Split Seconds In The Audi RS5

In celebration of CarEnvy’s 1000th post, we have a special treat for you today…

By Peter Dushenski @carenvy

There are untold scores of new cars for sale in Canada, but the list of two-door cars that you’d want to drive year-round in Alberta is seriously limited. For those of us who live in this winter wonderland, the AWD Coupé is Automotive Nirvana: the place where a single car can drift us through knee-deep snow while maintaining the youthful irreverence of two-door transport. If you’re even pickier than that, if you also want eye-widening style and one of the finest engines for sale, well, you’re about to find yourself behind the wheel of the 2013 Audi RS5.

Last week, when I was presented the opportunity to drive what is arguably the hottest new car from Germany’s hottest luxury automaker, I leapt like Jesse Owens when he found out the 1936 Olympics were in Berlin. I wouldn’t have more than a few hours with the car, but I was intent on translating this condensed experience into thousands of individual packets – each completely satisfying in its own right – in an effort to find out if the RS5 is really as exceptional behind the wheel as it is on paper.

After watching video reviews of the European RS5 for over two years, driving one of the first cars on Canadian was sure to be a treat. Just looking at the facelifted coupe, with its shredded fenders, sultry new LED headlights and Titanium Package 20″ wheels on stretched 275-section rubber, told me how far removed this beauty was from  the A5 3.2L I drove in 2009. In fact, the RS5 shares only the doors and hood with that car.

After three sun-kissed hours and 250km of G-forces, giggles, and Friday evening grins, co-pilot Lucas Elke and I had used an entire tank of gas. Not that it’s much to brag about. With only a 65L tank, the long-distance cruising capability of the RS5 is tied directly to your stomach for pumping premium, which is a serious shame because it’s out on the unfettered road that the RS5 excels.

What’s unexpected is how it excels. Despite the pulverizing 8-piston front brakes and “racing sport” emblems festooned about, the RS5 simply isn’t a car that begs to be pounded. Between an unmaskable mass and unengaging paddle shifters, playing Getaway Driver is a frustrating distraction from the impeccable cabin and sonorous exhaust. Rather, it’s in D, with your right hand at 12 o’clock and your left out the window, making roaring passes of any and all, where the RS5 gleams like a curtain-walled skyscraper. Ever so effortlessly, the 7-speed DSG flips between cogs like a Cirque performer and gives you complete control through your right shoe and your right shoe alone.

This refined and reclined approach gives breathing room for the mystical 4.2L to serenade your soul all the way up to the 8,250rpm redline. As you watch the tach needle scream for the red zone, you quickly forget that the RS5 could use more than 317 ft-lbs of torque. When an engine has this much top-end brio and joie de vivre, much is forgiven. The simple reason is this: unlike other methods of going faster, revs can’t be faked. This is one of the biggest reasons why car enthusiasts like us speak in hushed tones about Ferraris, rotary engines, and VTEC. But who ever thought that a boxy old company like Audi could make an engine like this?

From this unlikely engine, on pristine ribbons of bovine-bordered highways north of Edmonton, Luke and I experienced the best the RS5 had to offer. For it was here that the Transcendent Moments of RS were found. In third gear, as the engine approached the redline of normal cars – about 6,500 – something magical happened. There, just when our ears were telling us to expect the seamless crack of another gear, there was this timeless pause. Though not more than a split second, it felt like breathless minutes. Our beings were consumed with that last 1,700 revs as we wincingly waited for the beat to drop. It was absolutely brilliant. Moments like that are what separate the C$77,000 Audi from the rest.

So should you buy one? Well, if you’re looking for Automotive Nirvana of the 2-door AWD variety and you’re in this price range, the RS5 is it. It’s tens of thousands cheaper than the Porsche Carrera 4 and Nissan GT-R, albeit less involving than either, and a healthy margin clear in all regards of the mundane 335xi. With all-weather Quattro and a mad scientist of a V8, it has no benchmark to measure up against.

And that can mean only one thing: it is the benchmark.

And if we all cross our fingers very hard, in about 4 months from now there could be a Part 2 of this review. We can only hope is goes something like this.

This article was only possible because of the immense trust and generosity of Rick Mickelson. Thank you!

[Photo credits: author]

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