Used car buying guide: Audi RS5
Prices for performance Audi RS5s are at bargain levels. But beware the previous owner who has cut corners on servicing costs
A new 68bhp Ford Fiesta 1.1 Style 3dr for £14,000 or an eight-year-old, naturally aspirated, 444bhp Audi RS5 4.2 V8 quattro S tronic coupé for the same price? Thought so. But the RS5 really does deserve a second look.
The one we’re thinking of has done a not inconsiderable 152,000 miles but they’ve been mainly clocked on the motorway apparently and, miraculously, it’s a one-owner car with full service history and new Pirelli P Zeros. Crucially, the engine has had a carbon-clean, too.
It’s also loaded with kit to the extent that it cost around £65,000 new. But its owner has certainly had their money’s worth and appears to be entirely satisfied with it.
It would be our ‘one we found’ but for its mileage which, while not a problem to a savvy buyer like you guided more by condition and provenance, would be a turn-off to those looking to cash in on the growing appeal of early RS5s rather than later, pricier facelift cars.
The RS5 V8 coupé was launched in 2010. A facelift followed two years later bringing a larger, single-frame grille, a restyled bumper (making the headlights look more aggressive) and new, 10-spoke, 19in alloys. Inside, the biggest change was Audi’s latest multimedia interface system.
Mechanically, though, it was business as usual: in addition to the naturally aspirated V8 – derived from the R8’s 5.2 V10 – and quattro drivetrain, it retained the pre-facelift model’s seven-speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox (there was never a manual option) and mechanical centre differential. Bringing up the rear was the same electronic differential shuffling torque on demand. Dynamic Ride Control dampers remained as standard.
The thing to remember with any used performance car is that while it might now be cheaper, the cost of maintaining it isn’t. It’s this crucial fact that escapes starry-eyed owners, who then cut corners on servicing.
That’s a bad move since something like a fast-fit stamp is the last thing you want to see in an RS5’s service book. No disrespect to the able technicians who work in such places, but knowing some of the RS5’s idiosyncrasies is crucial to its trouble-free running. They include rattly chain tensioners at around the 70,000-mile mark and, as already hinted at by the value of a carbon-clean, the tendency for the inlet valves to coke up.
Theories as to the cause of this include the engine breathing oily fumes from the crankcase ventilation system and the inlet valves not being hosed down with fuel, as they would be were the injection system port-based rather than direct.
It’s all horribly technical but all you need to know is that a full set of specialist or main dealer service stamps and evidence of supplementary work including regular transmission fluid changes is the secret to RS5 happiness. That and the sound of its 444bhp V8.
How to get one in your garage
An expert’s view
Simon Howarth, founder, AMD Technik: “We’ve been servicing performance Audis for 30 years and we know RS models inside out. Personally, I prefer the earlier B7 RS4 to the RS5. It’s the purist’s choice: more practical and exclusive. There are loads of RS5s for sale, but have you ever tried opening the door in a car park? They are so long, you have to squeeze out to avoid bashing them. It feels like a car for the American market. But I can understand why people love them for the wonderful V8 and those coupé looks. The facelift didn’t bring much so early, low-mileage ones will be in demand as prices fall and people see they’re a performance bargain.”
■ Engine: Start the engine from cold and listen for timing chain rattles caused by a sloppy tensioner. Favour a car that has had regular servicing since frequent oil changes are key. Post-70,000-mile cars can suffer coked inlet valves indicated by reluctant starting, uneven idling or a shortfall in power. If a sustained blast up the road doesn’t cure it, it’s a heads-off job.
■ Gearbox: A fluid and filter change every 40,000 miles. Don’t go by the service record, ask to see the invoice. Check changes are smooth in manual and auto modes.
■ Suspension: Worn front suspension arms (there are four each side) are common and expensive (£100 per arm). Tramlining is a sign of wear. Check the adaptive dampers for leaks. Abnormal wear on the inner edges of the tyres could be worn bushes forcing the wheels to toe outwards. Check the brake discs for wear – replacements are £400 each.
■ Electrics: Blocked windscreen scuttle drains are a problem. The pooling water flows into the pollen filter and down to the carpets, flooding the comfort ECU that works the central locking and windows.
■ Body: Any corrosion will be damage related.
■ Interior: Things should be Audi-tight in here, although the firm suspension and unforgiving wheels do loosen things a touch. Just avoid anything too vocal. Also worth knowing The RS5 is not for the faint-hearted. Covering our ‘one we found’ example (below) with an official Audi warranty for 10,000 miles and 12 months, paying a £100 excess, would cost £2135, or £181 per month. Still, you’ll sleep at night.
How much to spend
£14,000-£19,999: High-mileage (over 120,000) to mid-mileage (around 60k) 2010-11 cars, most with full service history.
£20,000-£21,999: 45k to 70k-mile 2010-11 cars with solid histories, few previous owners.
£22,000-£23,999: Mainly 25k to 50k-mile 2011-reg prefacelift, including cheapest approved used: 2011 with 42k miles for £22,450.
£24,000-£25,999: Facelift 2012-13 cars with less than 50k miles plus some higher-mileage 2014s.
£26,000-£29,999: More 2013-14-on cars with solid histories and fewer than 45k miles.
£30,000-£34,999: Mainly 2015-on cars. Lots of cabriolets.
One we found
Audi RS5 4.2 V8 FSI, 2011/11, 78K miles, £18,795: Full service history, just two previous owners and described as being in ‘pristine condition’, this RS5 is also sold with a service pack and 12-month warranty. Listen for timing chain rattle.