Imagine if the Bundesliga didn’t have Bayern and Formula 1 didn’t have Hamilton. Of course, that would mean a loss of top class, but it would finally bring some excitement back. What would that be like?
Like this: This story is our attempt to pretend that this total superiority doesn’t exist. After all, just like soccer Germany and the premier class of motorsport, large parts of the sports car world are under autocracy. On the throne: well, who do you think? Porsche! Their 911 is the record champion in its field, a highly concentrated product of ambition and efficiency that now controls almost all performance classes. Our trio is also within the 911’s territory – at least in terms of price. Accordingly, a Carrera was definitely in the range of possible candidates during the planning phase of this constellation. But the only question would have been how much it would win. And because the constant praise is just as boring as the relativization of defeats, the Lexus LC 500, Jaguar F-Type P450 and Audi RS 5 are allowed to stand for themselves this time – away from top-level sport, but at a similar level. That was the plan …
The Audi, however, made it clear from the start that it had more in mind than the nomination for this three-way battle would suggest, that it wanted to break away from our neatly drawn-up arc of tension through the midfield. In any case, there was no sign of a rather distanced relationship to the driving dynamics. Nothing more! Instead, he seemed motivated, fitter than ever and suddenly even harmonious. What had gotten into him since his last, oh-so-manageable performance? Has Audi Sport come back to its senses? Have the laurels gradually worn off?
Darned and gained
Let’s catch up for a moment: When the 2017 RS 5 flipped into its second generation, it kicked off a new model philosophy – a reform of aspirations that was certainly also born out of the lessons learned from its predecessor, out of necessity, so to speak. The old four-two left no stone unturned in the area of driving dynamics, gave its all-wheel drive a run for its money and stiffened up so much in curves with its roll bars that your teeth chattered on board. But despite all the bending and breaking, it was simply no match for the better-balanced competition.
So where to go with the successor? Attack it again, belly flop into the shark tank once more, get another bloody nose? Or: out of the firing line and onto the gentle track?
Instead of going from performer to gran turismo, the RS 5 became a self-proclaimed performance gran turismo: soft springs, dampers with lax rebound but relatively firm compression damping. A confused mix!
Audi opted for variant two, the escape route. The only problem was that the step was a bit half-hearted; it didn’t quite reach the other shore, so the RS 5 got stuck somewhere in the middle. Between the chairs. Instead of going from performer to Gran Turismo, it became a self-proclaimed performance Gran Turismo, which translates roughly into the same thing as a vegan bratwurst: neither fish nor meat. The suspension in particular was noticeably indecisive: soft springs, dampers with lax rebound, but relatively firm compression damping. A confused mix!
Three years later, nothing is the same anymore. According to Audi, not much has changed: Due to changes in wheel offsets, the track width per axle increased by eight millimeters, while at the same time the development of Pirelli tires continued. All other model enhancement measures have – as they say – not significantly affected the driving dynamics. So it’s a case of statement versus fact, and the RS 5 has no real explanation for its transformation.
Be that as it may: the moonboots of the early days have definitely been discarded, and instead the all-wheel-drive coupe now laces itself into a handling that corresponds just as much with the direction it has taken as with the neatly aggressive look. The strange inward bobbing that the kinematics used to indulge in is reduced to a barely perceptible minimum; the road feels real instead of like a rubber sole; and the turn-in process also pulls itself together. Instead of buckling away over the loaded side to then hang into the corner as a gulp of water, the RS 5 now virtually spirals into the corner with the turn-in torque. More traction in the chain of command, more drive in the lateral dynamics, a completely different snap – especially emotionally!
With kinematic cohesion and all-wheel traction, the RS 5 flux compensates for its meager performance of three years ago.
Only the V6 biturbo is immediately recognizable. Despite the OPF, the good 1,760 kilos still have to deal with 450 hp, 600 Nm lie on the rev ladder like a dense high-pile carpet, the flair is brittle, the propulsion is still bombastic. I’ll just say: 3.9 seconds in the sprint from zero to one hundred! That puts the RS 5 a full seven tenths ahead of the Jaguar, which generates exactly the same power, but suffers exactly where the Audi shines. And the other way around!
A quarter of a meter shorter, two-seater and rear-wheel drive, the F-Type stands for the purebred sports car. Actually. But in recent years, the earth has turned faster and further than the mills in Coventry. In other words, the connection to the established manufacturers that Jaguar has established over the past few years with a great deal of effort (and a little goodwill) is now threatening to fall away again. Especially since the latest model update, which gives the front end a stricter look, proves to be more of a cat’s paw in this respect.
However, the F-Type versions should not all be lumped together, as the level of sophistication within the model family differs greatly. On the one hand: the flatlanders with four-cylinder engines that can hardly keep the promises of the offensive design. On the other hand, it’s exactly the opposite on the high-performance plateaus: Here, the spectacle on offer is almost greater than the staging.
Half the height, full tint
The new P450 lies exactly between the extremes, halfway up, so to speak: 150 hp and 28,000 euros north of the base, but a good distance away from the practiced power madness at the 575 hp top. Sounds like a happy medium, especially since the value of the sandwich model has increased yet again. For just 300 euros more than before, there is now an official engine under the hood: eight instead of six cylinders, five instead of three liters of displacement, 450 instead of 380 hp. Yeah, baby, yeah!
Don’t misunderstand: The former V6 was no slouch either, but the driving experience is of course completely different now. Another, more atmospheric one – but also a better one? Considered on its own: definitely! If only because of the beefy instant thrust. The only problem is that the sound, the power flow, the characteristics – everything reminds you of the big V8s that used to produce a minimum of 550 hp from their combustion chambers.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
The F-Type demands differentiation. And apparently Jaguar wanted to make sure that the small V8 couldn’t hold a candle to the big one.
What I mean is that it takes a while for the popometer to readjust, until it’s understood that the somewhat lean torque output compared to what we’re used to is intentional and not the result of marten damage.
But as I said, the F-Type demands differentiation. And apparently Jaguar wanted to make sure that the small V8 wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to the big one. Or rather: outperforms it. The name “R-Dynamic” is more of an equipment ruler than a signpost, and the elegant touch with dark blue glaze and cognac leather core can be understood as a driving style builder. However, the P450 doesn’t pass for innocence from England either.
The rear-wheel-drive P450 is a real balancing act – frivolous in its cornering dynamics, complicated in its handling.
The acoustics have their wild times behind them, because the legislator has now put a stop to the cheeky exhaust flap of earlier days. However, the F-Type can’t deny itself a vulgar undertone even as a P450. The chassis distances itself surprisingly clearly from the eternal velvet paw cliché with its harsh damping note, and the smooth, direct steering is only one side of the coin. The other? It’s right opposite. In the form of a rear axle that oscillates continuously between voluptuous and drive-controlled – in the truest sense of the word.
On country roads, this permanent rear spin is great, to say the least. Simply because you don’t have to go completely over the top to feel where the music is playing. At Hockenheim, however, when the electronic ropes are completely cut and the focus shifts from entertainment to performance, the F-Type becomes a bi-ba bogeyman. Lax springs, high rolling tendencies, snappy locks, labby traction – poof, it throws its tail around behind it. Fidibum!
How to deal with it? Either add the 6,000 euro all-wheel drive system from the outset, which puts the P450 in a more restrained frame, but also restricts the everyday fun. Or: go for it and go full throttle into the challenge, which primarily lies in balancing throttle use, drift angle and your own courage.
The result of the balancing act: a lap time of just over two minutes, with which the Jag – hear, hear – even outperforms the RS 5. The former! But once again: The Audi, or rather this Audi, had more on its mind, was serious instead of putting on a good face, made short work of it, and finally the Lewis, who drove off in a relaxed manner – three seconds ahead of his own past. 1.9 on the Jag. Goodbye suspense?
The LC 500 is a melting pot of coupe philosophies, abspact body design contrasted with direct road contact, carbon fiber roofing nearly two tons of curb weight.
The Lexus certainly doesn’t get it tight. Contrary to its appearance, it does shed all diva-like qualities in the slalom and spaghetti between the cones with a lot of body tension. On the track, however, the timeline and musculature get knotted. The handling as such fits: a bit much side tilt perhaps, but apart from that the LC 500 steers smartly around corners – first with its front axle, then even with its rear axle at the exit of the bend. Only the brakes are a bitch.
Its impeccable deceleration performance is opposed by a completely distorted response. Initially, nothing happens on pedal command! Only when, as we assume, all assistants have given their okay, does the LC drop anchor. It’s the same the other way around: Instead of releasing the clamps on command, it delays on its own authority until the on-board electronics have agreed on free travel again.
Extravagance or not at all
In any case, the fast round has less to do with driving than with submitting applications on time – accompanied by a latent uncertainty as to when and to what extent they will be processed. Thus, the Lexus brakes itself out (and in), literally lags behind, although in the subjective impression it swims along easily: more charisma than the smarter Audi, more seriousness than the funkier Jag. And: more individuality than both together.
The LC 500 is a melting pot of coupe philosophies, a series-produced concept car that thrives on the attraction of a number of contrasts. Inside, joy over stylistic souvenirs of the LFA mixes with sheer hatred of the infotainment’s touchpad controls, abspact body design contrasts with direct road contact, carbon fibers roof nearly two tons of kerb weight, there’s a soft-rock chassis on one side and heavy-metallic high-rev roar on the other, and then in the midst of this future trance there really is, ufftata! a five-liter, now 464-hp, super-spontaneous, super-linearly revving V8 that they’ve paired with a sometimes more, sometimes less appropriate ten-speed automatic.
The Lexus is a pleasure vehicle according to the extravagance-or-no-principle, the black-light figure among ramp beasts, but in the totality of all capabilities it deservedly ranks third!
At the bottom end, the complexity is an advantage, because it helps the lax power delivery to jump up the revs. However, the steps from seven on are so long that the short-stroke engine can hardly get out of them under its own power. And so the harmony is gone. Because the D mode always pulls the engine into the long gears, every change of pace is accompanied by at least two gear jumps. Up, down, down, up again – like a trampoline.
Sure, the transmission works discreetly and just as promptly as the other eight-speed models. Nevertheless, the LC 500 only seems coherent in the manual program. That’s when you can tweak the naturally aspirated engine yourself, let your throttle foot sink into the throaty thrust without interruption, and let the de facto performance slide down your backside. In other words: The Lexus is a pleasure vehicle according to the extravagance-or-no-principle, the black light figure among ramp sows, in the totality of all abilities however deservedly on rank three!
And the front places also seem to be taken. Audi in front, then nothing for a long time, then Jaguar. But just before the end, there’s a bit of tension in our arc. Because the dominant RS 5 suddenly gets a flutter under braking. Literally. On the last few meters from 100 to 0, strange natural frequencies arise somewhere between the ABS control and the chassis, causing it to rattle past the 37-meter mark, but in the end it remains just as unfathomable as its surprisingly effective performance at Hockenheim.
If something hadn’t interfered with the brakes, the Audi would have thwarted our plans of a close three-way battle with a resounding victory. Nevertheless, the conclusion remains that the RS 5 in this form is a more comfortable, but hardly slower alternative to the BMW M4 and AMG C 63. Too conventional? Then off to the F-Type or – most blatantly – the Lexus. The Jag combines a V8 that is a bit sluggish by supercharger standards with a pronounced libido, while the LC 500 duels highly emotional systems with inadequacies in exercise.