The 2023 Audi RS5 Competition Introduces Undesirable Flaws

It’s a common gripe that today’s vehicles lack personality. They are overly capable, secluded and excellent. They argue that modern vehicles should aspire to be worse than their forebears because that is the only way to make them safer and more reliable.

But what would it look like if a producer took that feedback to heart? What if a firm known for high-end products and cutting-edge technology instead bet the farm on integrity?

The Audi RS5 Competition is a possible inspiration. When Audi surveyed RS5 buyers, they repeatedly mentioned a lack of “emotion” in the base model. The company then returned to its research and development facilities where it fine-tuned the car’s electronics and replaced the old, cumbersome suspension with a more advanced setup.

2023 Audi RS5 Competition
2023 Audi RS5 Competition

But can a set of optional extras added at the end really give a car its personality or is it just a ploy to get Audi customers to shell out an extra $16,100? Honestly, I got my first taste of the Mediterranean after Audi dropped me off on the southern coast of Spain to test drive the RS5 Competition (and fill my shoes with sand in the process).

The company footed the bill for my lodging, transportation and meals and provided travel agents to assist with my return flight nightmare. I might still be dozing off in an airport chair in Amsterdam if they hadn’t come through for me.

2023 Audi RS5 Competition: What’s New?

The RS5 is an older model. Previous drivers of the car’s coupe and four-door fastback configurations agreed that it was Good.  The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 with 444 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque, the eight-speed automatic transmission and the Quattro all-wheel drive with an electronic rear differential are all carried over from the previous version. This is not a completely redesigned vehicle, the Competition package is an add-on.

Then what exactly do you get in exchange for that option package? Plenty of new accents and trim have been added, such as red highlights and carbon fiber but those aren’t why you came. Big carbon-ceramic brakes up front give you a taste of what you want but even they aren’t brand new. They’re just an existing option that’s been repackaged with the new Competition spec.

2023 Audi RS5 Competition

No two components are the same. A special three-way adjustable coil-over suspension and lighter wheels and tires are included in the Competition package. All driving dynamics, including the engine, transmission, rear differential and traction and stability control, have been fine-tuned but not to increase power output.

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2023 Audi RS5 Competition: Specs

The RS5’s top speed is increased from 174 to 180 mph with the Competition tune and the car’s estimated 0-60 time is reduced by a tenth to 3.6 seconds for the coupe and 3.7 seconds for the Sportback.

Additionally, the Comp pack reduces the coupe’s curb weight by 73 and the Sportback’s by 8 pounds bringing them to a total of 3,737 and 3,825 pounds, respectively when compared to their respective weights with the Comp pack installed. That’s nearly 1% of the coupe’s total mass!

2023 Audi RS5 Competition

The ultra-grippy Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires on ultra-lightweight wheels shave off 4.4 lb. per corner, accounting for half of the total unsprung weight savings. Audi states that the 60-treadwear rubber and ABS adjustments for the improved grip allow the car to come to a stop “up to” 6.5 feet sooner than a standard RS5, presumably one without the carbon ceramic brakes that come standard on the Competition.

The revised steering rack in the RS5 Competition has a constant 13.1:1 ratio. The new suspension settings bring the car down by 0.4 inches for track use putting it just under half an inch lower than the previous standard version. That suggested ride height can be attained with the help of the included wrench set and a lift (or a good jack and jack stand).

What makes the Competition suspension special is as follows. A “three-way adjustable coil-over” allows the driver to fine-tune the suspension for low-speed compression (when the car leans to one side in a corner), high-speed compression (when the car hits a bump in the road) and rebound independently (the dampers extending to their neutral point after a compression event).

Typically, these settings are locked in at the factory and cannot be altered. In more elaborate designs, these damping rates will adjust in tandem, typically through electronic adjustment mechanisms within the shock, though more advanced systems use dark magicks to change the viscosity of the damping fluid. Only a select few aftermarket suspension systems offer adjustments for all three.

A three-way coil is a high-end aftermarket component typically found on race cars modified for faster lap times or show cars designed to look fast. However, Audi’s implementation has some quirks. Both the preload (the tension on the spring with no weight on the suspension) and the ride height of the RS5 Competition setup can be adjusted.

However, unlike standard coilovers, these do not allow for independent height and damping adjustments, rather, the same set of collars that regulates ride height also regulates preload. Even though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (since owners who want a lower center of gravity also want a stiffer ride), it does reduce the number of possible suspension settings that can be experimented with. Put this in your memory.

Most three-way adjustable coil overs also have remote reservoirs which are separate chambers that house additional damping fluid and are connected to the damper via a hose. As a result of the improved heat dissipation, the dampers are able to maintain their optimal operating temperature even during the most rigorous track stints.

Audi’s engineers looked into installing remote reservoirs in the Competition suspension but found that the chassis didn’t provide enough space. Electronic damper adjustment, as seen on many other Audi performance models was also considered but ultimately scrapped to save weight (that crucial 35 pounds).

The obvious retort to these two quibbles is that, on a street car, independent preload adjustment and remote reservoirs would be unnecessary luxury features. However, this criticism can be leveled against all three-way adjustable coilovers. Even though the company claims to encourage experimentation with damper settings, it also provides two recommended presets for those who would rather not.

Audi goes even further, claiming buyers will notice a difference in the car even if they never adjust the coil-over suspension. The fancy suspension starts to look like more of an attempt to inflate the price of the Competition package than anything related to improving acceleration or cornering.

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2023 Audi RS5 Competition: How Does It Look?

Like an Audi and an RS5 combined. Every Audi model looks and feels like it belongs in the same family. Audi has one of the most consistent design languages in the auto industry today.

For two reasons, I like the strategy where all vehicles have the same exterior and only minor updates are made annually: first, it reinforces the brand’s identity by making it clear to buyers that this is, above all else, an Audi. Second, instead of spending time and energy on 30 different faces that aren’t very good, the company can put all of its design resources into making one that is.

2023 Audi RS5 Competition

However, the RS5’s looks aren’t improved by the Competition pack. The Audi is the more understated option because it lacks the distinct badging found on BMW’s performance-oriented models. Keep an eye out for the split-five-spoke wheels and matte carbon mirror caps when you’re in the market for a used Audi with the Comp-pack eight years from now.

Other than those, there won’t be anything outwardly distinguishing a Competition model from a standard one. In all but the brightest light, my tester looked black but it was actually a stunning dark purple. The car prefers to appear as some sort of Anish Kapoor void in photographs so seeing it in person is your best bet for getting a good look.

Picture Nissan’s Midnight Purple but reserved for the kind of people who pay for professional accounting services rather than searching for “file taxes free” online every year.