14 Feb 2019

Audi RS5 Sportback 2019 first drive review

A stylish four-door performance car with plenty of grip and go
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The new Audi RS5 Sportback is a fast, efficient and refined machine for wealthy enthusiasts. 

VW’s luxury arm already offers the two-door RS5 Coupe and wagon-bodied RS4 Avant, which are now joined by the four-door, hatchback-bodied RS5 Sportback which blends some of the RS5’s style with the RS4’s practicality. 

The German automaker says this latest performance car will predominantly be bought by professional men earning more than $250,000 per year.

Undoubtedly rapid, the RS5 has a somewhat subdued character compared with alternative machines - the Audi doesn’t bring the anti-social exhaust bellow or rubber-burning tendencies of Mercedes-AMG’s C63 sedan, and it’s a more liveable proposition (particularly in poor weather) than BMW’s race-bred M3 Competition.

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Overview

Priced from $157,700 plus on-road costs, the RS5 Sportback arrives for exactly the same price as its two-door cousin, or about $5000 more than an RS4 Avant.

You get a lot of kit in the RS5, which builds on the standard A5’s already generous features list with performance bits such as 20-inch wheels wrapped in premium tyres (our test example had Continental rubber), dynamic sports suspension with adaptive dampers, oversized brake discs with red callipers, an active sports exhaust, active rear differential and more.

Key options include Matrix LED headlights ($1900), a carbon engine cover ($1200), ceramic brakes ($11,900) and carbon fibre interior trim ($1000).

Audi offers three exterior packages for the RS5, which brings black trim elements that can be replaced with black and carbon fibre pieces or matte aluminium and carbon fibre for $10,900. 

An interior RS design package ($3300) brings an Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, black leather trim with red stitching, red-trimmed seatbelts and floor mats with RS logos.

What's it like inside?

Beautifully presented on the outside, the RS5’s eye-catching proportions and crisp lines are echoed by a best-in-class interior. Audi’s ergonomics are superb - the flat-bottomed steering wheel settles comfortably in your palm and there is a wide range of adjustment for the seat and wheel. Front chairs combine generous bolsters with heating, cooling and massage functions which make them ideal for long drives and the odd backroad blast. 

Premium materials such as Alcantara, perforated leather, carbon fibre and textured metal look and feel plush, meshing beautifully with high-tech digital elements throughout the car.

Ride up front and you should be happy with a good amount of head and leg room, but bigger or taller folks could feel a little cocooned in the back. A steeply raked rooflines cuts into overhead space for backseat riders, though considerate touches such as three-zone air con with rear climate controls help you get comfortable.

A hatchback tail makes the Sportback much more practical than the coupe, giving you a larger loading aperture for a 480 litre boot that grows to 1300 litres if you fold the rear seats down.

There are plenty of toys to play with, including Audi’s excellent virtual cockpit dash and head-up display system (both of which have been reworked specifically for the RS5), a wireless charging pad for smartphones, and Audi’s remote-controlled 8.3-inch central infotainment screen with sat nav, a 360-degree camera and in-car Wi-Fi.

What's it like to drive?

While this is Audi’s first four-door RS5, the brand previously offered coupe and convertible variants of the model sold alongside its RS4 wagon.

Almost every element of the new car is undeniably better than the old model.

But the engine and gearbox might not be counted in that category.

Audi replaced a screaming, soaring naturally aspirated V8 pinched from the mid-engine R8 supercar with a twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre petrol V6.

Producing peaks of 331kW and 600Nm, the compact unit is both stronger and more efficient than its predecessor, which will please many potential customers.

But the new engine’s maximum power arrives at a diesel-rivalling 5700rpm as opposed to the old car’s much more exciting 8250rpm. The V6 sounds flat in comparison to the older model, which may be welcomed by people who don’t want to wake the neighbours (or constabulary) on cool mornings.

The boosted motor is much more efficient than the old V8, using a claimed 8.9L/100km of premium fuel, which looks more like 11L/100km in the real world.

We tested the RS5 on on its national launch in NSW. 

Driving from Canberra to Bathurst, the RS5 was quiet and comfortable on highway legs and loping country roads. Its driver assistance systems work well, the adaptive suspension irons out bumps impressively, and the general driving experience is one of confident competence.

Unlike brasher rivals, the Audi doesn’t bring a purposeful, in-your-face attitude to every drive.

You can lope along quietly, giving passengers no clue as to the beast lying beneath the surface. Some customers will appreciate that degree of discretion, while others will be drawn to more overt performance cars.

Whichever way you go, there’s no doubt the RS5 is a bonafide weapon with peerless traction (for this class of car) allowing it to reach 100km/h in 3.9 seconds before capping out at 280km/h. That’s proper quick.

Better yet, the RS5 is easy to drive at pace, instilling confidence through sure-footed handling and near-unflappable roadholding in most conditions. Sharp (if not overly feelsome) steering allows you to place the car with confidence, powerful and easily modulated brakes arrest the car with no fuss, and quattro traction helps you deploy all 331kW with a wanton stomp - no need to tiptoe around the throttle.

What's the first impression?

The RS5 Sportback makes a lot of sense, proving more practical than the Coupe and sleeker than its Avant cousin.

No, it isn’t quite as thrilling as the M3 or C63, and the boosted six under the bonnet is as flat as it is fast. 

But the RS5 ticks a lot of boxes - it’s a better everyday bet, and one that’s happy to blow away the cobwebs at a track day or Sunday morning blast.

 

2019 Audi RS5 Sportback price and specifications:

Price: From $157,700 plus on-road costs

On sale: February 2019

Engine: 2.9-litre V6 twin-turbo petrol

Power: 331kW at 5700-6700rpm

Torque: 600Nm at 1900-5000rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed auto, all-wheel-drive

Fuel use: 8.9L/100km

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