Launch Pad: Live updates from the launch of the new 444bhp V8 Audi RS5. Tom Ford feeds back live from Spain, as he figures out whether the newest RS Audi lives up to the hype.
Final drive: it's been a good couple of days. Just finished at Ascari, and it turns out that the quattro boss was right: the RS5 is way more fun on a circuit than it has any right to be. In fact, it does feel lighter, more tempted into oversteer and generally a lot less understeery than I thought it might.
Basically, with the new 'crown gear' differential, it's probably the most amusing quattro Audi ever. There was a slight suspicion that the car might be a tad wayward, because Audi had disengaged the ESP 'off' button on the track cars; the car did move into oversteer, but got tidied up by the ESP before it went too far. But then we found the secret button in the glovebox and went out in the car again.
The surprise is that it was pretty much the same - no great big surprises, just a lovely release of oversteer. This thing is brill, just a different kind of speed to an M3 and C63. We like.
GrahamV8: Final drive in 7th gear is 0.617, with a final drive ratio of 4.375!
In answer to your questions...
GTBoy: As far as I've been told here on launch, the UK market is the only territory that comes with the adjustable hydraulic DRC as standard. There's nothing about early cars not having it - though I'd wait until the regular standard cars appear; its worth it, and will be especially useful in the UK.
Graham v8: Let me just check!
14th April 2010, 6:46am
Just had breakfast, now heading out for a bit of road driving before Ascari - tried to get hold of a car on the standard 19-inch wheels with normal steel brakes, but there are precisely none on launch. Still, there are plenty of good roads in the surrounding area and Ascari is a very interesting track. More in a bit.
Just had dinner with Stephan Reil, general manager of quattro GmbH, and he's a real car bloke. Totally passionate, utterly into his product and therefore ace company. When questioned about the hefty feeling of the RS5, he said to wait until Ascari in the morning - that the car would feel a couple of hundred kilos lighter on track. Big talk for a permanent 4x4 coupe on a race track - especially one that weighs 1725kg (the M3 is roughly 125kg lighter, though the same to 62mph). In my experience these kind of cars tend to feel nose-heavy and a bit understeery when faced with a circuit. Not that it's even particularly relevant to track day an RS5 - I just think they want us to be able to let loose without putting the entire road system of Marbella in danger of being hit in the face with a sideways RS5. You can turn the traction and stability systems fully off in this car too - who dares me to try and get it broadside?
OK, so just had a quick blast in one of the red cars you saw in the previous picture (on the optional 20s and fitted with carbon ceramics), and the first impressions judgement is that the RS5 is an incredible thing for covering ground, but a wee bit digital. There's some seriously challenging and very slippy roads out here, and unless you're a complete meathead, it's really very hard to unstick it.
The V8 is superb: loads of power and torque where you need it most in the mid-range, woofling all the way up to peak power at 8,250rpm. But there's a sweetspot between 4k and 6k that makes mince-type-meat out of pretty much anything. Looks bloomin' lovely too, losing that banana swage line along the side of the car in a big fat square arch. Cool. I can't stop imagining it in olive drab paint with black wheels for some reason. Just me? Probably...
The seven-speed DSG 'box is massively fast, blips like a good 'un on downchanges and generally does everything you need it to without being very intimate. The brakes - with these ceramics, at least - are brick-wall good, but again you lose any sense of feel, substituting the stopping power of eight pistons for any real delicacy.
Bad stuff: the steering just hasn't got any feel. Accurate, but it feels like your hands have died. And although it doesn't understeer really very much at all on the road (the new trick differential is superb), it also doesn't do much of anything else. It just rips through a corner. Which is strangely unsatisfying. Hugely quick, but not terribly exciting. Would love to try it in the wet, or on snow. Or both. At the same time.
Still, the interior's OK. And if you wanted to see who was fastest across an unknown piece of road, this is just like the RS4: the most accessible up to 90 per cent. But you'd have more slightly scary fun in an M3 or a C63, so far no doubt in my mind.
But Audis have proved to be big growers, so I'm not discounting this one just yet. Tomorrow brings the joys of the Ascari Circuit, so I'll see if I can break something in the name of science.
So, just landed in Malaga, now got to grab an A8 to drive to Marbella. Then I'm going to try and steal the keys to an RS5... Its not quite as sunny as the UK, by the way. Wish me luck!
Just sat at the Airport waiting to get on the Audi jet to the new RS5 launch. We're looking at 444bhp, a new dynamic diff for the four-wheel drive and M3-breaking performance.
See pics of the Audi RS5
Might be able to grab a quick go tonight before hitting the Ascari Circuit tomorrow. Tyres may well be harmed in the making of these updates. Anything you want me to take a pic of or tell you about?