Expert Reviews

2023 Audi RS 5 Competition First Drive Review

Nestled in the rolling hills of southern Spain, Circuito Ascari is one of the most picturesque racetracks in the world.

But we’re not here for the scenery. Audi picked this 26-corner, 5.4-km wonderland to showcase its over-achieving RS 5, in both coupe and sedan-like sportback forms, fitted with the new-for-2023 Competition package. According to Technical Project Manager Ugur Yeter, this $11,400 package answers a call Audi received from a small group of its RS 5 customers for more emotion, engagement, and mojo on the track.

Going About It the Hard Way

Output from the 2.9L turbocharged V6 remains a robust 444 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque. When asked why Audi didn’t turn up the wick on the engine, Yeter put it simply.

“Upping the power is the easy way to increase performance,” he said. “We went the hard way.”

I get it. The RS 5 was always plenty fast. Add 50 hp and you’ll just want another 50 more. However, if you could level any criticism, it would be the way these all-wheel drive technocrats delivered their prodigious pace. The words aloof and clinical come to mind.

So what’s in this pricey Competition pack to enhance the driver experience? It begins with the press of the ignition switch. The engine barks to life with more urgency and jumps to a higher rev level before settling into an idle. The modified exhaust system is a bit louder, and reduced sound insulation means there’s more of it in the cabin. As far as V6 engines go, this one sounds good.

Changes to the computer increase throttle response, and the eight-speed automatic transmission also benefits from some computer massaging that brings with it faster shift times and more aggressive mapping.

The new 20-inch mill-cut alloys look fabulous. They save two kg (4.4 lb) a piece and are shod in bespoke 275/30R20 Pirelli P Zero Corsa performance rubber. The sport differential and stability control get tuned for more oversteer out of corners, and the steering gets a fixed ratio of 13.1:1 for improved feel. Top speed is now 290 km/h – up from 280 km/h. The final ingredients of this tasty Competition recipe are three-way adjustable RS coilovers at each corner, sport sway bars, and a ride height that’s been lowered by 10 mm (0.4 in).

Hitting the Streets

Out on the smooth serpentine roads in this part of Spain the RS 5 Competition does indeed feel sharper, more urgent, and more willing to let the driver in on the fun. The engine is impressive – raspy, eager, and all but devoid of turbo lag.

This car will set a blistering pace, yet also coddle its occupants in sporty luxury. OK, so these fab microfibre and leather seats with black “superbright” honeycomb stitching lack ventilation or massage settings, but as is the way with Audi, the Competition’s cabin is a paragon of build quality, here enhanced with matte carbon inlays and red stitching on the shift lever, centre console, and three-spoke heated steering wheel. The driving position is spot-on.

As the tarmac here in this sunny part of Spain lacks anything resembling potholes or frost heaves, judging the RS 5 Competition’s ride quality is a tough call. What road irregularities I did encounter were passed over with little drama, so the prognosis looks good.

The cars we drove on Circuito Ascari were fitted with the optional $6,000 blue-calipered carbon-ceramic front brakes, and had their coilovers adjusted to what the Audi dudes call the “Nordschleife” setup. It lowers the car another 10 mm yet still retains enough compliance to keep the tires in contact with terra firma over less than perfect surfaces. The suspension can be stiffened further and lowered another 10 mm if desired.

Back to the Track

Building up speed on the track in the two-door RS 5 Competition was easy. The car instantly inspires confidence and makes pushing towards its outer edges a fun and spine-tingling exercise. Grip is sensational, and feedback through the steering and seat of your pants signals an exceedingly stable chassis that harbours no diabolical tendencies.

The RS 5 Competition simply lasers through turns and eats up quick transitions with glee. Despite Audi’s efforts to give this somewhat nose-heavy and neutral platform more rear-end give, you won’t be doing any lurid power slides à la the BMW M3. It does, however, exhibit some entertaining lift-off oversteer, and there’s a real rear-end push when hammering out of corners.

Final Thoughts

The 2023 Audi RS 5 Competition is an expensive proposition – $104,300 for the coupe and $104,800 if you go for the sportback and its slightly longer wheelbase. That’s $500 well spent, in my opinion. The sportback can carry four people in comfort (or discomfort, if you choose to strafe that off ramp), swallow a surprising amount of cargo, and look cooler than the coupe while doing both.

Available in Canada late October, these specialized RS 5 models are another glorious sendoff for internal combustion performance. The next Audi RS chapter will be trading petrol for electrons. Until then, these RS 5 Competition models provide plenty to enjoy.