PORT SHEPSTONE – Audi South Africa threw a family party at the private Dezzi drifting track near here to welcome a fourth member to the current RS family of high-performance cars to South Africa.And more of the exclusive clan are to migrate here soon...This week’s newcomer was the stunning four-seater RS 5 Cabriolet, another super-high performance muscle car from Quattro GmbH in Neckarshulm, Germany, designed to challenge BMW M cars and Mercedes AMG’s sedans, wagons, cabrios and coupes.LIMITED NUMBERSThe Audi subsidiary specialises in the design, testing and production of specialist high-performance Audis, among them RS models 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, the RS Q3 (Audi’s first high-performance SUV that’s due in South Africa in January 2014 along with the RS 7 Sportback) and the king of the kind, the now almost iconic V10 R8.Image galleryRS cars - the abbrev. comes from the German words RennSport (racing sport) - are produced in limited numbers for a limited time while also pioneering Audi's latest and most advanced technology and engineering. The trade calls them "halo vehicles". They’re pricey but, sources say, hold excellent re-sale values.The first RS to leave rubber on South African roads was the RS Avant way back in 1994 that put a five-cylinder Porsche engine into a station-wagon body – a bizarre combination back then. Only 25 were sold here. The rest, as they say, is history and until today four models (apart from the new RS 5 Convertible) were available in SA:Audi RS 4 Avant - R893 000Audi RS 5 Coupe - R926 000Audi TT RS Coupe: -R748 000Audi TT RS Roadster - R783 500The new car, sister to the RS 5 Coupe with which is shares an Audi A5 heritage, takes the number to five (co-incidentally!), the most yet at one time, and is priced at R986 000, including taxes and a five-year or 100 000km Audi Freeway Plan.VICIOUSLY CURVING HILLSIDEThe launch venue, overlooking the Indian Ocean outside Port Shepstone on the KZN coast south of Durban, was ideal to demonstrate the car’s handling prowess, if not its top speed of 250km/h (280 if the limiter is disabled, the buyer’s choice). It started life as a dirt runway for a family business which produces heavy-duty earth-moving equipment for the African market.The runway was eventually tarred and the family, heavily motorsport orientated, saw the potential for testing its collection of high-performance cars so added a steep and viciously curving hillside drifting track and turnaround at one end and a flat but short and twisty racetrack with a second turnaround at the other.The result today is a private drivers’ playground with a pits lane and parking for two planes; we made much of each for the RS 5 Convertible’s launch demo – with a wider selection of RS models in attendance for a thrilling series of comparison runs by a small group of motoring writers.Sometimes it’s just so worthwhile to get up at 4am, take two flights to cover nearly 2000km (and back again in the afternoon) and have serious social time with some of the most awesome automotive products on the planet where the only limitations are your driving skill!SEVEN-SPEED S-TRONICAudi describes the Audi RS 5 Cabriolet as “a scintillating combination of power and elegance, a four-seat convertible that combines a distinctly sporty character with the exhilaration of open-top driving”. The cabrio’s V8 FSI engine shared by the RS 5 Coupé and RS 4 Avant develops 331kW/430Nm (8250rpm and from 4000-6000rpm) from its almost 4.2 litres, accelerating the car, Audi says, to 100km/h in 4.9sec through its seven-speed S- tronic gearbox (full auto, sequential stick or steering-wheel paddles) while sucking the tar with permanent all-wheel drive.Maximum revs are limited to 8500 and a sport suspension set-up with ‘dynamic ride control’ helps to keep things together – the drifting circuit is a series of steep ascents/descents over blind rises and through equally blind and tight curves.The eight-cylinder unit has a claimed combined fuel consumption of 10.7 litres/100km and combined CO2 emissions of 249g/km, helped by a long top gear when cruising. Audi’s data sheet tells us that the car is 4.649m long, 1.86m wide and 1.38m high with a 2.751m wheelbase. The shell is more classy than flashy with a matt aluminium look around the grille and honeycomb grille containing an RS 5 logo. The wedge-shaped xenon headlights have waved lower edges and the diode strips as daytime running lights.ELLIPTICAL EXHAUSTSThe windscreen, window channels and the soft-top box cover - as on all current Audi convertibles, are anodised aluminium; the door mirror housings matt aluminium. The wide shoulders and flared wheel-arches house fat rubber and carbon-fibre reinforced ceramic brake discs are an option.The tail has large, elliptical exhausts and their orchestral production, punctuated by automatic throttle blips on down changes, makes mock of green ideas of producing “exciting” exhaust noise through a car’s audio system. The soft top is, of course, power-operated – the cloth with its thick insulation is lighter than the folding steel roofs offered by competitors. It opens, Audi says, in 15sec and closes in 17sec, you can play with it at up to 50km/h and when folded takes up only 60 litres of the boot’s 380 litres of luggage space – “best in class”, says Neckarshulm.Though the shells of the cabrio and coupe share much with the A5, extra crash-protection muscle has been inserted. Form-hardened steels are used for the cabin and reinforced struts and other components make up for the lack of a steel (or aluminium) roof.PRE-TENSIONED ROLLOVER BARSSteel reinforcing tubes live in the A pillars and diagonal struts run from the sills to the sub-frames. The result on the ride is a total lack of twist or shake.An aluminium frame between the cabin and boot houses pre-tensioned springs that will instantly erect aluminium supports behind the rear head-restraints if an imminent rollover is detected and in the event of a side impact head/thorax side air bags are fitted in the seats; air bags will help to protect the driver and front passenger in a head-on.The cabin is hugely equipped with info read-outs and dials and the latest in audio and satnav equipment. The power-adjustable sports seats and their bolsters (with four-way lumbar support) are covered in perforated leather and the flat-bottom sports steering-wheel carries shift paddles. The driver information system can show an RS-specific menu, included on which are a lap timer and an oil temperature gauge. The already mentioned ‘MMI navigation plus’ comes with a high-end media control centre with hard drive, DVD player and 18cm colour monitor with 3D graphics. A Bluetooth cellphone connection with Audi Connect services is available to connect the car to the internet and can handle connections from the driver and his/her passengers. The driver can also call up customized online services from Audi Connect ranging from navigation-assisting Google Earth and Google Maps Street View to point-of-interest.Read - and see - more about the Audi RS 5....and a little more on the upcoming Audi RS 7 Sportback and RS Q3...Here’s what Audi SA has to say about the RS 7 Sportback (video) and RS Q3 (gallery), which will take the RS family to seven in South Africa (they’re Audi’s words)...The Audi RS 7 Sportback represents a beautifully athletic design, innovative technology and impressive sportiness. Its strong heart is the twin-turbo V8 which displaces 3993cc and develops awesome power, with 412kW available from 5700 to 6700rpm. A constant 700Nm of torque is available from 1750-5500rpm.The sprint to 100km/h takes just 3.9sec and the speed governor can be deactivated upon customer request to take top speed up to 305km (from the usual limited 250km/h). Despite this superior performance, the Audi RS 7 Sportback consumes on average 9.8 litres/100km due to the standard start-stop system, thermal management and innovative cylinder-on-demand technology.EVERYDAY PRACTICALITYThe Audi RS Q3 will be the first performance model introduced in the premium A-SUV segment. It combines outstanding everyday practicality with dynamic driving performance powered by the three-times “International Engine of the Year” 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine which produces 228kW/420Nm.It takes 5.5sec 100km/h and has an average fuel consumption of 8.8 litres/100km.