Driving through Andorra in the new Audi RS 5

- 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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