Car reviews - Audi - A5 - RS5 Sportback
Razor-sharp handling, buttery-smooth V6 engine and eight-speed auto, compliant ride, everyday usability, clean interior, Virtual Cockpit
Room for improvement
Exhaust could be louder, straight-line performance can’t quite match C63 S, driving dynamics may be too ‘safe’ for some
Audi beautifully blends performance-car dynamics and everyday usability with RS5 Sportback
14 Feb 2019
THE Audi A5 Sportback first went on sale in Australia in 2010, however, the Four Rings brand has never before offered the five-door body style in full-fat RS5 guise – until now.
Joining the RS4 Avant wagon and RS5 Coupe, the RS5 Sportback has been tipped by Audi Australia to be the second-best selling Audi Sport variant behind the RS3 small car, taking the mantle from the RS4.
Blending the five-seat practicality of the Avant with the sporty styling of the coupe, the RS5 fills the void left by the sedan that has not been offered in the last two generations of RS4.
Does the RS5 Sportback have what it takes to be the second-most popular model in the Audi Sport line-up?
The RS5 Sportback has been brought into the Australian market for buyers who want the space that the RS4 Avant provides, but with the sporty coupe-like styling of the RS5 coupe.
Mechanically speaking, all three models are largely the same, with the body style and exterior fascias the biggest difference.
All three versions share the same powertrain, a Porsche-derived 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 punching out 331kW from 5700-6700rpm and 600Nm from 1900-5000rpm.
Our drive consisted of a trip from Orange in country New South Wales to Canberra, with sweeping back country roads and highways making up the majority of the journey, with some country towns in between.
Over the course of our journey, we found the RS5’s V6 donk to be particularly user-friendly, feeling just at home in low-speed traffic as at high vehicle and engine speeds.
The engine has a beautifully smooth character – when driven hard, it accelerates briskly but smoothly, with all 600Nm felt most of the way through the rev range.
Fans of pure performance may be disappointed that the Audi V6 lacks the savage and emotional nature of, say, the 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 in the Mercedes-AMG C63 S, as it does not feel particularly wild, and the exhaust note could be more raucous in sport mode.
However, the V6 is a great double-edged sword – it is just as adept at a school pick-up as it is going flat-out in the twisty stuff.
Power is sent to all four corners through an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission, which is so good it makes you question the need for a dual-clutch unit.
Gear changes are lightning fast and smooth to boot, and like the engine, the transmission is able to seamlessly and intuitively switch between sporty and daily-driving characteristics.
During our drive, we recorded an average fuel consumption figure of 9.0 litres per 100km – only 0.1L off the official 8.9L/100km figure.
To get so close to the stated figure is pretty rare in real-world driving. Granted, we had a lot of straight highway kilometres along the way, but it is impressive nonetheless.
Getting the car out on the open road, we were pleased with the assured feeling of poise and grip offered by the RS5, with the all-wheel-drive system and quattro sport differential ensuring power is delivered strongly whether coming hard out of a corner or in a straight line.
Steering is well-weighted and beautifully direct, making you feel the RS5 can turn on a dime.
At no point did the RS5 feel like coming unstuck – a trait that we loved as it allows the car to be driven by owners of all different experience levels, but one that might not be preferred by those who like their performance car to offer some wheel slip and hints of oversteer.
When buying a performance car, usually the owner will have to sacrifice ride comfort due to stiffer suspension settings and larger alloy wheels.
One of our favourite aspects of the RS5 Sportback is it is an entirely reasonable daily driving proposition, with a ride set-up that in comfort mode is supple, pliant and quiet and combines with the less sensitive throttle calibration for a very easy and comfortable driving experience – something that cannot always be said of its competitors.
What’s more, in comfort mode the cabin is pleasantly quiet, with a subdued engine note and minimal tyre roar and road noise.
Speaking of the cabin, like many Audi models, the RS5 Sportback’s interior is a wonderful mix of premium materials, ergonomic touchpoints and clean lines.
The perforated leather RS steering wheel feels great in the hands and combines with comfortable Nappa leather RS front seats and a colour head-up display for a great driving position.
While many manufacturers have now adopted a digital instrument cluster, Audi’s virtual cockpit still remains one of the best in the business, with a high degree of customisation and a wide array of readouts available to the driver.
The Audi multimedia interface is one of the easiest to use, with its rotary dial and surrounding shortcut buttons making for foolproof usability.
Obviously, the main difference between the Sportback and coupe is the more practical second row of seats, and a quick sit in the back showed us the Sportback offers ample legroom, while headroom is only adequate for adult passengers due to its gradually sloping roofline.
Boot space is ample at 480 litres – up 15L over the Coupe – and extends to 1300L with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seats down. An electric tailgate with kick-opening function also helps day-to-day usability.
We came away from our drive in the RS5 Sportback thoroughly impressed at its ability to perform as both a weekend weapon and everyday proposition, with a potent mix of performance, dynamics, and usability.
Personal preference dictates we would still have the RS4 Avant (who doesn’t love a hot wagon?), but Audi’s prediction of the RS5 Sportback overtaking it in sales comes as no surprise, as it is a supremely capable and stylish vehicle.
Model release date: 14 February 2019
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