Following the heritage of power saloons in the Audi lineup we got the chance to compare the most desirable four-wheel drive sports cars of the past six years. As direct ancestors and RS family members, you can speak of a comparison of two superlative generations; the Audi RS4 and the Audi RS5. But are these two vehicles as comparable as we all think? How does the history of the RS4 reflect to the present of the Audi RS5.
The Audi RS4 was, in its time, one of the most desirable vehicles in the range of the manufacturer from Ingolstadt and is still driven by true car enthusiasts. It’s not that long ago that Audi introduced the “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, as the long-awaited successor to the RS4/B5. At the beginning the RS4 was only available as a sedan, in 2006 the Avant and the Cabriolet joined the range. The cabriolet is now driven by one of our team members. The introduction of the RS4 accompanied the new 4.2 liter V8 high-revving engine. Compared to the engine in the S4, it had the same volume, but a rotating power of up to 8,250rpm, 76bhp more than the 344bhp-strong predecessor.
The Audi RS4 Avant and sedan were available with an optional Dynamic Ride Control suspension (DRC), which is fitted to compensate tend and roll motions in corners better. The diagonally opposed shock absorbers are connected hydraulically and the damping characteristics of the dampers automatically adjust to the prevailing driving situation. The convertible came standard with this extra. The four-door car reaches 100km/h after just 4.8 seconds, the Avant and Cabriolet after 4.9. All versions of the RS4 were available with stick shift only. Over five years of the RS4 era, 14,368 vehicles were produced, of which 1,507 were convertible.
A special feature in these models was the S-button that is either found on the RS steering wheel or when ordering the multifunction steering wheel, in the center console. Pushing this opens up the valves of the standard exhaust system, narrows the sport bucket seats (if present), and changes the response of the gas pedal. An even sportier driving feeling is provided. Starting off in first gear with activated sport mode it is a bit sticky.
Once you get the hang of it, you will have a lot of fun with the RS4. The robust sound of the V8 in combination with the open exhaust valves will increase the heartbeat of any enthusiastic petrolhead. The chassis allows the vehicle to move its relatively heavy body weight of 1,920kg, even on country roads. The combination of 430Nm, all-wheel drive and four seats makes this vehicle an easy travelling companion in everyday life, capable of providing loads sportiviness.
Swapping to the current generation, and taking a seat in the RS5, means arriving in a new phase of the Audi history. The controls are closer to the driver, the navigation display is moved upwards and particularly striking are the vertically down pointing speedometer and rev counting needle. We would have liked to see an RS steering wheel inside the RS5 but Audi doesn’t offer it. It has been underlining the impressions of the vehicle in the RS4.
We drove both models without the bucket seats (available without charge). While seated you will notice that they give much more lateral support. You can feel the change of generations especially if you refuse the electronic assistance and swich the vehicle set-up to Dynamic. Now you can enjoy the full benefits of the dual clutch transmission (S-Tronic), the optional limited slip differential, which, despite its four-wheel drive, makes it very tail-heavy and gives even firmer suspension. The valves of the optional sports exhaust system are open and the driver feels that this car wants to be moved dynamically.
Especially addictive is the sound of the downshifts. This smile is not just elicted from the driver, any pedestrians in the immediate vicinity will also share the feeling. Unlike the conventional Tiptronic function of Audi, the driver is complete lord of all things, because the transmission will never shift up by itself if it is in manual position. The S-Tronic only allows itself the very late downshifts to make sure that the engine remains on it. The sprint to 100km/h takes 4.6 seconds, and thus it is slightly faster than its predecessor.
The RS5 is equipped with the same engine as the RS4 which you would not expect after five years of development by Audi. But friends of high capacity are glad that the current downsizing trend was waived here and a powerful V8 has been employed. Compared to its predecessor, it does now, with 450bhp, have 30bhp more but retains the same torque. The disadvantage of both vehicles is that they can not hide their weight, and particularly the heavy engine in the front. Challenging them much, the new and the old powerhouse aim to understeer. Therefore, for the more sporty drivers the slip differential for the RS5 is highly recommended to prevent this characteristic.
With a disabled S-function in respect of car setup on comfort, both athletes can be very confident and still agile enough to be moved in everyday life. Each of them provides the driver with several variants of setup, the RS4 only S on or off, the RS5 though Comfort, Dynamic, Auto or Individual. Digging deep into your pockets, you can order for both everyday athletes a ceramic brake system for the front axle. Thus, particularly on long journeys, a continuously strong braking power is assured.
A choice between the two models is very difficult. The generational change is felt, but the fun remains the same. The RS5 shines with its sport differential and the fast S-Tronic, while inside the RS4 you will like doing everything yourself. If the purse is not crucial – used RS4’s are on offer for about € 35,000, the RS5 starts at € 70,000 in Germany, one should rely on their own personal taste. A high-performance car with stick shift is the way to go on country roads with the top down. On the other hand you can opt for a sporty coupe that offers short shifting times and a wonderful setup. On the details they are not comparable, but both would fit easily in a garage of luxury power saloon enthusiastic.