Audi's RS5 is powerful yet understated - but I want more excitement for €140,000
First Irish Drive: Audi RS5
I know it can be fashionable to be understated, but rarely have I seen as extreme a gap between appearance, price and apparent value.
The Audi RS5 has serious power, a smart cabin and the subtle, yes understated, lines of design.
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When I checked the price, I thought I was imagining things. So I double-checked.
I had figured it to be at a premium level, but nearly €140,000 on the road? God bless us.
You're talking serious Porsche 911 variants here. It's the sort of territory where huge performance across a broad spectrum is expected - and more.
On paper, the 5dr, 5-seater RS5 augured well. There was a 2.9-litre 6cyl TFSI 450bhp petrol, quattro (all-wheel-drive) and a slick Tiptronic transmission.
It sat low, with coupé profile and a gorgeous paint finish. And there were sumptuous levels of spec and bling.
Here's a few to whet your appetite: Nappa leather upholstery, driver's sport seat with massage (a number of options), 20in alloys, Audi connect navigation and infotainment, virtual cockpit, MMI navigation, reversing camera, RS bumpers, sport leather multifunction flat bottom steering wheel, RS sport suspension etc.
Options include matrix LED headlights, carbon styling package, black styling package, Audi phone box, panoramic sunroof, three-zone climate control, rear USB ports (for €89), Bang & Olufsen sound system, red brake callipers.
Sure, who wouldn't be impressed with all that?
Well, it seems like a lot, but for €140,000 you need a truly compelling reason - make that "reasons" plural.
The appearance doesn't exactly scream "searing drive" at you. Which had me half pleased that I wouldn't be a magnet for inquiries and half disappointed that it wasn't wowing people to whom I could then get to guess the price.
I did with a few down the country. The general consensus was €70,000 to €90,000.
You should have seen their faces when I told them.
So, is it worth that sort of money?
First off, the engine revved freely and propelled this svelte 4dr coupé deceptively smoothly.
It was easy to believe I was doing 80kmh when I was actually doing 120kmh.
I'd have liked more noise - you know, that throaty roar you get in some sports cars.
And I dearly wished for more thrust when I slammed the foot down. It took a little too long for my liking to get to that pitch of power.
That said, I had to be realistic. I was driving on public roads with the onus on driving safely and legally. But even within those limitations, I felt I should have been able to extract snappier acceleration and a greater sense of exciting propulsion.
I've had this with performance cars on the road in the past, only to have my words shoved back down my throat when given its head at a race track.
There was one short period where I did sense the door was opening on to something truly hot.
And I think that's where most people would take off. But I kept it in lower gear and legal speed.
It's a car that puzzled me, frankly. Why wrap all that power in cotton wool and only let it bare its teeth on occasion? If I pay €140,000 for a machine, I want it telling me with every engine revolution that it is special and promising to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
Sadly, that didn't happen frequently or ferociously enough to sate my expectations.
It is a beautifully poised car and I enjoyed the sport suspension by flinging it around a few bends with gusto. But no, I don't think, exceptionally engineered and all as it is, that the RS5 can flourish on our roads. I can see it vying for speed with the Porsches on the autobahn.
It brings a different perspective to performance than the Porsche, but it was almost too well-behaved, almost too well able for the little I threw at it.
No, I wouldn't throw €140,000 at it either.
*RS 5 Sportback: 2.9-litre 6cyl TFSI 450bhp quattro, Tiptronic.
€114,050 Options €24,401 Total €138,451.