AU­TO­MO­BILES

Driv­ing through An­dorra in the new Audi RS 5

Sharp - - CONTENTS - By Matt Bub­bers

AN­DORRA IS A SPECK OF A coun­try high in the Pyre­nees Moun­tains, half­way be­tween Barcelona and Toulouse. Pop­u­la­tion: 11,000. Of­fi­cial lan­guage: Cata­lan, but you can get by with Span­ish, French, or English.

Peo­ple travel to An­dorra for two rea­sons: to ski or to hide money — of­ten both. It’s a tax shel­ter and a noted lux­ury shop­ping des­ti­na­tion. If you want a tax-free Rolex or a Zegna suit, this is the place.

The catch? There’s no easy way to get here. There’s no flat ground on which to build an air­port. You could fly in by he­li­copter, but when weather rolls in — as it fre­quently does — that can quickly be­come a har­row­ing ride.

Driv­ing is the most re­li­able method of trav­el­ling to An­dorra. For the jour­ney, you’ll need some­thing fast, some­thing that doesn’t mind the treach­er­ous moun­tain roads or a bit of snow and ice. You’ll also need some­thing com­fort­able to crush the mo­not­o­nous high­way miles from Toulouse. De­spite the del­uge of new cars flood­ing the mar­ket, there are not many ve­hi­cles that can tick all those boxes.

The all-new 2018 Audi RS5 is one of them, and so it was in An­dorra that Audi de­cided to host the launch of its new flag­ship su­per-coupe.

Un­like its ri­vals from other Ger­man brands, the RS5 has Qu­at­tro all-wheel drive. It’ll get you to the moun­tains fast, even af­ter a big dump of fresh pow­der, en­sur­ing you’re first in line for the lifts.

Ger­man hot rods like this are as much about the me­chan­i­cal — the ex­cel­lent en­gi­neer­ing — as they are about sta­tus. Audi says many of its RS5 cus­tomers like to geek out about, for ex­am­ple, the mer­its of ce­ramic brakes or light­weight con­nect­ing rods. They’ll be in­ter­ested to know, then, why the old, nat­u­rally as­pi­rated V8 engine has been ditched in favour of a mo­tor with two fewer cylin­ders. The new 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 is not only bet­ter on fuel, it’s also lighter. With less weight over its front wheels, the new RS5 feels es­pe­cially ea­ger when turn­ing into a cor­ner.

Peak power is nearly iden­ti­cal to its pre­de­ces­sor at 450 horse­power, but the torque curve is fat­ter, peak­ing at 442.5 lb-ft of torque from just 1,900 rpm. (Yes, Audi mea­sures torque down to frac­tions of a pound per foot.) The adap­tive dampers are no­tice­ably softer than on the old RS5. This is now a car you could live with day to day.

To catch an early flight home from Toulouse, we left An­dorra and the Pyre­nees Moun­tains at 5 a.m. It’s pitch black. There’s no traf­fic. The RS5 makes thread­ing across un­fa­mil­iar, nar­row roads at great speed an ef­fort­less ex­pe­ri­ence. The Audi sticks to the road as if held on by mag­nets. In­side, there is ev­ery imag­in­able lux­ury. You could fol­low our route out of the moun­tains by the flashes of au­to­matic speed cam­eras pop­ping off in suc­ces­sion. At 160 km/h, the cabin is serene and quiet. At 250 km/h, the Audi is still ac­cel­er­at­ing.

There’s some­thing re­as­sur­ing about the new RS5. It’s not short-tem­pered or de­mand­ing of its driver. It won’t bite. It’s got your back, even when you’re blearyeyed in un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain. No other car this side of an R8 makes go­ing so fast so easy.

Like An­dorra, there’s noth­ing else quite like the RS5.

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