Driving Audi’s RS range is a performance but a pleasure

Audi RS 7 Sportback is the newest addition to the RS range.

Audi RS 7 Sportback is the newest addition to the RS range. - Credit: Audi

As Audi prepares for the 20th anniversary of its high-performance RS range next year, motoring editor Andy Russell gets up to speed with the latest pacy and popular models.

If ever there was a car that deserved to be called a wolf in sheep's clothing it is an Audi RS.

Standing for RennSport in German, which translates as 'racing sport, the RS range made its debut in 1994 with the Audi RS 2 Avant, a limited edition, high-performance five-door estate. This joint venture between Audi and Porsche was based on the 80 Avant and powered by a 315PS version of Audi's 2.2-litre five cylinder turbo petrol engine.

Here was a model with supercar performance that could carry five people and their luggage. And that is still the appeal behind the RS range.

While they look meaner and more muscular than the mainstream models on which they are based they have gained phenomenal performance without sacrificing practicality and the ability to lug loads and carry people in their refined, hi-tech, high-spec cabins.

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Honed and developed to make the most of that performance with Audi's legendary quattro all-wheel drive system as standard, RS models also boast redeveloped suspension to cope with all that power and equally powerful high-performance brakes so they stop as well as they go.

And never during the RS range's 20-year heritage has there been stronger line-up of models.

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The third-generation RS 6 has swapped its 580PS 5.0-litre V10 TFSI turbo petrol engine for a 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8.

Priced from £76,985 on the road, the RS 6 is a lary load-lugger for, despite producing 20PS less, the 0-62mph time has dropped to 3.9 seconds, emissions are down to 229 from 333g/km and, with the help of technology which cuts the engine to four cylinders under light loads, it has combined fuel economy of 28.8mpg.

But for all that performance, the adaptive suspension gives a compliant, almost cosseting ride, even with its standard 20in wheels, while the 565-litre boot can get a lot of luggage to your destination very quickly indeed.

The new £83,495 RS 7 Sportback shares the 560PS V8 engine with the RS 6 Avant but is even more entertaining to drive with unbelievably good roadholding, ride comfort, tenacious grip and traction and a resonating rumble from the V8 under load.

Capable carrying four passengers and their luggage in luxury this puts the grand into Grand Tourer.

The smaller £55,525 RS 4 Avant, £59,350 RS 5 Coupe and £68,985 RS 5 Cabriolet, use a non-turbo 450PS 4.2-litre V8 which can still reach 62mph in under five seconds.

This engine is much more growly than the V8 in the RS 6 and RS 7 Sportback, relying on sheer muscle rather than turbo power for its performance and the way it delivers that power feels rawer too with lots of low-down grunt and a really throaty bellow from the engine when you floor the accelerator.

Nor did it ride as well on the test day over the same roads, no matter how you set the supension on Audi's Drive Select. But then the RS4 is more than £20,000 less than the RS 6 and still has a useful 490 litres of boot which makes it useful high-performance holdall.

The other newcomer is the £43,000 RS Q3 compact sport utility vehicle – the first Q model to get the RS treatment.

Packing a 310PS version of the 2.5-litre, five-cylinder turbo petrol engine found in the TT RS Coupe and Roadster, which have 30PS more, it's surprisingly quick, reaching 62mph from rest in 5.2 seconds. But its higher body and ground clearance mean it doesn't have the supreme body control of other RS models through corners.

For more information contact Norwich Audi in Meridian Way on Broadland Business Park on 01603 709200.

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