I've always thought that the Audi A5 is totally George Clooney: handsome in a mature and reserved kind of way; buttoned-up but sporty, like yachting or killing foxes; appropriately distanced from its predecessorial roots in the Ford Escort-esque Audi Typ 8b coupe and that embarrassing role as a hardware store employee in The Facts of Life; and remaining compellingly good looking even as it ages.
But while it has a perfectly pleasing silhouette, it's never really had the beef to put my stick shift in first, or make my sport-tuned exhaust pipe rumble, in the way that Daniel Craig, Jason Statham, and Mark Wahlberg—the Mercedes C 63, BMW M3, and Cadillac CTS-V coupes of adult men—have. In an attempt to correct this lapse, Audi is (finally) bringing the Audi RS5 over from Europe.
Unlike most of its current and upcoming competitors, and the rest of Ingolstadt's own S-line, this variant uses the now seemingly archaic formula of foregoing forced induction, choosing instead to Cinderella-slipper a naturally-aspirated, V8 into the bay. In this new installation, their 4.2 liter mill makes 450 horsepower at a screaming 8,250 RPM, which is significantly more than the 345 horsepower a similar sized engine made in last year's S5, which has now received a supercharged version of the V-6 found in the A6 which makes 333 horsepower. In the game of power-plant substitution, Audi seems to change engines more often than the Oneonta Roundhouse.
Also included in the top of the line, $68,900 Typ 8t is a quick-witted 7-speed S-tronic automatic transmission with de rigueur clicky steering wheel paddles, blippy throttle downshifts, and uniquely grippy launch control, all of which feeds your four wheels a torque vectoring Quattro diet rich in schreeeeech and vroooom. The R upgrade also includes the kind of extreme shiny/smoky eye makeup that would earn Rooney Mara a bony fist-bump from Melissa Rivers, a tessellated grille that would drive Crazy Craving right to the Honeycomb Hideout, a quartet of tail pipe tips that are only slightly less elliptical than the orbit of Jupiter's four Galilean moons (or my narrative style), and an available Alu-optic package that plates the exterior surrounds and interior switchgear with a material that answers the question: what happens when the dump combines all the metal, glass, and plastic from your recycling bin?
Also available are 20-inch wheels, ceramic brakes, adaptable driver's aides, pearly/glittery/diamond-dusted paints, and (oddly not standard on a $70,000 car) the very navigable Audi MMI dash info system—now with surveillance drone-y Google topographic and street view maps, and enough superfluous Fi in its boiling hot Wi spot for you to connect a device for each day of the week, and two on Sunday. Tick all the boxes and you can easily add a Golf's worth of options. But you would be hard pressed to build a $90,000 RS5.
Some of my RS adventure took place in the former Sears Point/Infineon raceway, currently biding its time between sponsors' checks as the Sonoman Tarmac Area. But as one of my esteemed colleagues pointed out, the four cars slithering their way through the technically (and gastrointestinally) challenging course will likely represent the sum total of the track experience of America's allotment of 1,500 RS5s. So I didn't bother with all that silly zipping around. Instead, I elected to focus on the road portion of the drive where all of you--or all of you who will ever drive this car—will drive it.
Here, the car is as solid and unflinching and generally benign—despite whatever nonsense you throw at it—as your best high school friend. It's fast enough to 60 mph (4.5 seconds) to feel seat-of-the-pants faster than the other cars in the A5 line, which should, as one Audi dude told us, add some interest to the end of the product's life cycle. Its engine note has pleasant hints of thrummy guitar feedback and timpanic off-gassing. And it is familiar enough to the local gentry to pass hours cruising through the tonier seaside sections of Northern California without drawing undue attention, a feat which would not be possible in, say, a 1965 Buick Riviera GS in any year that is not 1965.
Bear with the absurd comparison, because the Audi RS5 is, like the most potent first-generation Riv, a highly capable personal luxury coupe. And it triumphs in all three components of this title: it's unique, it's sumptuous, and it's Viagrically rigid. It's not an M3 or a CTS-V, but its not trying to be a snarling dance hall king. It's more like what those hot-rodded American two-doors did in the mid-60s—or Mercedes coupe's used to do: act as the ultimate exemplar of sumptuous, sporty, elegance. In other words, a cut Clooney.