Audi RS 5 Cabriolet 2013: Launch Review

1 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Audi RS 5 Cabriolet 2013: Launch Review

Audi RS

Audi RS

5 Cabriolet 2013: Launch Review

Not so much:

Carries plenty of kilos

Small-ish boot

That’s about it, really

OVERVIEW

— Fast, strong and good looking. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s hard to believe Audi’s Quattro division nearly didn’t build this car. It just seems so ridiculously obvious now that it’s difficult to question the decisions they were making back then.

There is the RS 5 coupe, which has sold exceptionally well around the world and is designed for people who want a fast, fabulous-sounding coupe that handles securely, if not excitingly.

It came on the back of the A5 coupe, which also spawned the A5 Cabriolet. The odd part of the story is that Audi’s bean counters didn’t want to build an RS version of the Cabriolet. It became a back room project, ushered and protected and hidden by a select handful in Audi’s design team, along with some complicit honchos over at Quattro.

By the time the board saw the car, it was too well advanced and looked too much like a sure thing to put a kybosh on it. And so here it is.

It runs a familiar powertrain, with Audi’s direct-injection, 4.2-litre V8 up front, its seven-speed dual-clutch transmission in the middle and two clever differentials to split the drive to all four wheels.

The RS5 Cabriolet backs this up with the big wheels, the big sound and big speed, ripping to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds and having enough raw speed to stretch out to 280km/h – though it will be speed limited to 250km/h in most of the world, including Australia.

PRICE AND EQUIPMENT

— Want a hint? Look inside the RS5 Coupe

There is plenty here, and that includes dollars. While Audi hasn’t announced pricing on the RS5 Cabriolet, you could expect that sort of steps up in the Coupe range to continue, but that’s where it gets complicated.

Audi doesn’t list the S5 Cabriolet in Australia, but it does have the 3.0-litre V6 version at just on $100,000, or $122,000 on the road. The V6 A5 Coupe is a $90,800 proposition (in New South Wales, anyway) and it jumps up about $45,000 as an S5 and then another $25,000 on its way to becoming the $175,000 RS5 Coupe.

If that form holds true in the Cabriolet world, our rough guess would put the RS 5 Cabriolet at around $185,000 – $190,000. Of course, Audi Australia has to say yes first and may take some convincing about its necessity, but so did the Ingolstadt bean counters.

A lot of rivals up at this end of town end up equipment-rich by way of apologising for how much the Federal Government is helping them to charge you in the first place.

Not Audi. The RS 5 Coupe demands extra cash for some seemingly rudimentary premium gear like adaptive cruise control, a sunroof, dynamic steering or even a memory function for the front seats. Like it or not, it’s a clear area for buyers to negotiate with their dealers, or for their dealers to fill the Friday beer fridge if they don’t.

At least the bits and pieces Audi’s Quattro division does provide are good bits, with a 10-speaker audio system, iPhone and Bluetooth connectivity, a three-zone air conditioner, a proximity key, satnav and parking sensors at both ends.

Before too many complaints go out about equipment, though, Audi throws in its terrific Audi Drive Select system, which ties the steering, throttle mapping, exhaust, suspension damping, skid control, rear differential and gearshift mapping together into handy bundles. You just click the Car button and scroll the MMI knob between Comfort, Normal, Dynamic and Individual and you can expect the car to deliver the sort of character that fits with what you need.

The standard wheel and tyre package will give you 19-inch boots all-round, with Quattro having a preference for Dunlop rubber. There is a $3885 impost for 20-inch footwear on the Coupe, and don’t expect that to change much in the Cabriolet.

You’ll also be able to upgrade the anchors from the standard wave-form steel units to a bigger carbon-ceramic unit, but you’ll only be able to stick the lighter discs on the front end.

MECHANICAL

— Rev higher, grip harder

Hand built in Hungary by the same folks who wield the spanners on the R8 V8 and V10 power plants, the 4.2-litre motor is noted for high revs, smooth power delivery and its heart-warming engine note.

There is, of course, direct fuel injection to squirt the go juice inside the under square cylinders and it all results in 331kW of power at 8250rpm. Yep, they’re the sorts of revs you expect out of supercars. Well, not out of flat-six Porsche supercars, but pretty much all the other ones that count.

And then it continues on to a rev limiter at 8500rpm.

Before it gets there, though, there is 430Nm of torque, arriving at 4000rpm and finally falling off its plateau at 6000rpm.

All up, then the motor punches out 79.5kW/litre and is helped to that end by a 12.5:1 compression ratio, so forget about bunging cheap fuel in it.

There is a whole bunch of nice stuff inside it, too, including forged connecting rods, forged alloy pistons and a forged crankshaft spinning in an aluminium-silicon alloy crankcase.

Plenty has been written about Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission before, but it’s effectively two gearboxes sitting in the same casing. Even while one gear is locked in and turning the differentials, the next one up the ladder is also engaged and spinning – it’s just that it’s “freewheeling” because that side of the gearbox doesn’t have its clutch engaged. When the time comes to change gears, it’s a simple (and smooth and fast) matter of just the computer sliding one clutch in the and the other one out.

But if this is some piece of engineering, the crown gear centre differential is a ripper. It’s a self-locking unit that comes with torque vectoring and can shift either 70 per cent of the torque to the front end or 85 per cent to the rear end or anything in between.

If there’s no call for any special behavior, 60 per cent of the torque goes to the rear wheels, where it encounters Audi’s electronically-controlled sports differential (standard in the RS5 Cabriolet).

This all rides 20mm lower than the standard A5 Cabriolet on a five-link front end, a multi-link rear, stiffer springs, dampers and anti-roll bars and stiffer axle mounts. There is electro-mechanical steering, too

Inside each front wheel is a 365mm x 34mm disc that combines a lighter wave-formed outer edge with a cast-iron friction surface that attaches to its aluminium hats by stainless-steel pins. Quattro has dipped into its parts bin and came back out with the same eight-piston monobloc alloy front caliper as Lamborghini uses on the Gallardo, so you know it stops.

The rear brakes are smaller, with 324mm x 22mm wave-form discs and only single-piston floating calipers.

There is a carbon ceramic disc set available for the front end only (bizarrely, we would have said), and it’s even bigger, with a 380mm disc and purpose-built six-piston calipers with even more rigidity than the eight-piston unit.

Of course, the roof system fits under “Mechanical” too, and folds down in 15 seconds and back up again in 17 seconds. And you can mess around with both directions at up to 50km/h.

This all stacks on the kilos, though. Where the RS 5 Coupe is a 1715kg proposition, the Cabriolet is, astonishingly, more than 200kg heavier.

Still, 1920kg sounds better in the 1880kg context of the A5 Cabriolet, because it gets bigger wheels, tyres, brakes, engine, gearbox, diffs and more luxury for 40kg. But it’s a lot to move around.

That’s why it only posts a combined NEDC fuel economy figure of 10.7L/100km and CO2 emissions of 249 grams, I suppose. With a 61-litre tank, that’s going to limit your touring range.

PACKAGING

— A pretty special place to be

If Audi interiors set the benchmark for fit, finish, materials and quality switchgear, then Quattro takes all of this and lifts it again.

The RS5 Cabriolet gets plusher, more luxuriant leather, some hints of black gloss and stiffer side bolstering, but that’s about as much as it tinkers with the A5 Cabriolet’s interior. I mean, why would they?

Inside the cabin there’s enough room in the back seats for most people, at least for shorter trips, and the cloth roof doesn’t impact your rear headspace.

It’s a little different outside, where it gets its own carbon-fibre front splitter, a bigger valance and huge air intakes on either side of the grille to keep the tautly strung V8 chilled to a comfy 90-odd degrees. Once you get past its menacing RS 5 grille, the eye then takes you to its blistered wheel arches before finishing on its chromed exhaust tips and subtle lip spoiler on the boot.

Of course, it loses some boot capacity compared to the Coupe, which is one of the inevitabilities of folding cloth roofs. You get a workable 380 litres when the roof is closed, but that drops to 320 litres, when your Samsonites are sharing real estate with half an acre of fancy canvas.

SAFETY

Audi RS

— Crashable, as convertibles go

As with most Audis up this high in price, there’s plenty of crash kit here. The standard A5 Cabriolet delivered plenty and the RS 5 version carries it all over.

Besides the security of three differentials and half a forest of rubber, there is a stability control system that you can adjust for the kind of driving you want to do.

In short, if you ever got yourself into trouble with this car, you don’t deserve to be driving.

ON THE ROAD

— Fast, smooth and charming

You know you’re day isn’t going to be that bad when you fire this engine up first thing in the morning. And it goes a long way towards wiping clean an awful day when you drive it home at night.

It fires up hard and fast, with a big blip on the throttle before settling into an idle that never sounds quite even-tempered, but always feels it.

There is a smoothness that overlays everything about this engine and it applies whether it’s at idle, whether it’s climbing through its torque band or whether it’s bouncing off it 8500rpm rev limiter. It’s not to be mistaken for softness, because that’s not what the RS5 Cabriolet is about.

It’s full of deep, throaty burbles, exhaust-driven rumbles and gear-change pops. And it provides more than enough urge to make the heavy convertible hustle faster than it has any right to.

A great self-shifting gearbox should be neither seen nor heard, and it’s the utter invisibility of the seven-speed unit in the Audi that shines. It does everything it can to make every other team mate look good, especially the engine.

In the Audi Drive Select’s Comfort setting, the shifts glide through like the best auto boxes, but in the Dynamic modes it snaps them through, with the exhaust bubbling like a boiling kettle, then follows with a huge blip on each down shift.

It’s even better in Manual mode, where it takes barely a thought before it does your bidding, though the Dynamic mode shifts just about where you would have anyway.

Then there’s the ride, which similarly changes from a cosseting saunter at odds with its tyre profile and engine burble to brilliantly damped in its Dynamic mode.

Over the broken alpine roads of France, we moved it over to Individual, set it up to automatically figure the damping but to have every other setting in Dynamic mode. This setup left the suspension to ooze its way across the bumps while the steering, exhaust, throttle mapping and skid control did its thing, keeping all the speed but giving the driver none of the hard vertical hits the roads were intent on delivering.

It’s also quick to see that there has been plenty of work below decks to stiffen the chassis because you barely ever feel anything but rock solid stability from the core of the machine.

It all adds up to a handling package that is just as entertaining as the RS5 Coupe, just 200kg slower.

You can throw the RS 5 Cabriolet at mountain bends and the skid control will even let it slide around on its squishy winter tyres, though it won’t let it get out of control. Just enough for you to enjoy.

The other part to this is that you can feel the rear diff working to grip each stone just so on the way out of corners to deliver as much drive as possible.

All the while, it’s stable, fast and comfortable.

The brakes do it a bit tougher up here in the mountains, though. There are a lot of kilograms here and on steep downhill sections you can almost count all of them. We managed to get the brake pedal to go long on us on descents, though ours were the steel anchors (not the carbon ceramics) and not many people will push it as hard as we did.

But that’s about the limit of our genuine criticisms and it’s a criticism that only occurs when you drop down from 2000 metres to sea level in a matter of minutes – not something that happens often in Australia.

Otherwise, it gives you far more speed and luxury than the standard A5 Cabriolet without taking away any of the comfort, safety or chassis integrity.

Apart from begging Audi to bring it here, there’s not much more you can ask for from a four-door convertible.

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Published. Wednesday, 19 December 2012

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