A new Competition package transforms the Audi RS5 into the car it should've been all along.
The Audi RS5 has a problem: It’s boring. Yes, even with 444 horsepower, a sub-4-second 0-to-60 time, a torque-vectoring rear differential, ceramic brakes and more, the RS5 is just… meh. There’s no drama, no excitement. It’s sterile. Total weaksauce.
To remedy this, Audi engineered a new Competition package for the RS5 Coupe and RS5 Sportback, as well as the RS4 Avant sold abroad. The changes are actually quite extensive, and wow do they make a big difference. This is totally the RS5 Audi should’ve built all along.
Why don’t I have a private race resort? Audi
Interestingly, Audi decided to leave the RS5’s engine alone in the Competition upgrade. The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 makes the same 444 hp and 443 pound-feet of torque as before, which is fine, since power was never an issue. When you drive the RS5 in its Comfort and Auto settings, there’s little in the way of discernible powertrain difference, but shift over to Dynamic or put the eight-speed automatic transmission in Sport, and the gearbox livens up with quicker shifts. You can even run each gear right up to redline in manual mode and the transmission won’t force an upshift. Too bad the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters provide very little tactile satisfaction.
Actually, I lied, there is a big upgrade under the hood, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the V6 itself. Audi removed sound insulation between the engine and the cabin, so you get a whole lot more natural noise inside the car. The tailpipes could still stand to shout, though it’s cool Audi now lets you put the RS5 into Dynamic mode before you start the engine so you get the loudest possible exhaust note right from the get-go. The added aural sensations are great, but you still won’t have to worry about waking the neighbors.
The Competition package’s major changes are all in the chassis and suspension, as well as the wheels and tires. Super-sticky Pirelli P Zero Corsa summer tires wrap around Competition-specific 20-inch wheels, though the ones we get in the US are different from the polished rollers on my German-spec test car. Our Competition wheels are actually black (lame), though like the European alloys, their lightweight construction saves about 4.5 pounds of unsprung mass at each corner. All told — thanks to the wheels, reduced sound insulation and some carbon fiber parts — the Competition is roughly 35 pounds lighter than a normal RS5.
We don’t get these wheels in the US, but we do get the coilover suspension that lowers the RS5 by as much as 20 millimeters. Audi
There’s a new coilover suspension setup for the RS5 Competition, and it’s manually adjustable for compression and rebound, while also lowering the car by 10 millimeters. If you adjust the dampers to their most aggressive setting, the RS5 drops an additional 10 millimeters, so 20 millimeters lower than stock, but Audi says this should really only be done if you’re taking the car to a track.
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Which brings me to Circuito Ascari, a resort in the Spanish hills that happens to have a race course (note to self: marry rich or win the lottery). With the suspension properly set up for track attack, the RS5 makes quick work — literally — of Ascari’s many ups and downs and lefts and rights. Flat cornering means I can keep my speed up during turns, and those Corsa tires never want to let go of the hot asphalt. The suspension and tire improvements alone are boons for the RS5’s handling, but they’re really just the beginning.
The retuned limited-slip rear differential more aggressively shuffles torque left to right, meaning the RS5 is more eager to rotate while cornering, helping to push the back end through turns. Larger sway bars front and rear improve balance, too, and the RS5 is significantly less prone to understeer when you come into a corner hot, the standard carbon ceramic brakes scrubbing off speed with less front-end dive than before.
Yay, the RS5 is great now. Audi
I’ve also got to hand it to Audi for ditching the standard RS5’s variable steering ratio, instead using a fixed 13.1:1 setup for the Competition. This results in more consistent steering characteristics with improved road feel, and it alleviates that horrible dead on-center feeling many sporty Audis are known for. This isn’t just a win for track driving, either; on the roads north of Málaga, Spain, the RS5 is a lot more entertaining. The steering, the chassis, the handling, the grip — it’s all so much better.
If you’re worried this might kill the RS5’s livability factor, don’t be. The standard coilover setup (10 millimeters lower, remember, not 20) doesn’t ruin the ride quality in the city or on the highway, though the aggressive Corsa tires do produce more noise. The combination leather and Dinamica suede seats are plenty comfy, too, though you can be jealous that our friends in Europe can order manually adjustable racing buckets that look hella cool. Maybe they’re too expensive. Or maybe we’re just too fat.
Speaking of expensive, the Competition package is a $16,100 upcharge on top of the standard RS5. That means you’re looking at $93,095 for a Coupe or $93,395 for a Sportback, including destination. That’s a big yikes right there, but I suppose it’s not totally out of line, considering a similarly optioned BMW M4 Competition xDrive costs right around $90K. And honestly, I can’t imagine buying a base RS5 now that I’ve driven the Competition. Expensive or not, this should be the new standard.