First Drive: 2011 Audi RS5

Tom Salt

Although Audi of America has not yet confirmed it, the stunning new RS5 coupe that debuted at the Geneva auto show in March will indeed be imported to the United States, and even though it probably won't arrive until late 2011, we've already driven it. The last RS models to come here, as you may recall, were the RS4 sedan and cabriolet that were discontinued some time ago. The current drought of U.S.-bound RS models has been long, but the RS5's U.S. arrival will be the beginning of a new era where we will see a steadier infusion of RS models. Why the delay for the RS5? The A5/S5 coupe on which it's based, although still stunning, is due for a mid-cycle face-lift next year, so it makes sense for Audi to import the RS5 at the same time as that freshened model.

Like all fast two-door Audis, the RS5 is genetically connected, albeit loosely, to the 1980s Coupe Quattro. To underline this link to Audi's glorious rally-winning past, the RS5 sports squared-off fenders and triangular sill extensions. Specific RS styling elements include a new grille, enlarged air intakes, restyled front and rear bumpers, plenty of aluminum trim, two large oval tailpipes, a front splitter, a rear diffuser, and a wing that extends at 75 mph and retracts at 50 mph.

Inside, power-operated sport seats are trimmed in Alcantara and leather. The RS instruments wear different graphics; the onboard computer includes an oil-temperature gauge and a lap timer; the pedals are made of drilled aluminum; and supple leather, shiny carbon fiber, and piano black panelwork please the eye and help justify the premium price, likely about $75,000 or $80,000 in the States.

While most future RS models will be powered by twin-turbocharged engines, both the upcoming, Europe-market RS4 Avant and the RS5 coupe get a high-revving, normally aspirated, direct-injection, 4.2-liter V-8. It makes 450 hp, 30 hp more than the old RS4's V-8 of the same displacement. Stephan Reil, R&D chief in charge of all Audi RS and R models, explains: The high-revving V-8 is better suited for this particular vehicle concept than a twin-turbo V-6. When you consider the extra plumbing, the more complex exhaust system, and the additional cooling requirement, the weight penalty of the V-8 shrinks to less than 40 pounds. The engine for the RS5 was practically developed from scratch. It develops more power and torque than the outgoing unit, yet it uses twenty percent less fuel. Although the redline was pushed up to 8500 rpm, maximum torque, an identical 317 lb-ft is now available between a less hectic 4000 and 6000 rpm.

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We need to bring it over here (to US). Then when I win the lottery I'll just have to run down to the store to buy mine, which I will. It's better looking than anything else that Audi is putting out and they are all beautiful.
Doesn't ANYBODY drive a manual transmission any more??? I guess if the manufacturers don't make them, they probably won't! What a loss!
I never cared for the A5's much-praised styling, but in RS trim, this thing is a beauty. Reminds me of a Continental Supersports.

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