leather sports seats, sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, iPod connection, dual-zone climate control and DAB radio. Options can be expensive, though the Sports Pack, which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, Dynamic ride control, Dynamic steering and Sports exhaust is good value at £2,250.
The RS5 cabriolet and the A5 model it’s based on will likely perform similarly to the A4 saloon and estate they’re derived from. If it does all go wrong, there’s four airbags, Isofix preparation and a host of electronic safety systems to keep occupants safe. The RS5 has yet to be crash tested by Euro NCAP.
There are some great Audi RS models, and there are some that fall slightly short of the pedestal that the brand places them on. Unfortunately for the RS5 it can’t quite make the climb to the top. That’s not to say it’s a bad car; it’s just not as dynamically polished as some of its brethren. Forgive it these shortcomings, which you’ll really only be aware of when driving at extremes, and relish in its other deep-seated abilities and you won’t be disappointed. It certainly looks the business, and with the roof down, sun shining and V8 singing there are few better cars to cruise in – just don’t expect the last word in terms of feedback or finely-tuned chassis dynamics.
Model tested: Audi RS5 Cabriolet
Engine: 4.2-litre V8
Acceleration: 0-62 in 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Emissions: 292g/km CO2