2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback review (video)

Audi is planning to expand its RS model range over the next 12 months, which suggests the market is hungry for more performance Audis. The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is one such model, coming in as the first-ever Sportback body style for the RS 5 nameplate.

The latest model is pitched in the same market segment as acclaimed models such as the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, BMW M3, and Mercedes-AMG C 63 S. However, unlike those, the Audi is more exclusive as it is the only one to showcase a swooping four-door coupe design. Buyers can go for the traditional two-door coupe layout as well.

Prices in Australia start from $157,700 for the Sportback, which, strangely, is the exact same price as the two-door. Since you’re literally getting more car for your money, why would you not go for the Sportback? Let’s take a look and see.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback – THE SPECS

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Output: 331kW@6700rpm / 600Nm@1900-5000rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive, active rear diff
Wheels: F & R: 20×9.0, 275/30
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1795kg
Power-to-weight: 5.42:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 8.9L/100km
Economy during test: 11.6L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 58L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 37.19kW:L/100km

0-60km/h: 1.87 seconds*
0-100km/h: 3.78 seconds*
0-200km/h: 13.81 seconds*
60-110km/h: 2.49 seconds*
1/8 mile: 7.81 seconds at 151.7km/h*
1/4 mile: 12.06 seconds at 189.9km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.232g
100-0km/h braking: 2.80 seconds at 34.40 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.260g
Decibel at idle (Dynamic mode): 51*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 86*
Priced from: $157,700

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback – THE PACKAGE

The RS 5 sits at the top of the range and the interior certainly reflects that. It’s a combination of luxury, precision fit and finish, and splashes of performance and sportiness. Front passengers are cradled in supportive bucket seats that feature a unique hexagonal stitching pattern, while the dash, centre console and door trims are garnished with piano black or natural oak, or optional carbon fibre (as tested here). For the driver there’s a lovely Alcantara-wrapped flat-bottom sports steering wheel and similarly-wrapped gear selector. Every area seems consistent in blending sportiness with luxury and fine detail.

In the front, passengers won’t be wanting for more headroom or legroom. There is heaps on offer. Although, you do need to bend down to get in as the car is very low to the ground, and the seats seem to be mounted quite low and close to the floor. Contrary to what this might suggest, visibility is actually good and clear. The A-pillars are not overly thick and obtrusive like in some vehicles, and the dash is positioned low like the rest of the cabin orientation. As standard the RS 5 Sportback comes with massage functions for the front seats for added comfort. These are awesome, offering three different settings to sooth your drive.

Also standard, surprisingly, is a high-end Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system with 19 speakers. We were expecting this to be an option but after checking the spec sheet, we see it is standard. Why did we think it was optional? Because it blows your mind. The sound quality and clarity is the best in the business. And thanks to the standard 8.3-inch media screen which comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, along with Google services and digital radio, you can enjoy your favourite music or browse through a variety of streaming options.

There are a lot of options to choose from, as per typical Audi. However, we don’t think they are unreasonable; most of them are specialist options. For example, you can go for the carbon fibre exterior package ($10,900) that introduces carbon fibre to the front spoiler, side mirrors and rear diffuser, among other areas. There’s also ceramic brakes ($11,900), and additional carbon fibre for the interior ($1000). As you can see these aren’t exactly necessities, but they’re great for those who want something more exclusive.

One option we think is definitely worth ticking is the matrix LED headlights ($1900). You may have seen adaptive-style headlights in action before. Essentially, the beams constantly adjust and shape around objects, such as moving cars and lit-up structures. But, chances are, they won’t be anywhere near as good as these. The way the Audi matrix beams warp and trace moving cars is insane. And each individual section doesn’t flicker on and off. Instead, the beam constantly stretches and contracts as needed.

We’ve driven a number of luxury and high-end cars before presenting similar technologies, and we can honestly say these are the best headlights we’ve ever experienced. In the country where nighttime is almost completely black, these headlights will spray a reassuring beam right out to the edges of the road so you can keep an eye on potential wildlife, or startle them away. The view of the surrounding terrain and road direction is also made amazingly clear.

As for seating space and comfort in the back, the Sportback is pretty much like a sedan. The roofline does slope down, but due to the low-mounted seat, it doesn’t seem to hamper the headroom. Well, not to the point where it shrinks beyond what’s offered in other sedans in this class. Passengers are treated to the same level of precision build quality as those in the front, and there are climate vents and temp controls, and power sockets to keep everyone happy.

Boot space is rated at 480L, which is the same as what’s offered in the M3 sedan and more than what’s available in the Mercedes-AMG C 63 sedan (435L). Unlike those though the Sportback’s hatchback lid opens wide to provide easy access to the boot so you can load in large objects with ease. There’s also side pockets, straps and tie-down points for securing smaller items.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback – THE DRIVE

Let’s cut straight to the point; the 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 in here is an absolute masterpiece. Porsche uses it for the Cayenne S and new Macan Turbo. And if it’s good enough for Porsche then it’s going to be good enough to push the class benchmarks here. Peak power arrives at 6700rpm, where you’ll experience what feels like much more than the 331kW rating. But perhaps more impressive, peak torque, all 600Nm of it, is available from just 1900rpm and held until 5000rpm.

Out on the road the engine is ridiculously versatile and flexible. You don’t need to constantly change down gears to produce meaningful and very progressive acceleration. Instead, simply lean on the throttle and the RS 5 will overtake with no struggle at all. In fact, leaving it in D and with the driving mode set to Comfort, the car proves it is a brilliant grand touring machine. And an unassuming one. In Comfort mode the exhaust is quiet and refined, with only a smooth and bassy hum emitted.

In this mode the suspension is very compliant and comfortable, which is rare for a hardcore model. In that sense the RS 5 Sportback makes for a wonderful daily driver, particularly in Australia. Some of our roads are rather shabby but the RS 5 soaks up these conditions better than any key rival in our opinion. And if the mood strikes, you can always switch it over to Dynamic mode for a more responsive and sharper feel.

In Dynamic mode the suspension is noticeably firmer and there is less wheel travel over undulations and dips. This means the surface of the road is more directly conveyed to the passengers. That’s a good thing if you’re looking for a sporty driving character. The turn-in is poised, with a moderate steering weight providing a decent amount of feedback.

Further around the turn, you can feel some minor body roll, especially compared with some of the serious-er rivals. You can use the weight shift to your advantage though as you can pitch the car in and carry the momentum around the corner, and then use the low-end torque to catapult your exit.

Audi’s clever quattro all-wheel drive system is always at the ready. You can apply loads of power right at the apex or even just before it. And if you have the stability control in sport mode (a single press of the off button), you can throw the body in and the tail will begin to sail sideways ever-so-slightly. The Sportback comes with an active rear differential too which sends power to the outside wheel (or whichever wheel has the most traction), further aiding cornering agility and enjoyment.

The RS 5 doesn’t feel as hard-edged as some rivals. You can take that as a good thing or a bad thing. There is a minor tendency to understeer if you simply barrel into a corner with some power on. But if you learn a bit about how the car behaves, this is easily avoided. Then again, a tiny bit of predictable understeer could be just what the doctor ordered, especially if you’re not fond of the idea of wheel slip. This handling behaviour will also be favourable to most when it comes to wet or slippery conditions.

For us, we do enjoy the antics associated with rear-wheel drive and so we do find more enjoyment in some of the rivals when it comes to high tempo driving. However, point-to-point performance, particularly in country or mountainous conditions, there is no doubt the RS 5 would be quicker and safer in the hands of a wider variety of drivers.

What really gets our adrenalin going is the straight-line performance. Despite weighing in at 1795kg (tare), the acceleration is unbelievable. You’d swear you’re in a supercar. We clocked a best 0-100km/h in just 3.78 seconds, which betters Audi’s claim of 3.9 seconds. We also clocked a quarter mile run in just 12.06 seconds, which is incredible for a luxury five-seater – we’re sure with a few more runs it could hit the 11-second zone, too. These figures are the lowest we’ve ever seen for this specific vehicle class.

We know it’s not really relevant for Australian roads, but kick-down from around 100km/h to 180km/h is monumental as well. The engine is totally relentless, pulling savagely from any speed with no consideration for the laws of physics. And it sounds awesome doing so.

We reckon the engine sounds a little bit like a Lamborghini/Audi V10. It has that distinct sing to it. Especially right up high in the rev range, and if you happen to miss the shift point and bounce off the rev limiter – this is the stuff that sends goosebumps tingling down your spine. From the exhaust there is the trademark pop and splutter on the overrun, and a bellowing fart during upshifts. But the sound from the actual engine and intake is even more exciting we think. The engine really screams and roars, like some kind of organic machine. Check out our acceleration video below to see for yourself.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback – THE VIDEO

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback – THE VERDICT

Aside from the phenomenal straight-line performance that puts it way ahead of all rivals, the latest RS 5 Sportback is also an excellent luxury car and grand tourer. The highly-adjustable driving modes and adaptive suspension provide a wide breadth of versatility. And practicality is there thanks to four doors and a large-opening hatch tailgate.

We don’t think it is as quick as some rivals in terms of outright lap times, primarily because it’s a tad heavy and the suspension doesn’t seem to be set up for that purpose. However, this is a great point of difference compared with such rivals. This is a car for the refined driver who enjoys luxury and driving technology, and unassuming yet mesmerising power and speed.

PROS:
– Seriously quick. Like, supercar quick
– Amazing matrix headlights (optional)
– Ride comfort
– Interior tech and clean design
– Sportback adds practicality over coupe
– Quattro all-wheel drive system

CONS:
– Not quite as taut and toned as key rivals; understeer near the limit
– Conservative rear end design doesn’t match aggressive front end?

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.