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These two German brawlers are pitched at a similar market, one that places performance and styling on a higher pedestal than practicality and sense.

TopGear Reporter
July 20, 2021
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An Audi RS 5 Coupé and BMW M4 Competition walk into a bar…Although their execution is somewhat different, they couldn’t be more similar in their DNA make-up. Yes, we know that you might be wondering, but where is the Mercedes-AMG C63 S in all this? Frankly, it is the older of the two recently updated cars, hence it is not part of this company today, sadly. We’re sure it will be back. 

With that said and without further ado, let me introduce the two contenders present today. In the Ingolstadt corner bobs and weaves the svelte RS 5 Coupé, replete with what we can only surmise as an eye-catching Nardo Grey palette. This is particularly enhanced by the black optics package liberally smothered on the honeycomb grille, side mirrors and rear diffuser. A subtle boot spoiler finished in black adds another hint of style to what is already an elegant design. 

The interior, too, is tastefully executed, something that Audi has for years been renowned for. Those sumptuous leather chairs with their quilted design offer excellent support and comfort. Of course, being a two-door coupé means access to the rear is compromised, but you can get the more practical Sportback variant for that, which boasts two extra rear doors. The coupé places aesthetics at the forefront of practicality, and that is perfectly fine. 

Beating under the RS 5’s longish bonnet is a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 that punches out 331 kW and 600 Nm through an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox, dispatching all that onto the tarmac through all four wheels - quattro, is that you?! Avon is currently the custodian of the RS 5 Coupé and he’s currently on his way to our rendezvous point where will give each car a thorough shakedown, so who better to tell you more about it…

AM: Let’s start with that stuff about which there is no argument. As a piece of automotive art, the RS5 Coupé is the most desirable car here. It’s a sensual, seductive design that somehow blends a keen sense of aggression with tractable beauty. You won’t have to defend your decision because of a controversial grille. 

You also don’t have to defend why it’s so slow off the line - because it isn’t at all. Thanks to that quattro-pegged drivetrain, the RS 5 blazes off the line faster than the M4’s computers can muster. Drag races? The M4 only really gets into the race when it hits 4th gear and in most circumstances, that will be too late. For R35,200 you can option the speed limiter to be removed and the RS 5 will stretch its legs to 280 km/h. 0-100 km/h is a feisty 3.9 seconds.

As much as the RS 5 Coupé isn’t an entirely new car, the updated version has delivered a more versatile sportscar. With the optional RS Sport Suspension Plus with Dynamic Ride Control (DRC), the coupé is more competent in those areas where, historically, the BMW M4 has always won. It changes direction with more agility, swinging right and left hooks better than ever before. Don’t get me wrong, the BMW M4 remains the sharper tool here but the RS 5 is better than ever before. The customisation is a further improvement on what the keen sports coupe buyer is wanting - an ability to map one’s own performance parameters. The RS1 and RS2 buttons add further customisation to this package for maximum performance effect. No, there isn’t any drift mode or drift meter here, but is this really a game-changer?

Beyond absolute precision, there’s a maturity to the entire package that, when things settle down to more conventional everyday sparring, the RS 5 makes a load of sense. It plays the role of a consummate GT and packs a punch of a sports car with more competence. That 8-speed Tiptronic box plays a key role here, ably transitioning from everyday comfort to dynamic shifting at the touch of a drive select button or a pull on those paddles behind the wheel. The ride quality is a delicate balance made better by the sports seats that offer a supportive yet supple feel. They’re not anywhere close to the ludicrous ball-busting items on the M4.

And then, of course, we have to celebrate the soundtrack from those blacked out oval tailpipes. If there was an AMG in this fight, the results would surely be different but the RS5 emits a crisp raw. It isn’t too loud but it’s still more satisfying to the ear than the M4’s doctored inflection. It could be better though. As these cars battle emissions targets, the engine notes just aren’t what they used to be. 

At a starting price of R1,409,500, a well-specced RS 5 Coupé would set you back R1,750,000 with most of the bells and whistles you could dream up. And that is something to behold so ask yourself the question: Ingolstadt or that other city starting with a B? 

LM: Standing in the Bavarian corner of the ring is the latest G82 BMW M4 Competition and, I will say this from the onset, that front nose is anything but offensive from my end, and the public, mostly in the township, seems equally enamoured by it. I will, however, admit that the dark hue of our test car is perhaps not the most flattering. I find the Isle of Man Green and, indeed, the Sao Paulo Yellow are the most striking and come highly recommended if you’re purchasing the M4 Competition. 

Back to the aesthetics, though, the M4 Competition is the beefier looking of the two cars here. Those flared wheel arches have a nightclub bouncer in a suit-type vibe about them and those 19” up front and 20” rear tyre and wheel combo give it a very authoritative stance that says “mess with me and risk being bludgeoned into submission”. That quad exhausts at the rear measuring 100 mm each look the part, but sadly fails to emit a guttural note that should go with the searing performance repertoire on offer. Our advice would be to specify the optional M Performance exhaust from the get-go and thank us later.

Everything about the M4 Comp screams performance and racing panache, something that is echoed equally loudly by the interior, which in our test car includes the optional (R82,500) M Carbon Fibre shell seats. These are striking - and comfortable once you are snugly tucked in of course, but this can take some doing in both ingress and egress. Cabin appointments are typically BMW with a lofty tactile feel, while the M elements such as carbon fibre inserts and steering wreathed in the blue and red colours, elevate the interior a few notches up. Pore over the rest of the cabin and drink up the experience, because once you jab that red button and fire up the engine, it is the driving that will linger and loom large in mind. 

Under the sculpted bonnet resides the S58 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six that jabs 375 kW and uppercuts 650 Nm via the ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox. Yes, I know, I too miss the immediacy and snappy character of the M-DCT box of the outgoing car, but this new gearbox gives you the best of both worlds. It is, unequivocally, a smoother proposition that makes the M4 an easier and more agreeable car to live with on a daily basis. 

However, you will not be lulled into thinking that it has lost its ragged edge because it still has a wild streak to it should you search deeper. With all the driver aids in place and MDM engaged, it remains a brisk weapon that easily piles on speed at a rate of knots. When on it, the G82 M4 feels as quick as the previous M6 Competition, such is its performance reserves. Turn all driver aids off in the M4 Comp, however, and that wild streak that characterised its predecessor punches you squarely in the face. It remains as lurid as ever and lets you leave unofficial road markings in your tyre wake. 

Driven spiritedly with all the driver aids in place, I found that the rear feels a tad flimsy on the straights. It shimmies slightly with a pendulum effect, before it gets going, which is rather disconcerting as its four-door sibling, the M3 Competition is devoid of this. That said, once it hooks up, the M4 Comp is a seriously fast car that is relentless in its acceleration. Even though the engine can rev beyond 7,000 r/min, there is so much torque from around 3,000 r/min that you gather speed with very little effort. 

Another feather in the M4 Comp’s cap is the sharp steering that lets you dart the nose with the most minimal of steering inputs, while grip levels for a rear-wheel-drive car are exemplary. Mind you, there is the M xDrive version coming in September, replete with a front-axle decoupling function, a la M5 Competition. I reckon that would be the M4 Competition to get, as it gives you an even wider breadth of talents. 

At a price of R1,959,182, the M4 Competition is decidedly expensive considering that the latest Porsche 911 GTS at a base price of R2,290,000 would be the more enticing proposition were I voting with my wallet. 

However, during this bout between the Audi RS 5 Coupé and BMW M4 Competition, the latter is undoubtedly the more powerful, faster and more engaging car. During these austere economic conditions, it must be said that the former at R1,409,500 (R1,750,000) offers incomparable bang-for-buck and it is the one that both Avon and I would gladly drive home in, warts and all. 

AUDI RS5 Coupé

Price: R1 409 500

Engine: 2.9-litre TT V6. (331kW, 600Nm)  

Transmission: 8spd automatic, AWD

Performance: 0-100km/h in 3.9secs, 250km/h

Economy: 10.9l/100km, 285g/km CO2


Price: R1 959 182

Engine: 3.0-litre TT inline 6. (375kW, 650Nm)

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, RWD

Performance: 0-100km/h in 3.9secs, 250km/h

Economy: 12.2l/100km, 234g/km CO2

Words: Avon Middleton & Lerato Matebese

Images: Jeff Zonke & Audi SA

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