2023 Audi RS5 Competition first test drive

The journey to the Ascari race track involves driving from the Malaga airport up through the arid Andalusian landscape to this oasis of automotive delights. The invitation to attend this otherwise private motor club comes from Audi who has summoned auto writers from around the world to experience the new 2023 Audi RS5 Competition in its ideal habitat, a wildly enjoyable and challenging ribbon of serpentine pavement. 2023 Audi RS5 Competition corner

The Competition model carries forward with the potent 2.9L V6 engine producing 444HP and 442 lb-ft of torque, mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with Quattro all-wheel-drive. These are the same power-train specs in all other RS5 models and its not like RS5 buyers were complaining about a lack of power from this gem of an engine. What did get some attention was a need for more drama and a more visceral experience.

As some measure of a peace offering, the engineers at Audi have reworked the front suspension, replacing the adaptive electronic dampers with a manually adjustable, three setting, coil over spring design. The suspension revision lowers the ride height by 10mm, with an option to further lower the vehicle an additional 10mm. Also, the variable ratio steering on other models is supplanted by a fixed 13.1:1 ratio setup, called Sport Direct Steering.

Other revisions include tweaking the engine control module, transmission and sport Quattro rear axle differential, to respond significantly faster for a more responsive drive. The speed governor has been relaxed, in order to permit a top speed of up to 290 kms/hr and 0-100 km/hr times have fallen by 1/10th of a second to 3.9 and 3.8 seconds for the RS5 Sportback and Coupe, respectively. If you’ve been paying attention, the top speed has been increased by an astonishing 40 kms/hr.

2023 Audi RS5 Competition sideThe Competition tweaks are part of an optional package. Visually, the package includes a really smart looking set of 22 inch wheels with Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires fitted, as well as cosmetic changes to the front lights and valance. Carbon trim pieces adorn the front air splitter and rear diffuser on the tailgate and trunk while blackout trim around the vehicle is also included.

Inside the cabin Alcantara suede and carbon fibre trim pieces adorn contact points and add a visual reminder of the race car aspirations of the RS5 Competition.

No improvement at Audi could be considered complete without a weight reduction. In the Competition package, 18kgs were culled from the total curb weight, partly due to those nifty wheels being lighter while about 4kgs of sound insulation was removed which allow more of the mechanical soundtrack to seep into the drivers cabin.

After a spirited drive up the highway from the airport, we rolled out of the pit lane and out for a couple familiarization laps with the tweaked RS5. Immediately noticeable were the mechanical noises coming from the engine and exhaust. Yes, this was a turbocharged engine so there was no wailing from the tailpipes but the extra feedback was more than welcome. 2023 Aud RS5 Competion trim

Although the Ascari track typically has a three lobe layout, for the testing exercise, marshals short circuited one section of the track to prevent anyone from trying to stretch the legs of the RS5 up to its listed top speed. Despite the restricted layout, the power-train easily pulled close enough to 200 kms/hr, leaving no doubt the revised top speed was well within reach given a few extra metres of pavement.

Once the track layout was memorized, the ability to tuck into tight corners, set up for long sweeping bends and hammer the throttle down the shortening straights, was pure pleasure.

Despite the lofty speeds reached, the balance and grip on the car were exceptional. Our track time was behind the wheel of a Sportback, the heavier of the two options, yet the potent “family car” gave nothing away to the lighter coupe versions also out on the track.

The Competition Package has raised the ability of the 2023 Audi RS5. Other vehicles in this segment may squeeze out more horsepower or torque but few have been able to create as balanced a package. If drag racing from light to light is more your cup of tea, I imagine you’ll fall elsewhere in assessing the result of this re-engineering effort.

The combination of the weight loss, predictable steering, reworked sport differential and sticky sport tires, have transformed the on-road character of this already potent autobahn burner making it a faster, more responsive joy to drive.

Audi already has the Competition Package for sale or order. Ticking the option box adds an extra $11,400 to the bottomline of an RS5 Coupe ($92,900) or RS5 Sportback ($93,400).

Carbon fibre brakes which are a separate $6,000 option were fitted to our test vehicles. Probably a good investment if you’re adding track-centric options.

The exact pricing and packaging for the 2023 Audi RS5 Competition can be found at Audi Canada’s website.