Audi's RS 5 has been an unsung hero since its 2010 debut. Although clothed in an elegantly muscular two-door body shell and stuffed with a pleasingly growly 4.2-litre V8, it has always lived in the shadow of its Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupé and BMW M3/M4 rivals – not to mention its own TT RS and R8 stablemates.
Discontinued in 2015, the RS 5 badge has now been reprised on an all-new model (due to land in the UAE in November), derived from the latest A5 Coupé. The big news is under the bonnet, where the newbie loses a couple of cylinders and 1.3L of engine capacity, but gains a pair of turbos to redress this deficit.
The 2.9L twin-turbo V6 delivers a beefy 450hp and 600Nm, which means peak power is unchanged versus the Mk 1 model, but there's an extra 170Nm of torque, which is more vital in real-world performance.
The other key stat is that the latest RS 5 is 60 kilograms lighter, at 1,655kg. Audi claims a 0-to-100kph split of 3.9 seconds and top whack of 280kph with the optional Dynamic Package – handy numbers for its segment.
Visually, the RS 5 stands apart from its more sedate A5 sibling via blistered front and rear wheel arches, a sharp-edged front fascia with gaping air intakes, a subtle lip spoiler on the boot lid, massive oval tailpipes and a purposeful-looking rear diffuser. There are also gloss-black air vents at the outer edges of the head and taillights, but these are purely for show.
There are lots of options, including a carbon-fibre roof that saves 3kg, various other carbon-fibre bits on the bodywork, 20-inch rims (19-inchers are standard) and LED headlights.
My drive route at the international launch comprises a thrash from Toulouse to minuscule principality Andorra. The first section is freeway, where the RS 5 effortlessly eats up the miles. In the Pyrenees foothills, the roads become more interesting, with more twists than a Hitchcock whodunnit.
The Audi makes brisk progress across the sinuous stretch – even in damp conditions – but doesn't feel as sledgehammer-fast as the raw numbers suggest. It feels safe and sure-footed – the quattro all-wheel-drive system apportions torque to front and rear in a 40:60 ratio – yet doesn't manage to serve up the thrills (and spine-tingling soundtrack) that you get in an M4 or C63. Its eight-speed auto is smooth and quick-shifting, but lacks the urgency of the M4's dual-clutch transmission.
The other chink in the Audi's armour is that ride quality gets distinctly choppy if you slot the DriveSelect system into Dynamic mode. It's far better to leave it in Comfort, unless you're on a billiard-table-smooth racetrack.
On the plus side, the RS 5 serves up a healthy dollop of grunt once you get the engine spinning at more than 2,500rpm, and it's more forgiving and less taxing than an M4 or C63. It's more of a grand tourer, albeit a rapid one, and Audi says this is what it's meant to be. It's a handsome looker, too – especially in the eye-catching Sonoma Green paintwork that blends in so well with Andorra's lush surrounds.