Like all-you-can-eat buffets, popstar crushes, and tequila shot benders, quasi-racers are one of those things you tend to grow out of as the years wear on. Treats that will tend to leave more unwelcomed reminders on your body than pleasant memories in your head the older you get.
And like the realisation that a morning hangover isn’t going away as quickly as it once did, my youthful desire for a quasi-racer was shattered from the moment I pulled open the BMW M4 CS’ door in a cold, dark carpark.
Normally opening a door in a tight space is a job for a dexterous pair of hands to hold both sides of the door, but for the M4 CS that good ol’ solid armrest was dumped for a “lightweight” door strap peeking out from what seems like trim made out of corrugated cardboard. More pertinently, it was a door strap that was a bit out of reach if you are trying not to let the door swing open.
For a moment there was a flash of sinking helplessness as the weighty door continued its arc, drawing ever closer to the door of the car parked next to it. My head filled with a rush of the excuses to tell BMW of how I managed to chip the paint of their limited edition M4 as my heart stopped at the reality of chipping the paint of a limited edition M4.
And just when all seemed lost the door hinges locked itself in and the edge stopped in its tracks just a few inches away from what could have been the most humiliating introduction to the most special car of BMW’s stable.
Note to self, allow for an even wider berth at every parking, for my own sake. And now, back to the M4 CS.
Being a halfway house between the Competition and the track-prepped GTS, the quasi-racer M4 CS looks and feels closer to the Competition, with some of the “weight-saving” omissions of the GTS thrown in for good measure, and some extra kilowatts and newton metres squeezed out from its 3-litre turbo straight-six. 32kg lighter than the Competition, with an additional 7kW and 50Nm to play with doesn’t sound like a world of a difference, but the engineering tweaks and fine-tuning is where the CS really comes into its own.
The steering feels sharper, the car feels more connected to the road, both in ride and in its responses. It feels like it is ready to take on Bathurst, whether you like it or not. And that is the key here. Whether I like it or not. And at 7 am in the morning, well before the sun is up, on a cold, wet wintery day, my synapses would rather prefer a shot of warm caffeine to the tongue rather than the cold shock of adrenaline to the bollocks.
But no, the CS doesn’t like slow and steady, and with its wide semi-slick Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2, neither does it like to get its toes wet. As much as the CS will feed you every delicious detail of the road, it will also tell you its disdain for any conditions that are less than ideal. And on damp roads with the mercury expected to stay below the dozen, it feels squirmish, a touch unhinged, especially with 338kW egging you on. Even with the drivetrain being told to calm down in ‘Eco mode’.
I’m fully aware that a younger version of me would have taken the CS wet-weather shortcomings into his stride. He would have reasoned that compromise is part of the quasi-racer appeal, for if you want bigger highs you need to ride out the deeper troughs, and today isn’t the right day for tomorrow will be better. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and take no prisoners in life.
But the weary grizzled thoughts inside me, with a full schedule and a million other things swirling in my mind, don’t live for tomorrow. He is living in the now. And right now the CS, in these conditions, isn’t endearing itself to me very well, not for a car you had to stump up AUD190,000 for.
What did endear itself to me instead was an AUD157,000 second-generation Audi RS5 that I traded places with at the next rest stop.
Ah yes, the RS5, a performance car that has been brazenly unapologetic about its weight. Now, I wasn’t a big fan of the original RS5. It was big heavy grand tourer that wasn’t as talented as the M3 or raucous as the C63. But it had a supercar-derived gem of an engine and sublime pumped-up looks going for it. Two things which are absent on its contemptuous looking successor.
Two strikes for the successor then. Furthermore, it seems that the new RS5 doesn’t quite correct the wrongs of its predecessor. It still feels like a stomper rather than a dancer on the road and it isn’t as sharp as the M4, nevermind the keenly honed CS.
That being said, on a crummy day like this, the RS5 came into its own. Its 2.9-litre 331kW/600Nm twin-turbo V6 might lack the V8’s aural audacity or a straight-six smoothness, but it is fantastically well-endowed. Couple that to its quattro all-wheel-drive system and the RS5 fires off the line with no fuss for right foot finesse or palm-sweating drama. Just stamp that pedal and break the law before you are able to blink. Incredible.
On paper, the RS5 will hit the 100km/h mark from a standstill in 3.9 seconds, similar to the M4 CS, though it feels that the big Audi will do those numbers regardless of the sort of road it is on or tyres it has without so much as a squeal or a defiant shuffle of protest.
Sure the steering isn’t quite as sorted or chatty as what you’d have in an M4, but on soaking wet broken country roads, the CS’ semi-slicks negates that defining quality, and with that being made equal, the RS5’s ample traction and unstoppable torque deployment hands a huge advantage to the Audi.
For once on this journey, I could put the guesswork of “reading the road” at the back of my mind, pop the massage function in the front seats into ‘wave’, and carve through some canyons with utter aplomb, confident in the knowledge that its four paws have got my back. And at the end of the journey, I could carefully open the RS5 door without worrying about making an embarrassing and expensive exit, which, for the purposes of this story, is a major win.
Call me an old curmudgeon but age begets wisdom and tempers caution, and now I begin to understand why cars like the RS5 exists. As a hypothetical car to have in my garage I can see a few instances the CS will absolutely stir that coagulated black mass that is my heart better than anything else on the road. It fits the quasi-racer bill in both execution and personality, a truly exciting everyday car if by ‘everyday’ is the right sort of day.
But there are only so many track days I can indulge myself in and plenty of days where crappy skies hang overhead and a tight schedule lie ahead. For that, I can see a million more instances where the RS5 would absolutely melt my blackened heart. Instances when I can leave the finer unnecessary details of life’s imperfection to the car, and just get on with going fast everywhere.
I expected the RS5 to be a blunt tool to the M4 CS, I expected less finesse. It certainly was all that, but it was so much more. I finally get heavy luxury grand tourers like the Audi RS5. Though it is certainly a jack of all trades and never quite the master that quasi-racers are like the M4 CS, it is oftentimes better than a master of one.