Like its rivals in the BMW M4 and Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe, the RS5's engine has been downsized and turbocharged to improve emissions. Gone is the predecessor's glorious sounding 4.2-litre naturally-aspirated V8 and in its place is a 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 that has been co-developed between Audi and Porsche. Gone is the dual-clutch automatic too, with the new model featuring an eight-speed slush box.
Has the RS5 gone soft rock?
On paper it hasn't, as it eclipses its predecessor in every rational dimension. The engine produces the same 331kW as the first-gen RS5's V8, but torque has increased significantly to 600Nm – up from 430Nm – across a wider band of revs, with maximum pulling power now on tap from just 1900rpm. Importantly, fuel consumption has dropped to 8.7L/100km.
The consistently sustainable design of the BMW i3 makes it the perfect vehicle for urban environments in the megacity:
Thanks to Audi's unique all-wheel drive layout – and the broader spread of ratios in the transmission - the RS5 is 0.6 seconds quicker to triple figures than before and the equal quickest of the three German coupes, matching the more powerful C63 S by clocking 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds.
Based on Audi's latest lightweight underpinnings - dubbed MLB evo - the RS5 weighs up to 60kg lighter (the smaller engine accounts for 31kg of that figure) than its predecessor when fitted with a host of optional carbon elements, including a roof panel that helps to lower its centre of gravity.
Even without the carbon add-ons the RS5 is still lighter and more rigid than before, despite it being a physically bigger car. Measuring 4723mm in overall length, 1861mm in width, 1360mm in height and riding on a wheelbase of 2766mm, Audi's latest high-performance coupe is longer, wider and lower than the previous model - as well as the regular A5 Coupe on which it is based.
Part of that is because it has pumped out wheel arches that extend 15mm further out, an exclusive front bumper that features a deeper chin spoiler and suspension that sits 25mm lower than the regular two-door models.
But the basic foundations are marginally larger too, and the longer wheelbase has resulted in incremental increases in space within the four-seater cockpit, with Audi claiming it has 26mm more shoulder room in the front and 23mm more knee room in the back.
When it arrives in local showrooms from November, it will be equipped with a high level of standard features to justify a price tag that Audi Australia says will come in under $160,000 - positioning it neatly between the M4 and C63 S, and undercutting the original by around $15k.
While the German brand has yet to lock down final specifications it will come with an RS sports exhaust, Dynamic Ride Control adaptive suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a comprehensive suite of driving assistance functions including radar cruise control, emergency braking, lane keeping and forward collision warnings as well as a 360-degree camera.
The cabin will feature full leather trim, tri-zone air conditioning, Audi's Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster and an 8.0-inch colour multimedia system with sat nav, wifi, Bluetooth and smartphone mirroring connectivity plus digital radio as standard.
By Audi's own admission, the RS5 is the grand tourer of its class - a genuinely luxurious cross-continental cruiser that can also carve through mountain passes - rather than a beefed-up muscle car like the C63.
Our preview drive from Toulouse in southern France to the principality of Andorra, perched high up in the Pyrenees mountains, provided a perfect backdrop to asses that claim, starting with a freeway blast out of town and ending up on one of the greatest Alpine passes in Europe.
As an everyday performance car, the RS5 offers few compromises. The adaptive suspension is beautifully calibrated and is peerless among its rivals for ride quality. It has a level of compliance and control that almost irons out even the harshest of bumps while still feeling like a sports car first and foremost.
It's also respectably quiet at highway speeds with good suppression from road noise despite wearing wide 275/35 tyres on each corner. The automatic invisibly swaps cogs to the highest gear in order to save fuel too. And the seats are supportive yet comfortable for long distance cruising.
The cabin is beautifully crafted from high quality materials, the digital instrument cluster is excellent and the multimedia system is among the most comprehensive and most intuitive to use in the business.
This is quite literally a car you could drive every day - whether it is charging around the urban jungle or cruising interstate in - and never feel like it's a chore.
But, as the road begins to climb, the RS5's character starts to fall away. Predictably, it's missing the V8's instant throttle response and the rising cacophony it made while spinning to a dizzying 8250rpm redline. Instead, there's an initial lag as the two turbos nestled in the vee of the engine build up boost and then chop-up its soundtrack to produce a woofy, warbling exhaust note. With the RS Sport Exhaust open, it can get loud under heavy acceleration - and there's some gargling of unburnt fuel when you back off the gas - but it doesn't rattle your ear drums like the V8 did. Then again, it sounds more natural than the M4's digitised exhaust… and that's a good thing.
Where the V8 only came alive at the upper reaches of its rev range, the new donk thrives more in the middle, riding a seamless wave of torque that thrusts it between the bends and ultimately makes it a faster car to drive point to point.
Also rather predictably, the chassis offers masses of grip but it isn't as playful or as challenging at the limit as its rear-drive rivals. The steering is sharp and turns-in positively, but doesn't have a lot of feel in its weighting, and the all-wheel drive system will naturally tend to push the front-end wide from the middle of the corner onwards under heavy acceleration. The electronic rear diff does an amazing job of countering some of that, with its torque vectoring generating a degree of rear-wheel steering, allowing it to be coaxed into a little bit of lairiness with the stability control set to its Sport mode. But you have to be aggressive to get it to step out of line.
Yes, the second-generation RS5 is faster than the original and has a broader depth of character when it comes to its on-road manners. It will be cheaper too, despite featuring significantly more equipment than before, which is a win-win.
Technocratic driving enthusiasts will love that its mechanical wizardry makes it so easy to drive quickly. And trend setters will appreciate its gorgeously toned exterior and the fusion of industrial electronica with classical craftmanship of its interior.
It's a brilliant follow-up that is technically better than before, and easier to live with every day. But the RS5 has lost some of its soul and it doesn't rock as hard as its German compatriots.
2017 Audi RS5 Price and Specifications
On-sale: November 2017
Price: $159,500 (estimated)
Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol
Power: 331kW at 5700-6700rpm
Torque: 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
Fuel use: 8.7L/100km