Wednesday 08 July 2020

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Cork Independent


More than meets the eye

Wednesday, 5th February, 2020 4:37pm

I know what you’re thinking. Here comes another puffed up motoring writer, trying to be the new Clarkson, banging on endlessly about cars we can’t afford to buy. Here he comes now — all driving gloves and badly fitting jeans — yammering on about some 450hp, pointlessly expensive German Autobahn-annihilator, which none of us will ever sit in, never mind buy.

Well, yes. Ahem. Quite. You see, you are right. That’s exactly what I’m about to do. That gorgeous, lean, low, and luscious Audi you see in the photos? The one in the fabulous Nardo Grey (primer, to you or I) paint job? The 450hp Audi RS5 that clocks in with an on-the-road price tag of €138,451? Yup, that’s the car I’m going to be talking about.

The thing is, though, this pricey rocketship is actually rather more relevant to you, and the cars you buy, and more specifically the Audis that you buy, than you might be thinking. You see, we buy quite a lot of Audis in Ireland. In fact, 4,581 Audis found homes in Ireland last year.

That’s more than BMW managed to sell. Or, indeed, Mercedes-Benz. But it’s also more than some supposedly mass-market brands such as Seat, Mazda, Dacia, Honda, Citroen (I could go on)…

All of those Audis that we’ve bought, are buying, and will continue to buy, will be increasingly taking their inspiration from RS models such as this.

While the RS cars will always be top-of-the-tree items, as exclusive and expensive as they are explosive, their influence is going to be felt right across the Audi range.

Andrew Doyle, a senior bod in Audi’s European operations, recently told The Cork Independent that Volkswagen Group is hugely aware of its place in the ecological world. It has felt the harsh sting of self-inflicted diesel trauma, and knows well that it is responsible, as a company, for fully two per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions from transport.

It is a company dedicated, we were told, to the tenets of the Paris Climate Accords, and the Audi brand itself will between now and 2025 launch no fewer than 30 electric and hybrid vehicle models, and it plans to be a CO2 neutral brand by 2050.

By 2040, it will stop selling new models with internal combustion engines, full stop.

How does all that plug in to noisy, fast, RS cars? Well, the RS brand is fast-becoming crucial to Audi’s success.

Traditionally hulking like wrestlers in dinner suits, and like as not propelled by some insanely ‘roid-raged V8 engine, they have hitherto not sold in huge numbers, but their halo effect on the rest of the range has been profound.

Well now Audi reckons it wants to have its halo and wear it. Not only will there be more RS models (including, eventually, RS versions of all-electric models such as the e-Tron Quattro SUV and the upcoming e-Tron Quattro GT sports saloon) but they will arrive sooner after the launch of the bread and butter versions — Audi aims to bring the gap down from 18 months to around six. Sales of RS models, it hopes, will double.

All those RS models will be profitable in and of themselves, but more importantly they will entice buyers of more mundane Audis to spec their cars up.

Already, a majority of Audis sold come with the S-Line pack fitted, which tries to ape the muscular styling and visual menace of an RS, even if the engine doing the pushing is a weedy 1.0 litre.

The RS5’s engine is not a weedy 1.0 litre. It is a mighty 3.0 litre V6 petrol, with two turbochargers the size of small dustbins wedged into the ‘V’ between the cylinder banks.

Those turbos huff and puff the RS5’s power output up to 450hp and 600Nm of torque. Not as heady as the power and torque outputs of a rival Mercedes C63 AMG, but the Audi is playing a different game.

For a start, this RS5 is playing a more gorgeous game.

It might seem like a daft idea to turn a two-door coupe into a four-door fastback when there’s already a perfectly good four-door saloon, the A4, built off the same set of components.

The RS5’s handsomeness renders that daftness moot. This is a stunning car at which to look, and for my eyes, that’s only heightened by the Nardo Grey paint (not to all tastes, I’ll grant you).

Inside, the cabin is more or less the same as that of the regular A4 and A5, but enlivened by some gorgeous quilted leather bucket Seats, and a flat-bottom RS steering wheel.

It’s actually quite practical, the RS5, with a 480 litre boot under that hatch, and decent space in the back seats, but you’ll care about none of that once you’ve heard it growl and felt it go.

Starting with a malevolent growl, the turbo V6 flings you at the horizon with the sort of venom once reserved for those with NASA keyrings.

Better yet, the RS5 has the chassis to keep up with the grunt. Sharp steering. Poised responses. Delightful.

OK, so it’s silly-expensive, thirsty (10 litres per 100km in our hands), and you’ll need access to a race track to fully exploit its performance.

No matter — everyone has to have a dream car, and even if this isn’t yours, the fact is that it’s the car your next A4 diesel, or A3 hatchback, dreams of being when it grows up.

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