For years, the Audi RS5 has served as a great example of a car suffering from success. Whether in coupe or four-door Sportback form, it’s always been a tremendously fast and capable machine, quick enough to keep up with sportscars way above its price point. However, it offers up that performance without requiring much effort from its driver. So, while it may hustle up a backroad at an astonishing pace, this immense speed rarely translates to all-out fun behind the wheel.
Enter the 2023 Audi RS5 Competition, or more accurately, the Audi RS5 Coupe equipped with the $16,100 Competition package, a crucial distinction given a particular Bavarian brand’s affinity for the same nomenclature. Yet despite its Ingolstadt origins, the hotter RS5’s philosophy is similar. It combines the same 444-horsepower twin-turbo V6 as the base car, manually adjustably coilover suspension, beefed-up sway bars, quicker steering, and a rowdy exhaust system.
The Competition package not only makes the RS5 a more agile and stable car at speed, but thanks to improved road feedback, it allows its driver to feel connected to it and the road below. Now, six model years into its second generation, this fast Audi is finally at the top of its game.
For $16,100, the Competition package offers quite a bit of kit, including carbon-ceramic brakes, coilover suspension, sport sway bars, and an RS sport exhaust, to name a few. Visual upgrades include a carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser, 20-inch Y-spoke wheels, Nappa leather seats, and an Alcantara steering wheel. And while this lengthy list doesn’t cover the full spread of offerings, it illustrates that although the pack is pricey, you get your money’s worth.
Despite these updates, its power output is untouched. Its twin-turbocharged 2.9-liter V6 still produces a respectable 444 hp and 442 pound-feet of torque. That’s less than a BMW M4 Competition (503 hp) or the outgoing Mercedes-AMG C63 (503 hp) but more than enough to feel just as quick as its rivals in the real world. Its 0-60 time is unchanged at 3.8 seconds, but it’ll top out at 180 mph, a full 25 mph over the base car, and six miles above a Dynamic Plus package-equipped model.
On a twisty back road, however, the benefits of the Comp pack become apparent from the moment you turn the wheel and dive into a tight bend. Its coilover suspension, although noticeably firmer, keeps the RS5’s over 3,900-lb body totally in check, allowing it to change direction instantly without unwanted body motions. This newfound agility is possible thanks partly to the Competition’s quicker steering, which is more precise than ever despite not offering much additional feedback.
The Audi RS5 Competition couples sticky Pirelly P Zero Corsa rubber with a tuned-up eight-speed automatic transmission, a combo that takes full advantage of its suspension improvements. Altogether, you get a car with impressive mid-corner grip and one that can effortlessly put all of its power down as you shoot out of a bend. And although the base RS5 is a capable machine in its own right, the Comp’s firmer chassis is far more communicative, allowing you to experience its immense pace and feel it, too.
Despite its firmer and 0.39-in (10 mm) lower suspension, the Audi RS5 Competition’s added capabilities don’t come at the cost of daily comfort and usability. This says more about the standard RS5 than the Comp, though, as the base car often felt overly plush and refined for a car Audi designed to be the A5’s most engaging variant. Despite its stiffer chassis, this latest RS5 strikes a nice balance between a thoroughly capable sports car for the weekend and a comfortable commuter from Monday to Friday.
The Competition package also reduces the RS5’s sound deadening, a decision that pairs nicely with the addition of a shouty RS sports exhaust. Although its reduced noise isolation results in heightened road and tire noise throughout the cabin, a thrilling sports car shouldn’t be whisper quiet. Whereas Audi’s previous refinement efforts left the RS5 having to pump engine noise in through its speakers, now you get a genuinely throaty V6 sound with explosive upshifts that can be elevated or quieted depending on your selected drive mode.
As mentioned above, the Competition package adds a few sporty accoutrements inside the RS5’s cabin, starting with its Nappa leather and Dinamica-trimmed seats. They combine a Lamborghini-like hexagonal stitch pattern with gloss black-trimmed sides and embroidered backrests. Thanks to their inflatable side bolsters, they offer excellent lateral support for a backroad blast and added room for the drive back home.
All Comp cars feature an Alcantara steering wheel, headliner, and a carbon-fiber trimmed cabin. However, unlike the racy glossy finishes you’ll find in a BMW M4, the Audi RS5 showcases the lightweight material with a more elegant matte finish, allowing it to blend in with the rest of the dark cabin.
Visually, the Audi RS5 Competition’s changes aren’t immediately apparent. It essentially bundles extras like a carbon-fiber front splitter and rear diffuser available in the base car with gloss black badges and trim. Its 20-inch Y-spoke wheels play nicely with the car’s overall proportions while giving you a clear view of its massive carbon-ceramic brakes. However, this is an area where Audi could’ve gone further to differentiate the new car, especially given this model’s age.
On the plus side, the second-gen Audi RS5 is aging remarkably well. Although it’s been on sale since the 2017 model year, this speedy two-door’s elegant design makes it feel contemporary even many years after its debut. While it’s not as flashy or boisterous as its BMW or Mercedes-AMG rivals, it’s still the most elegant pick of the bunch.
It’s the Audi RS5’s age, however, that has me the most conflicted. While the addition of the Competition package is welcomed, given how much it improves this car’s driving experience, it’s an update that comes quite late into the second-gen car’s lifecycle. This raises the question: will a much better driving experience be enough to draw customers to a car that looks much like it did in 2017?
The $16,100 Competition package should help, given how much value it adds despite its hefty price tag. A base 2023 Audi RS5 Coupe starts at $78,995, including a $1,095 destination fee. My tester with extras like the aforementioned Comp pack, its $3,000 RS driver assistance package, and $1,500 navigation package comes in at $100,565.
Although a six-figure Audi A5-based car is still a challenging concept to wrap my head around, its pricing aligns with what you’d get from a fully loaded BMW M4. While the upcoming Mercedes-AMG C63’s U.S. pricing has yet to be announced, I’d wager it’ll come at or above this figure. As such, the Audi RS5 asks for a premium sum, but finally, its engaging driving experience backs it up.
The 2023 Audi RS5 Competition is the car I wished the RS5 had been all along. It’s fast, agile, and engaging, combining the base car’s speed with a level of immersion previously out of reach. Despite its firmer chassis, however, it loses little, if any, daily comfort or usability, and thanks to less sound deadening, you’ll hear more of its throaty note without relying on pipped-in sounds.
In isolation, the Comp pack-equipped Audi RS5 is a strong competitor to BMW’s excellent M4. However, I can’t ignore this car’s age, and despite how its latest updates finally make the RS5 not just a quick but a genuinely engaging driver’s car, the question now is, will buyers respond, or is it too late?