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THE STEERING COLUMN

The beauty in the beast

Audi's RS 5 coupe is a high performance machine that ticks the usual boxes, but also has a very unexpected, and welcome, flipside to its nature

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Audi RS 5 Coupe.

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Audi RS 5 Coupe.

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Audi RS 5 Coupe.

IN the Tom Clancy novel The Hunt For Red October (which was made into a movie in 1990 with Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin), the eponymous Red October is a new type of super- stealthy submarine no one can detect.

In the world of modern, high performance cars, the Audi RS 5 is the equivalent of that elusive sub. It's so under-the-radar that even its driver might forget what power he or she has at hand.

Stealthiness might sound like a completely bizarre super power for a high-performance coupe to have - after all, the RS 5 is arguably Audi's sportiest model after the ferocious R8 supercar - but bear with us.

If you're new to steroidal Audis, the ''RS'' letters here denote that the car has been fettled considerably by the brand's dedicated motorsport division, Audi Sport GmbH.

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With the latest A5 coupe as its basis, the RS 5 receives a widened front end, high performance chassis parts (suspension, brakes, wheels) and a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 engine that's only found in the fastest Audis, and even certain Porsche models.

The new V6 has the same 450 horsepower as before, but also packs 270Nm more torque, which accounts for the car being almost a second faster in 0-100km/h time than its predecessor.

A new platform, weight loss to the tune of 70kg, and a thoroughly modern drivetrain round out the improvements.

The design and interior make no secret of the RS 5's nature. The cabin is draped in carbonfibre, and the seats are covered in quilted leather, with the whole lot stitched together with thread in a contrasting colour.

On the outside is crimson paintwork, a unique aerodynamic kit with massive air intakes and ''quattro'' (the name of Audi's signature signature all-wheel drive system) emblazoned on its lower lip spoiler, which were enough for the car to draw a few mobile phone salutes. If it's one thing that gets passers-by reaching for their phone cameras, it seems, it's fierce bodykit on a red coupe.

Yet, if you drive the RS 5 in a certain way, it can slip steathlity along with nary a goosed-neck.

Most modern performance cars have the ability to translate from Banner to Hulk at the push of a button, but they can never quite hide the former in the closet completely. The RS 5, in contrast, can lock the big, green brute safely away when he's not needed.

That's because it behaves like a perfectly respectable and refined garden-variety Audi if you're not being a hoon. With the selectable driving mode set at ''Normal'', the suspension is plush, the engine easy-going with a pleasant hum, and the cabin a comfortable haven for civilised conversation, especially compared to competitor cars like the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S.

Purists shouldn't turn up their noses at comfort either, since this nice-to-nuts ability is a feat of engineering that's extremely difficult to pull off. As the rock-hard, filling-jarring ride of certain, previous generation Audi coupes show, it's something that the brand has only recently mastered.

On the other hand, if you do flip the killswitch, all the analogies of plentiful power, and speed that come with high-performance German coupes apply fully.

The car may have the same amount of power as before, but the reduction in weight, and more importantly, a decade's worth of new technology, really make facial distortion through screaming acceleration and pulling excess lateral Gs an almost simple exercise.

Paradoxically, that surety of control delivered to the driver may put off those seeking the highest thrills. Unless you're on a racetrack, the feeling of taming a beast isn't quite present in the surefooted Audi, and the soundtrack is now less visceral with the switch from a V8 to a V6 engine.

Yet there's still much to love from Audi's understated, confidence-inspiring RS cars. With a 790hp Ferrari for instance, you never quite know who's in control unless the last nine letters of your name are ''Raikkonen''.

There's also another advantage the RS 5 can claim over its German rivals: it's less expensive. It undercuts the BMW M4 (by roughly S$30,000), and is a whole lot cheaper than the Mercedes-AMG C 63 S (around S$67,000).

Granted, those who are able to blow half a million dollars on a sports coupe may not care, but it gives the Audi large numerical advantage in price-to-performance. But it's the character of the thing that can't be put down on a price list. If you can't get enough of speed and power, but don't want to deal with the sound and fury all the time, your hunt ends with the RS 5.


Audi RS 5 Coupe

  • Engine 2,894cc, V6, twin-turbo
  • Power 450hp at 5700-6700rpm
  • Torque 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm
  • Gearbox 8-speed automatic
  • Top Speed 250km/h
  • 0-100km/h 3.9 seconds
  • Fuel efficiency 8.8L/100km
  • Price S$389,080 with COE
  • Agent Premium Automobiles
  • Availability Now