09 Jul: Audi RS5 Cabriolet

This is not a standard car appraisal, but stick with it and you’ll see what I mean …

Imagine. Your favourite granny has just passed away. The one that snuck you sweeties and pocket money when your Dad wasn’t about. The one that baked. Scones, pancakes and squidgy pudding. The one that said you could have an extra biscuit when your Mum wasn’t looking. Makes you feel pretty sad, eh?

Then your dog died. 12 years old and faithful from the first time it licked your face till it went to doggy heaven having just cocked its leg on the mother-in-law’s favourite rose bush in the garden. It also provided company for the wife when you were out in the garage, cursing and sweating over a set of seized nuts on your ‘project’. The very same puppy that chased sticks all day, teased the neighbour’s cat and ran the weans ragged.

Life couldn’t get much worse, eh? Then the brown envelope drops through the letterbox on the doormat. Yes, that was a camera van on the M74 overpass when you were going to Dumfries to see the rally. And you were running late. And the holiday company goes bust and takes all your holiday money with it. Was it ATOL protected? No, that was the one featured on ‘Watchdog’ last week which you didn’t see because you were out in the garage, again.

That’s life, eh? Then the wife puts your favourite 1995 Subaru World Rally Championship tee-shirt in the washing machine. The one with Colin’s autograph on it. Meanwhile, out in the garage, the ‘project’ falls off the axle stands, and the trolley jack punches a hole in the sump. There’s another crisis in the Middle East and petrol prices shoot up. Again.

This is the same week that number1 son sneaks in the back door clutching an ignition key and steering wheel, which is all that’s left of the family car. The AA also advises that you will be billed for the recovery because you forgot to renew your subscription, and by the way, the guy in whose field the car landed is demanding the cost of rebuilding the dry stane dyke.

And finally, from Edinburgh comes news that Wee Eck’s lot have put up the minimum price of ‘water of life’ so you can’t console yourself, then the fridge breaks down just as you have stocked up with Equi’s ice cream. So no comfort food, or drink.

Instead of reaching for the razor blades, there is another way to put a smile back on your face, a spring in your step and re-zest your life. Just pop down to the Audi dealership and ask a nice salesman to fire up an Audi RS5, the new one with the 4.2 Litre V8, and blip the throttle a few times. Blackness dissipates. Instantly. Then ask the nice man for a test drive and take the beastie for a spin.

Smile returns. Guaranteed. Life is good.

That was just scene setting. Artistic licence if you like. None of that really happened. In fact the sun is shining, at long last, and the nice man from the Audi Press Office delivers an Audi RS5 Quattro convertible to the door, hands over the key and leaves with one word. “Enjoy.”

And this is the week that I’m due to attend the Blasting Magic Turnbull Trophy Rally at Albemarle, 160 miles away!

With 444 bhp on tap, a 7 speed DSG gearbox and a ‘Sport’ mode plus paddles, the first question that pops into the head is, will I get there and back on one tank of fuel? The chosen route is south on the M74 to Gretna, then through Longtown to Brampton pick up the A69 to Hexham but turn off on to the old B6318 Roman Road at Greenhead to Chollerford and on to Albemarle.

Setting off early doors with the hood up, this is a very civilised motor. Even with a soft top, it’s quiet, and on the relatively good surface, the fat-boy tyres and pliant suspension deliver a comfortable ride. Even so, these ultra low Bridgestone Potenza 275/30 rubber smudges on the 20 inch rims transmit road repair joints and white lines through the steering wheel and buttocks. And there is even a trace of scuttle shake over the ripples. At one point, I ran over a midge. It was a male midge. And I’m sure it had a hernia. But did it detract from the ride? Not really.

The old Roman Road was going to be a different matter though. But again I was pleasantly surprised. Even over some of the severe dips and depressions on that road, the car never bottomed out. There was enough suspension travel and absorption to soak up Northumberland’s worst. And I don’t care what any manufacturer says, if you cut the tin roof off a car and replace it with a towel, you are going to get scuttle shake. The Audi has it, but it’s not bad, and nothing to fret over, and certainly better than most.

If that trip was enjoyable, the return trip was memorable. With the hood down and the sun heading towards the horizon, the lever was flicked into ‘S’ mode, and here Audi has another wee surprise. It has an active exhaust and it blips the throttle on each downshift. And therein lies my biggest complaint – it is still too bleedin’ QUIET!

This may well be a car to arouse envy amongst the neighbours, but it won’t wake them up. Not even on a Sunday morning. And this despite a devilish little tweak by the Audi engineers which makes it ‘whoop’ when the engine fires up. It’s enough to make your heart whoop with joy too. So it’s such a let down when it settles down to a distant, muted wuffle.

It’s not Audi’s fault, it’s all down to life’s killjoys, the same kind of people who buy a house near a racetrack, then complain about the noise, or move to the country and complain about the smells. These folk certainly wouldn’t appreciate the mechanical mellifluosity that a beautifully engineered V8 can generate. Even at 8,000 rpm (red lined at 8,200) it’s no noisier than a five year old farting in a bath. Such a great pity. Oh, for unfettered baffles.

So although the soundtrack is there, it’s barely audible. It’s an Xbox with over-riding parental controls. It’s criminal, that’s what it is.

Huge brakes and the constant four wheel drive system ensures that all that power is safely harnessed, but again, you’ll never find its limits on the public road. Not unless you’re really stupid, really brave, or have proof that the Chief Constable sold stories to the News of the World.

With a nought to 60 time of 4.5 seconds it is seriously quick, but it’s not brutally fast. This is a distance runner, not a sprinter. It accelerates like an elephant falling off a cliff. Initially hesitant and awkward, before picking up speed and flinging itself headlong into oblivion.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the test car came with the optional Sport Package which includes dynamic ride control and dynamic steering options and which can be dialled in to suit the driver and the road. It also got the larger 20-inch alloys instead of the standard 19 inch jobs and a sports exhaust system that is supposed to amplify the bass-heavy growl of the V8. It didn’t. At least it didn’t do it enough to satisfy a thoroughbred petrolhead. Priced at £2,250, for that money I would have wanted something to rival Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, in a bad mood and with piles.

There was another thing I really liked about the car. Unlike some of Audi’s earlier ‘styling exercises’, the styling was rather understated for what it is. The slightly puffed wheelarches accommodate the huge wheels, there is a dinky little carbon fibre boot spoiler and both the front splitter and rear diffuser are edged in silver trim. Most folk thought it was an S5, until they looked closer at the badge and realised it was an RS5. This is no hairdresser’s car, this is Edward Scissorhands on a bad hair day.

Would I have one? That all depends. The colour was loud enough to attract the wrong attention, although the exhaust note wasn’t, but the power is seductive and deceptive. I would fear for my licence. And it has a thirst problem. On the way down south and being sensible I was getting fuel consumption in the mid twenties. On the way home – I wasn’t! And yes, I did get there and back on one tank, but the light was on as I reached home. 329 miles on 64 litres (14 gallons).

It’s not just the 70 grand price tag that put me off, it was its thirst and those tyres looked expensive. With that sort of power and appeal, how long would they last?

In other words, I don’t have the self-discipline to have such a desirable motor car, especially with the sun out and the hood down and the temptation to hit the revs just to listen to that delectable music.

  • Review Date: July 9, 2013
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