2013 Audi RS 5 review: There's a beast within this sexy sports coupe

The Drive Select system also exercises control over the RS 5's power-steering system, making the car feel light and easy enough to handle with one hand in its comfort mode and adding a nice, heavy steering effort and twitch responsiveness in its Dynamic mode. Finally, users can set the Sport differential to either Dynamic or Comfort modes, increasing or decreasing the way the coupe tucks its nose when pressed into a corner.

Users have four presets for the Drive Select system. Dynamic puts the steering, transmission, and differential into their most aggressive modes. Comfort settles the entire vehicle and Auto lets the computer decide for you. There's also a fourth mode called Individual that lets you mix and match each system's settings. So, if you want Sport steering and differential, but only Comfort transmission -- a setup that still leaves the RS 5 much more capable on a casual back-road blast than most cars that have passed through the Car Tech garage this year -- you can have that at the touch of a button.

20-inch wheels
If you're looking for a smooth ride, this isn't the car for you. The RS 5 is not available with an adaptive suspension. Josh Miller/CNET

But as I mentioned, the suspension is fixed. The harsh ride is all that you get; there is no comfort mode to bail you out when the increased road noise starts to get annoying and bumpy, under-construction segments of road start tossing you and your passengers around the cabin. For many, this is a good thing. The fixed suspension has less techno-gimmickry to break and even I must admit that there's a certain sadistic pleasure in knowing that the suffering of a bumpy ride means that you'll be able to enjoy a smooth curve all the better.

But those drivers who can't suffer being jostled by their premium Audi should probably look to the larger S6 for a smoother ride.

Cabin technology suite
The RS 5 offers no surprises in the dashboard tech department. Its entire setup is nearly identical to those of the S6 and S7 sedans that have recently passed through CNET's garage.

The standard cabin tech offerings include iPod/USB connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free calling, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and an SD card reader. On paper, that's a pretty good setup, but our tester was even more teched out with the optional Audi Multimedia Interface (or MMI) Navigation Plus package, a $3,550 addition.

MMI Controller
Users control the MMI system with this control knob and bank of shortcut buttons. Josh Miller/CNET

The MMI Navigation Plus features, well, a hard-drive-based navigation system plus a built-in 3G data modem with its own SIM card that enables Web search for points of interest and a Google Maps satellite overlay on the navigation maps. The satellite view is cool and will definitely elicit oohs and aahs from passengers, but I found the resolution to be lacking when zoomed way in. Plus, the underlying Nvidia graphics are so crisp that I preferred the standard 3D map setup during most of my testing.

Google Maps
Google Maps satellite imagery can be displayed on the map, but I prefer the standard display mode. Josh Miller/CNET

The system is commanded via Audi's MMI controller, which is located on the center console just aft of the shifter. This knob can be rotated or bumped in eight directions to move through the interface and tapped to make selections. Surrounding the controller are four shortcut keys that correspond to onscreen menus at the four corners of the screen. Radiating farther out are six more shortcut buttons that correspond to the various areas of the infotainment system: navigation, phone, radio, media, car, and settings. There's also a back button that behaves about like you'd expect.

Aside from a few niggles, such as the placement of the volume knob and the constant feeling that I was rotating the knob the wrong direction to navigate through lists, the system was relatively easy to learn to use.

The MMI Navigation Plus system also adds HD Radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, and DVD playback to the RS 5's list of audio and video sources. The standard audio system is also replaced with a 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang and Olufsen audio system that -- trust me -- you definitely want.

Safety technology
Safety tech on our car is pretty much limited to the standard audible park distance sensors at the front and rear bumpers and the rearview camera system with dynamic trajectory lines that comes as part of the MMI Navigation plus package. The Audi Connect system offers certain telematics safety features such as automatic contacting of emergency services in an accident.

Optional, but not equipped on our example, is the Driver Assist package that adds dynamic steering, Audi adaptive cruise control, and the Audi Side Assist blind-spot monitoring system for $3,250.

In sum
To use its full name, the 2013 Audi RS 5 Coupe Quattro S Tronic starts at $68,900, a 117-horsepower upgrade over the S5 and about a $10,000 price hike. Of course, the RS 5 gets more than just a simple power boost; the RS coupe comes standard with features like the active rear differential that are optional on the S, but totally omits some options such as the adaptive suspension. Choosing the RS 5 is a choice of getting there faster versus getting there comfortably.

2013 Audi RS 5 coupe
You'll barely begin to experience the RS 5's performance on public roads. For that, you'll need a race track. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

However, are you really getting there any faster if you're driving with a modicum of common sense? I was constantly frustrated by the fact that, on a public road, I was only able to scratch the surface of what this coupe seemed capable of. I'm not going to argue that this is too much car, but the RS 5's performance advantage is wasted anywhere but on a closed course. If you're not going to the track every now and then, you're probably wasting your money.

But we already knew that the RS 5 was faster and more hard-core than the S5 -- it's got more letters, right? What's more interesting is how the coupe compares with the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. If the Bimmer feels like a katana and the brutish Benz is a heavy broadsword, the Audi is something like a saber -- not as precise as the M3, but not as unwieldy as the Benz. All three cars are awesome instruments of speed and, outside of a side-by-side comparison at a racetrack, they're all winners in their own right. It's a bit of a cop-out, but it's true, sorry, fanboys.

Force me to choose sides and I'll tell you that I'd rather live with the Audi. It's got the best cabin technology, better aesthetics (in my humble opinion), and more than enough performance to keep me grinning around every bend. Were it available with a manual gearbox, I'd be seriously considering hocking all of my belongings for a down payment.

Our sticker price also included a $475 premium for our Sepang Blue pearl paint, $1,000 for the Sports exhaust, and $1,000 more for the 20-inch wheel and tire combo. Add $3,550 for the MMI Navigation Plus system and a hefty $895 to ship the Audi from Ingolstadt, Germany, to reach our as-tested price of $75,820.

Tech specs
Model Audi RS 5 Coupe
Trim RS 5 Quattro S Tronic
Powertrain 4.2-liter V-8, 7-speed S Tronic automatic transmission, Quattro all-wheel drive with active rear differential
EPA fuel economy 16 city, 23 highway, 18 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy n/a
Navigation Optional Audi MMI Navigation plus, HDD-based, Web-connected
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player single-slot CD/DVD
MP3 player support standard analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM satellite radio, HD Radio
Audio system Optional Bang and Olufsen premium audio
Driver aids Standard front and rear proximity sensors, optional rear camera
Base price $68,900
Price as tested $75,820

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

2013 Audi RS 5 Coupe

Part Number: 101286075

MSRP: $68,900.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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  • Body style Coupe
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