“ABSOLUTELY STAGGERING” // ABT AUDI RS5-R // REVIEW

Our Rating

It is common knowledge that when three or more men gather in one place, ensuing foolishness is all but guaranteed*. Being a male myself, and having male friends, I can confirm the accuracy of this wholly scientific observation.

A few years back, I was gathered with a few friends; it was around 10pm, the night was getting long, the almost tangible silence teetering towards awkwardness. The ‘vibe’ had, very clearly, died. It was at that moment someone, who obviously considered himself the ‘Social-Superman’, piped up, “Hey, I’ve got an idea…”.

When a bored and ever so tipsy adolescent male declares that he “has an idea” it is almost certainly never clever, intelligent or safe...

Words of Wisdom

I must clarify. When a bored and ever so tipsy adolescent male declares that he “has an idea” it is almost certainly never clever, intelligent or safe; and this was certainly no exception. Said testosterone-pumping male’s ‘genius’ idea was to harvest the dozen or so packets of wasabi left over from the evening’s sushi dinner and see which member of the small congregation could ingest the largest amount. A feat that would distinguish the alpha male in the group (because obviously, one’s ability to ingest wasabi is intrinsically linked to one’s social standing in a pack**). It was, and there’s really no better way of putting it, a stupid idea. Be that as it may, because I’m an idiot, I gave it a shot anyway. Now, I’m no Japanese-cuisine-connoiseur, nonetheless I think it’s fair to assume that, no matter the colour or amount, wasabi will always be taste-bud-searingly-spicy. I wasn’t wrong.

Being the brave (read half-witted) young man that I am, I scooped up a ‘manly’ full teaspoon and dumped the eye-watering load straight into my mouth. And instantly regretted it. My tongue shrivelled up, my retinas exploded, my nose leaked like the Titanic’s ice-berg-punctured hull and my heart punched itself out of my chest. To say it was ‘hot’ would be to massively downplay what felt as if I’d dived headfirst into the magma chamber of an active volcano.

It was this story that reminded me of my first experience with Audi’s RS5. See, when Audi launched it’s performance-oriented sedan, I fully expected Audi’s answer to AMG’s C63 and BMW’s M4 to be an adrenaline stimulating experience. I assumed that it’d be hot like all its rivals are. When I’d tasted it though, it turned out to be quite… bland.

Fully expecting my brain to melt, I opened the door to, what is supposed to be Audi’s answer to the lunatic that is the BMW M4, pressed the starter button and and within 10 seconds I’d entered a REM cycle...

Defining Drives on the Audi RS5

Fully expecting my brain to melt, I opened the door to, what is supposed to be Audi’s answer to the lunatic that is the BMW M4, pressed the starter button and and within 10 seconds I’d entered a REM cycle. From the timid exterior to the underwhelming exhaust note, the RS5 reeks of civility. It is a maddeningly anti-climatic experience. This does not happen in a C63. Plant yourself into the drivers seat of the ‘Merc’ and instantly beads of sweat start cascading down your forehead.

This is baffling to say the least, because as far as I can work out, it isn’t unreasonable to expect a 331 kW all-wheel drive performance coupe’ to be, well, exciting. And yet, Audi have insisted on dialling down the heat in favour of all-round usability, describing the RS5 as a “high-performance Coupé [which] combines elegant aesthetics with high everyday usability.” Right. However, doesn’t the $50,000 cheaper S5 already fulfil that brief?

What Audi have done then, is serve insipid wasabi to customers expecting to have their pulses increased tenfold. I’ll stop short of saying I was ‘disappointed’, but I certainly wasn’t impressed.

Neither, it seems, were tuning firm ABT who promptly set about creating their own RS5 recipe.

Welcome one and all, to the 390kW (530HP) ABT AUDI RS5-R and it is, excuse the spoiler, tremendous.

Admittedly, while the standard RS5 does look quite svelte (depending on the colour), it hardly elicits the same “quick-get-the-camera-out” response from onlookers as that of, say, Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadraplegico (or whatever it’s called). The RS5-R though, is of an entirely different breed. From the moment your eyes land upon the tantalising ‘sonoma green’ bodywork, you just know the RS5-R is something special. From the new front lip to the delicious carbon quad-tailpipes the RS5-R looks absolutely electrifying. ABT SPORT GR 21 inch rims fill the rims like a glove on a hand and while they’ll probably do nothing for the ride quality, they look an absolute treat. Moreover, new sport stabilisers and height adjustable suspension springs help give the RS5 the sinister stance it deserves. Park ABT’s RS5-R next to a stock RS5 and the differences between the two become even more apparent. The aesthetic attention to detail on the ABT is remarkable, even more so when you remind yourself for the eleventh time that it is by an aftermarket tuning company whose primary focus is on performance. The biggest compliment we can bestow the RS5-R in terms of its appearance is that it looks as if it has come straight from the Audi production line; that is to say, it doesn’t look like a hack-job completed under moonlight in a German bunker.

Inside, ABT have limited their influence to some new carbon paddle shifters, some ‘ABT’ and ‘RS5-5’ embroidery on the seats and… some carbon upholstery splayed somewhat randomly around the cabin. Which looks terrible. WARNING: Impending rant. Unnecessary carbon fibre add-ons, especially those in gloss finish, cheapen interiors. They just do. Carbon fibre as a decorative item, looks garish, tacky even. What was wrong with leather or alcantara? Nothing that’s what. The problem is with the school boy permitted to design the interior who has it in his head that carbon fibre is the holy-grail of cabin materials. What it is though, is an unoriginal afterthought that deserves the scrap heap. Every automotive journalist has a trigger (e.g. James May and the Nurbugring). This is mine.

Performance is absolutely staggering. As mentioned before, power is quoted at 390kW and torque a pelvis crushing 690Nm, which, as claimed on their website, “in the world of supercars…is a lot.” How poetic. Respectively, those figures are up a full 59kW and 90Nm on the donor RS5. As you’d expect then, acceleration is astonishing. ABT claim the RS5-R can launch itself from standstill to 100km/h in a ferocious 3.6 seconds.

And yet…

Despite the addition of the new carbon tailpipes, the RS5-R still sounds like an underwater chainsaw. All noise, no music. Granted, it has potential, in the same way that a 3 year old huffing and puffing into a trumpet has potential, it just doesn’t tickle the eardrums like an AMG or sing in the same way as a Lexus LC500… sigh… just give us a V8 people.

Aside from the woolly exhaust note and the, ahem, questionable carbon interior, the RS5-R is without a doubt, a substantial improvement. Yes, it’s quick (terrifyingly so), powerful and looks like an angry mechanical stingray, however the RS5-R’s greatest trait is it’s intrinsic sense of occasion. What ABT have done, is inject a shot of excitement into what was, originally, a largely lacklustre machine. It’s a shame that they’re only making 50, because if we had it our way, all RS5’s would get the RS5-R treatment. Our advice? Be the alpha male/woman. Get the ABT RS5-R package for your RS5. Just be quick, we can’t see those vacant spots staying blank for long.

*This is true.

**This is less true.

Photography Credit: Manufacturer

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