Got a spare £60k rattling around in your pocket and want to buy a German sports car? There's a new kid on the block: the Audi RS5. The souped-up Audi Sport version of the S5 coupe, the RS5 has the likes of the Mercedes AMG-C63 and BMW M4 Coupe directly in its sights.
Only something is different: the 2017 RS5 has ditched the outgoing model's V8 engine in favour of a V6 twin-turbo, to the benefit of efficiency and emissions, but to the detriment of that distinctive sound. It's a move that neighbouring German car-maker Porsche has already taken - so perhaps it's no surprise that the engine found in this Audi is the very same one as co-developed with Porsche and found in the Panamera 4S - but also a move that may see petrol heads crying their eyes out at the prospect.
For many prospective buyers, however, this smaller engine will mean genuine savings. We achieved around 35mpg on motorway driving jaunts. Sure, up in the Andorran Pyrénées that was down to under 15mpg because we were driving with, um, “mountain spirit”. But do you really buy an RS for economy? No, you buy it for the fun. And once behind the wheel, new engine or not, the RS5 is still a total hoot to drive.
Audi RS5 2017 review: About that engine
Well, it is if you can live with that engine. As with any RS model we've driven - the RS3 Saloon being the most recent - the eruption of noise from those rear pipes upon startup is a sound that will never get old… but might for your neighbours.
Ironically enough the sound is fairly dampened within the RS5's cabin; it's not as relentless as you might expect, but perhaps that's because we're used to the V8's distinctive growl. The RS5's sound is subtle enough to the point that Audi injects digital noise into the cabin to give the sense of it being more audibly grand than it is in reality.
This is all a result of the engine: a 2.9-litre twin-turbo beast, which outputs the same 450hp as the outgoing RS5's 4.2-litre V8. Sure, the new model isn't as raw, but it matches horsepower like-for-like, ups the torque and, well, is arguably everything a modern-day driver will need from such a car. It's worked for Porsche - even the recent 911 ditched the V8 - so will it work for Audi?
The RS5's 38.2mpg and 170g/km CO2 is an improvement compared to the old car. And with real-world figures returning at around the 35mpg mark when driving semi sensibly, that makes it a manageable motor. It surfs the divide between green and mean, which will lure in some and alienate other buyers.
Audi RS5 2017 review: How does it drive?
Irrelevant of the boring numbers stuff, the 2017 Audi RS5 is a total hoot to drive. Mated with an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox, it's a revs little number from the off, kicking in hard from the low gears and whisking you away at pace. At best its 0-62mph is 3.9 seconds, which is enough to kick in some G-force, as shown on the counter behind the dash. It's a hyper-responsive auto, with deft changes that are silken smooth.
The drive can be whipped into Sport mode with a quick nudge back on the auto stick, which sends things into hyperdrive. The car will hold onto those high revs throughout the gear range even more, although manual shifts are possible by using the paddles left and right of the wheel - paddles that look oddly Golf RS and out of place in their shiny plastic finish, especially against our RS5's carbon inserts.
But it's not just about speed. With optional ceramic brakes fitted, going hard footed ahead of corners and pulling in tight on warm roads will bring squeals of delight from not only the tyres but your own mouth too. The on-board system keeps everything under control, too, avoiding shunting around corners with excessive under-steer, which is a trait often aligned at Audi.
The steering is electro-assisted which gives it a lightness that's ultra-responsive. On the flip side that's not so great for feeling truly connected to the road (or maybe that's because we barely were at times when up in the clouds).
Set the car to Comfort mode and despite the new suspension being rather firm - even mild undulations on motorways caused a bounding response - it's not as stiff as the non-adaptive dampened setups elsewhere in Audi's range. How your back will cope on the pot-holed roads of Blighty is anyone's guess.
Audi RS5 2017 review: Design
Before pressing those pedals, however, it's hard not ignore the RS5's good looks; glancing at the new body's front quarters is enough to get the adrenaline pumping. It looks like the S5 Coupe has spent months down the gym working its shoulder muscles: the RS5 has these almost explosive mounds of mass around its headlights, which even include their own vents to ensure airflow across the body is as aerodynamically proficient as possible.
The rear is more sedate in its appearance, though, like a smoothed-off saloon, which doesn't give the RS5 a universal look from all angles. There are flourishes of detail that do shout “RS” though: from the (optional £1,200) huge RS Sport oval tailpipes, to the (upgradable) angular trim surrounds. In our test car we had a mix of black and silver carbon fibre; elsewhere there's a choice of aluminium, which is altogether flatter and less reflective in appearance. If you're willing to pay then these options help to add distinction between the RS and S5 Coupe.
Audi RS5 2017 review: Interior and tech
On the inside, the Audi RS5 is the pinnacle of tech and comfort. Even nestling into the seats - which, in their £3,500 sports guise, feature delightful coloured stitch detailing to match the exterior paint job - delivers automatic electronic adjustment, including little protruding seatbelt handlers for optimum position.
As standard UK models will come fitted with the Virtual Cockpit, a digital array behind the wheel, rather than conventional manual dials. Most Audi models require additional cash injection for this feature - excluding the TT - so it's great to see it on board here. With separate display areas both left and right of the digital rev-counter, it's possible to adjust the information you see using the thumbwheels on the steering wheel. Whether G-force, power, torque, efficiency, or beyond, there are stacks of options to dig into here and you'll easily find your favourite and most useful setup.
To complement the driver's screen is a fixed 12.3-inch touchscreen to the centre dash, used to display the usual media and navigation options. This is also the portal into the depths of the car's settings, should you need to dig deep. You won't need to often, though, as the centre tunnel of the car has a rotational dial with touch panel to easily make adjustments and selections to your tunes or navigation without taking your eyes off the road. And once you've setup the sub, bass and treble arrangement of your sound system output, it's unlikely you'll need to go back in to tweak it each and every time - but we like that such granular control exists for when you do need it.
We've been using Audi's MMI setup for a number of years through its various guises and find it one of the most adept in the car industry. For a deeper dive into the full ins and outs of the system, read our feature, link below.
No design stone is unturned in the RS5, it seems, with even an interior lighting pack adding to the dynamic look of the car in the dark - it includes colour selection and brightness control that spills out from the footwells and door handles.
However, such showy extras do cost yet more cash. This lighting package is £100, for example. And with some of the packs costing in the thousands - £1,295 for the comfort and sound pack; £1,250 for the driver assist pack - the final price might be more than a margin higher than you expect. Despite it becoming a lot of potential cash, however, many of these extras are genuinely worth it - so long as you know exactly what you're buying and whether it's a must-have on your personal list.
So should you buy an RS5? It's a car with handling that's as sharp as its looks, with that 8-speed Tiptronic autobox proving an exceptional pairing with the V6 twin-turbo engine.
But it's that engine that will prove a sticking point for die-hard fans, as the absent rasp of the outgoing V8 leaves a certain hollow point. Sit behind the wheel, however, and that V6 still delivers aplenty: the RS5 has every bit of power to take on its German competition.
In many ways, then, the Audi RS5 is a great example of divisive progress. The engine change makes it a different experience than its predecessor. Yet, with a class-leading interior and top-notch tech spilling out of its doors, we'd certainly consider the Audi RS5 over its BMW M4 rival.