Of the many memorable engine records throughout history, Audi has offered some great things. Quattro’s innovative inline-five turbo roar and chirp brings out peak rally prowess and is a brand-defining classic. More recently, the first-generation RS5 kicked off with a palpable knock from the 4.2-liter V-8. Capable of revving up to a dizzying 8250 rpm redline, its baritone scream creates a powerful and lasting impression. But when the second-generation RS5 debuted in 2018, it lost not only the V-8 but the sonorous beauty that came with it. Despite being faster than and technologically superior to the old 4.2-liter, the twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 dealt a more powerful blow with all the emotional engagement Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress. Someone at Audi must have listened to this deafening silence because the Audi RS5 Competition 2023 finally has something interesting to say.
In an attempt to make some noise, Audi started by dumping nearly 18 pounds of sound insulation on the firewall to allow more natural engine noise to filter into the cabin. A new exhaust system helps to further open up some of the combustible fuss. We suspect Audi has also stepped up digital upgrades, but at least it’s now working with better source material.
No longer carrying out its duties with a stoic demeanor, the new, vigorous factory responded with an authoritative growl even at partial speed. Throughout the spin range, the engine is now a much more willing accomplice, communicating its joy rather than hiding it.
While the character of the V-6 is much improved, its output rating remains the same as before: 444 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque, sent to all four wheels. We feel like Audi missed the opportunity here to join the ranks of Alfa Romeo and BMW, both of which make over 500 horsepower from the same displacement. Audi claims that the revised engine software improves responsiveness and slashes 0.1 seconds from a zero sprint to 60 mph. The last RS5 coupe we tested managed 3.5 seconds—faster than the Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio’s 3.6-second run but significantly lower than the BMW M4 Competition xDrive’s 2.8-second flash. The top speed of the RS5 goes up to a high 180 mph.
Similarly, the chassis also benefits from a personality change. The highly tunable coil-over suspension offers a variety of manual adjustments for ride height, compression and rebound. Squatting in most curb-hugging settings, the Competition RS5 sits a full 0.8 inches lower than the stock RS5. We applaud this attractive mechanical flexibility, even as we question how many drivers will take advantage of its capabilities. Although lower and stiffer, this trick suspension sacrifices ride quality a bit, as we found on the winding, bumpy mountain roads of southern Spain.
This renewed sense of vibrancy also carries over to the track. The Ascari racecourse just outside Ronda features an entertaining downhill bowling series, off-camber sweepers and some left-handers who always arrive sooner than you’d expect. The RS5 fills the track with high spirits. The eight-speed automatic will now hold shifts on the redline in manual mode, but we found the programming so good that we let the gearbox do its job. Upshifts are announced with a bold kinetic boost, as if in a high-five with a more agile engine stance. Dive into a corner and the transmission holds the right gear out, even tickling the rev limiter if necessary. Lap after lap, the carbon-ceramic brakes stayed cool, repeatedly erasing two tons of momentum without fading and drama.
The last time we invited the RS5 to our Lightning Lap, in 2018, we struggled to tame its hyperactive torque vector rear differential. Audi seems to have cast out the happy demons; The RS5 competition now spins predictably, not impulsively, through corners. Fixed-ratio steering also makes navigating through turns more inspiring, although we feel it could be quicker. The Pirelli P Zero Corsa Grippy Rubber provides excellent stickiness and accentuates the directional stability of a stiffer chassis. This RS5 wants to play.
In terms of appearance, the RS5 Competition is not as extroverted as the mechanical side. In lieu of certain badges, the Competition package is recognizable by its matte black exhaust and 20-inch bicolor wheels. The front splitter, rear diffuser and exterior mirror housing are treated with a matte carbon finish. Audi’s four-ring logo joins the blackout. The exclusive color for the Competition pack is Sebring Black, though it is more of a shimmering sky blue. Apparently not satisfied with the amount of black in cabin, Audi has paired it with a darker color called “super black.” Red accents give a pop of color to the seat belts and floor mats. Contrasting red stitching accentuates the steering wheel, shift lever and center console.
Unfortunately, this bold new character comes at an equally assertive cost. The Competition Plan makes a hefty $16,100, and selecting it also triggers a seemingly unrelated $500 side-aid option. Together they raised the price of the RS5 coupe to $93,595 and the Sportback to $93,895. While that’s a significant premium over the faster and more powerful BMW M3/M4 Competition xDrive, adding carbon-ceramic brakes and carbon bits to the BMW puts the two Germans on relatively equal footing. For 2023, the Mercedes-AMG C63 is back, this time using a turbocharged four-cylinder hybrid that produces 671 horsepower. With Audi’s much improved engine record and driving dynamics, it’s not about numbers. It’s more about the song you want to sing.
Audi RS5 2023 Competition
Vehicle Type: front engine, all-wheel drive, 4 passenger, 2 door or 5 passenger coupe, 4 door hatchback
Base: Coupe, $93,595; Sportback, $93,895
twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 177 inches32894 cm3
Power: 444 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque: 443 lb-ft @ 1900 rpm
Automatic 8 speed
Wheelbase: 108.9-111.3 inches
Length: 185.9-188.3 inches
Width: 73.5 inches
Height: 54.0-55.1 inches
Passenger Volume: 84-91 feet3
Luggage/Cargo Volume: 11-22 feet3
Restraint Weight (CD approx.): 4000-4100 lb
SHOW (CD EST)
60 mph: 3.4-3.9 seconds
100 mph: 8.8-8.9 seconds
1/4-Mile: 11.9 seconds
Top Speed: 180 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 21/18/25-26 mpg
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