Not just in Germany, but petrolheads around the world probably utter Rennsport (RS) as their first word. Here’s why.
Before I begin with the main topic, I’d like to take a moment and thank the pandemic. Why? Well, thanks to the refresh button it has hit in all of our lives, the new normal, at least for a motoring journo, entails newfound love and appreciation for bespoke drive experiences and, in particular, for track days. For an amateur like me, who is yet to make it big, a chance to participate in back-to-back track days in a span of just two months is nothing short of extraordinary. After all, even the organisers prefer only the most experienced editors to take part in such events.
Nonetheless, just as I was reminiscing about my previous track day outing, a similar opportunity knocked on my door again last month. This time, it was Audi’s RS Experience weekend. And the agenda was simple. Head to the Buddh International Circuit on a Sunday morning (one of only a handful of reasons in life to get out of bed early on a Sunday), do a couple of hot laps in a delectable line-up of Audis comprising the S5, RS 5 and the RS Q8, and once done, head to the timed slalom activity in the support paddock that would be undertaken in the e-tron SUVs. Seems easy? Well, it was. But it turned out to be more insightful than I’d predicted.
As the day began, my batchmates and I gathered for the mandatory briefing. Once done, we first hopped into the 444bhp RS 5s. While I’d have loved to do more than two hot laps per car, unfortunately, there was only enough time for as many. However, only a few minutes of driving the RS 5 were enough to understand the immense capability of the 2.9-litre twin-turbo TFSI V6 sitting under the hood, and why Audi is the byword for all-wheel-drive (AWD). Thanks to the famed quattro AWD system, I was able to exit corners with my right foot pressed to the floor, even with the traction control (TC) turned off! But I did realise that turning the TC off made the car quite twitchy while entering a corner since it felt a bit too tail-happy. So I did have to exercise some restraint.
Next up was the S5. Now, I had driven it before so I could gauge how it would be on the track. And the results weren‘t too bad. But the fact that we lapped the RS 5 before it did not play in its favour. Irrespective, the S5 felt pretty good at the BIC but I felt it could do with better braking performance – the car swerved quite a bit during high-speed braking.
Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to drive the RS Q8 since the slots were packed and the Audi team, despite their best efforts, could not free up one. So instead, I decided to utilise the remaining day in the slalom activity, where I got a chance to test the e-tron’s handling & dynamics. Yes, handling is the key word here, since we’re talking about an SUV that’s a wee bit heavier than even the V8-laden RS Q8 – the latter tips the scales at nearly 2.4 tonnes. So, how was the e-tron on the timed course? In a word, underwhelming. And it’s not because of the mechanical bits that performed supremely well, but due to the pesky electronics. Every time I tried to power through in a corner, the electronic stability power (ESP) would cut power at the slightest wheel slip, and return it only after a noticeable lag. Long and short of it, I was not able to improve my time of 40 seconds on a track that recorded times as low as 38 seconds. More practice is needed on EVs, it seemed.
Overall, barring missing out on the RS Q8, my Audi RS Experience weekend was definitely memorable. It was a front-row seat to witness, and experience, the sheer might of Audi’s performance-savvy RS (Rennsport) models. In fact, as the sun set on the day’s proceedings, I walked away with a renewed appreciation for the term ‘RS‘.