By on May 20, 2010

The auto enthusiast community is far too fragmented to ever achieve real consensus on any issue, but if there’s a single authority on performance-oriented cars, it’s Britain’s enthusiast bible evo Magazine. So when evo bashes an enthusiast-targeted model, it’s usually worth taking note of. The latest print issue of evo includes a Chris Harris review of Audi’s range-topping RS5 coupe [online summary here], the 444 hp, V8-powered flagship of its A5 lineup, and from line one the reader can tell that something is rotten in the state of Quattro GMBH. Harris describes an attempt to blow the doors off a 328 hp S4 camera car, only to find that, three gears later, his $15k more expensive coupe had barely gained any ground on the supercharged V6-powered S4. So, what gives?

Harris does give Audi props for turning its old 4.2 liter V8 into a thoroughly modern mill for the RS5. Thanks to low-friction components and an on-demand oil pump, the aluminum V8 makes well over 100 horsepower per liter, an achievement once thought impossible for a large-capacity V8. But, he notes, the RS5 makes “only” 317 lb-ft of torque at a lofty 4,000 RPM, whereas the cheaper S4’s force-fed V6 manages 325 lb-ft at 2,900 RPM. Add a porky 3,800+ lb curb weight, and the RS5’s lackluster performance comes into clear context (184 lb-ft per ton, versus the S4’s 193 lb-ft per ton).

Harris isn’t quite so harsh on the RS5’s handling, but he does note that Audi’s refusal to let him switch off ESP prevented him from testing its true limits. He calls the chassis “supremely competent though mostly unexciting” and notes that it pairs poorly with the high-revving V8. He concludes that

It’s not a bad car the RS5, it’s just lacking inspiration and clear direction: the very qualities that defined the much-missed RS4. Some people will love the noise and fuss-free environment the RS5 provides. Folk who love driving will be better off in an M3; I’d take a C63 over both because its everyday performance is so much more accessible… You’ll really have to want [the RS%’s] flared arches and some V8 noise to pay the extra. Me? I’d take the unassuming S4.

Don’t let the even-handed verbiage mislead you: this is quite the knock for a car that is ostensibly built just for petrolheads like the staff of evo. Moving the S4 from a V8 to a supercharged V6 caused quite a stir among enthusiasts, and was seen as yet another step towards the end of the German horsepower wars. That the downsized S4 does so well in comparison to the unexpectedly V8-powered RS5 shows that the performance car game really has changed. And besides moving the performance emphasis to weight rather than power, this sea change has one other unanticipated benefit: helping Americans get over their Euro-frustration. The RS5 has not been approved for the US market, and for once it seems we’re really not missing out on much of anything.

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25 Comments on “Life After The Horsepower Wars: evo Magazine Slams Audi RS5...”

  • avatar

    Who cares – the RS5 is by far the best looking car available for under $100k.

  • avatar
    Carlos Villalobos

    I think the point here is the quest for top horsepower has ended. From now on the trend to follow is to make cars, even supercars lighter, not more powerful. No problem for me to get a car that does more with a lot less,

  • avatar

    Audis would be so much better looking if they could get away from the damn manhole cover front grilles.
    Just make the whole front end a grille already, so we can start the trend back to normal sized grilles.

  • avatar

    In this instance I really don’t think it’s the difference in engines. I think it’s most likely the difference in transmissions. The RS5 comes equipped with a 7 speed S-tronic which audi describes as having, “a high efficiency ratio and high-geared top speed.” I’d put good money on the S4 camera car having the available close ratio (good old) 6 speed transmission in it rather than the S-tronic. That would explain why at passing speeds the RS5 had a hard time over taking it. Of course the RS5 would leave the S4 way way behind once we get into triple digits.

    Anyone who has driven a high revving engine knows that a close ratio transmission is essential to keep the car from falling out of the power band at the top of the range.

  • avatar

    I don’t know, I get the point the “lesser” S4 performs better than the RS5.

    But shouldn’t they have compared the RS4 against the RS5.

    AFAIK there’s a difference (not only in price) between RS and S

    Edit: Just checked the Audi site. No more RS4.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I have never read Evo Magazine , but I have been reading Autocar Magazine for more than 50 years , and Harris is an ex-Autocar writer.
    50 years ago Autocar had some highly qualified writers , who could do more than hoon around a test track trying to look less inept than Jeremy Clarkson. In recent years standards have slipped.
    Chris Harris is NOT God. Much of what he writes is interesting , and some is garbage.Don’t take it seriously.
    When the whole Toyota gas-pedal thing blew-up , nobody on Autocar was bright enough to go out and buy a gas-pedal and look inside it – only TTAC could do that.

  • avatar

    So what’s the difference between the RS and S line now?

    15K for body kit and exclusivity? Seems like a jip

    • 0 avatar

      The RS5 does make 85 more horsepower than the S5 coupe, and 111 more horsepower than the S5 convertible, neither of which are exactly “slow.”

      The 7-speed transmissions, at least all the one’s I’ve driven, are excessively lazy and can really do a number to ruin the character of a car that could have been great with a manual six.

  • avatar

    I’ll take an E63.


  • avatar

    Funny. I helped a buddy take delivery of his new sans R S5 last week. It’s a beautiful car, sounds amazing, is very comfortable, and is a compotent handler. But I came away feeling that I ultimately preferred my Mustang to the Audi. It’s rawer, rowdier and more immediate. The S5 feels a bit clinical by comparison. Sounds like the RS5 may be the same, but more so. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t kick either the S5 or the RS5 out of my garage for leaking a little oil – they’re both gorgeous. But I’d probably opt for the S4 if it were my money plunked down for the car. At least then you have the utility of four doors.

  • avatar

    And yet Autocar absolutely raved about the RS5. I wouldn’t take one review as an excuse to decide a car is crap. The RS5’s engine is designed to be peaky, and deliver its power at the top of the range. The supercharged V6 is a completely different animal.

    Here’s a question for EVO – can the M3 blow the doors off the 335is? Probably not, huh? It’s for exactly the same reason.

    The C63 is like the IS-F, too much glitz and flash, and its clumsy and slow on a track. AMGs are good in a straight line. If you want good lap times, get the Audi or the BMW.

  • avatar
    John R

    Let’s not forget to mention that the RS5 is some $100k in other money (read: £). That’s GT-R money. After reading Harris’ review of the RS5 a GT-R would crush this thing.

    Save your money and get the M3 or S4.

  • avatar

    You can put Lipstick (Quatrro and V8) on Pig (Passat platform) but it is still a…

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    Audi needs to define itself a little better.

    A5 is the standard turbo four or 3.0 engine
    The S-Line is just appearance pieces from the S5
    The S5 is the 4.2 V8 with 350+hp
    The S5 Cabrio has a blown 6cyl with 333hp and 325 lb-ft of torque
    The RS5 has 444hp and less torque (317)

    I love Audis. I have an S4 Cabrio which is amazing, but I was hoping for more from the RS5 when it came as a cabrio eventually. I will be happy with the standard old S5 cab I suppose.

  • avatar

    I want an S5 based on looks alone. But, with the the awd and still nose heavy design it makes a much better grand tourer than a track car, imho. As such, I would love to have a V8 but I would actually prefer the S5 engine with the flatter torque curve. M3 still gets my money if I were going for the dual track/street car. If only they could put an S5 body and Audi interior on an M3..

  • avatar

    Yes, I said something much like this when reviewing the current M3.

  • avatar

    I loved driving the new S4. It was quick, slick, handled, hi-tech, a fun car that felt relatively light on it’s feet. It fits me better than a 3’er and I didn’t find the S5 had any extra room. I can see the attraction over the S5.

    I ended up getting a 650i, but that’s a different story,

  • avatar

    This isn’t the TT-RS. There are no VW parts here, certainly no Passat platform. I don’t know why some people still just assume that everything Audi makes is just a VW with the badge crossed out.

    The A3 and the TT come from the Golf, and the Q7 is related to the Toureg and the Cayenne. EVERYTHING else is bespoke to Audi. Instead of comparing the RS5 to the S4, why not compare it to the naturally aspirated, V8 powered S5, and see how much better it is? Or would that mess up the narrative that EVO was going for?

  • avatar

    What? No flat-bottomed steering wheel?!?

  • avatar

    This is partly the fault of every mag (except TTAC I’m sure) that reviews an expensive car and you see the comment “for this kind of money it should have a V8” So you got your wish, now what? Of course the other fault is the car companies believing that a car writer knows anything about engineering a car.

  • avatar

    The problem is that buyers of these luxury sports-coupes / GTs will want the bigger/flashier/sexier/more expensive mill in their “top-of-the-line” variant rather than just a tweaked version of the base model’s 4-cylinder/V6/whatever. Which is why the M3 has a V8 rather than a twin-turbo six… as does every other car in this rather rarefied category.

    That said, I thought the GT-R had already killed the horsepower wars? That was the car that showed people that absolute torque corrupts absolutely.

    And yet, there is still something to be said about the buzzy joy of putting a high-output naturally aspirated mill through its paces… that same feeling that makes people still lust after cars like the M3 and the C63 even though you can get more power for less money with a modified 335i.

  • avatar

    The only glowing reviews i have seen for Audis as driving machines going as far back as I can remember were for the last RS4. Any other car be it the previous RS4 (before the last one), RS6, current S6 etc were at best “positive” but nothing more. So I am not surprised by the review which I already read a few weeks ago. Audis are female sporty cars and invariable the style counts for more than performance.

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