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2019 Audi RS5 Sportback review | MOTOR

By Louis Cordony, 14 Feb 2019 Reviews

2019 Audi RS5 Sportback review feature

If an Audi RS5 Coupe and RS4 wagon had a baby…

This is an Audi RS5, but with a twist. That’s because it’s the Sportback version. It has four doors, or five if you count the boot.

It’s made for people who want the style of the coupe with some practicality of the RS4 wagon. Its roof is longer, for instance, so it can actually seat five people.

To squeeze in those new doors it takes on a new, slightly pregnant looking form. Its wheelbase and length are 59mm longer, mimicking the wagon on both accounts. Strangely, though, we're told it hasn't gained any flab, even though there’s no carbon-fibre roof on the options list, as it’s now too large.

Why does it exist? Some would call it a spiritual successor to the B7 RS4 sedan, letting Audi punch on again with the BMW M3 and Mercedes-AMG C63 S sedan. Sceptics, who know the Sportback accounts for 40 per cent of A5 sales, would instead say it’s a money motivated decision.

Either way, Audi’s mighty 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 still powers all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It produces the same 331kW and 600Nm as the coupe and accelerates to 100km/h in an identical 3.9 seconds.

New vs Used: RS5 v R34 GT-R V-Spec II Nur

Yes, it falls short of the previous generation RS4’s 4.2-litre V8 for emotion, but it delivers surging performance. There’s little turbocharger lag and is only challenged in top gear uphill. Everywhere else, it simply picks you up and throws you down the road in a way that would embarrass some supercars.

Wheelspin is non-existent. Even though the transfer-case can send as much as 85 per cent of snot to the rear, or as little as 30 per cent, its grounded by Continental SportContact 6 tyres that measure 275mm wide. In normal conditions the split is set at 60 per cent.

So massive are its grip levels in a straight line, it’s hard to imagine it ever letting go. Throw this thing into a corner, though, and it’ll wriggle into oversteer. It happens with a slight delay, so that there’s time to sense its sizeable mass coming around, but this also means it needs a bit of time to recompose itself.

Yet, although friendly, it’s not scalpel sharp, and especially so in the Sportback. It feels the least athletic of the trio.

Smooth inputs make its chassis, riding on hydraulically linked dampers, feel slightly inert. Its nose is reluctant to follow the first quarter turn of lock and the rear axle keeps a tenacious hold on the road. An electronically controlled locking rear differential divides power left to right, with the ability to focus all its torques on one wheel.

While we’d never thought we’d want the (optional) Dynamic steering, its infamous system that effectively quickens the ratio at certain speeds, in the new RS the Dynamic drive mode locks the ratio at 13.5:1. Compared to the standard 15.9:1 ratio, it could increase its cornering enthusiasm.

Really, though, this is a car designed to travel long distances in comfort and it does that superbly well. It stands apart from a frenetic M3 or brash C63 sedan as a gran tourer on steroids. And it’s hard to imagine how’d we would improve that formula, so well does it blend comfort and explosive acceleration. It’ll be a brilliant place to get into after a long day. 

The $3900 Technik package, with its Matrix LED headlamps and heads-up display is a worthy buy for this stuff. It also comes with a wireless charge pad. The interior also oozes enough function, class and technology to make the RS Design pack, that spruces up the front seats, steering wheel and doors with faux suede and leather for $3300, also seem unnecessary.

Philosophically, though, part of us thinks something with an RS badge, that stands for RennSport (‘motor racing’ in German), should deliver more handling precision, chassis responsiveness and engine theatre.

And even though the new turbocharged era of engine performance helps take full advantage of its Quattro grip, if we had to assess this car on its character, it feels closer to an S5 Sportback Performance rather than a racetrack mauler in a leather suit. That said, its extra doors suits this MLB Evo RS platform better than the RS5 Coupe.

If you value style, more than you do a sensuous driving experience, then perhaps this is the car for you. But what makes the RS5 Sportback good can already be found in the RS4 Avant. Something that’s cheaper, roomier and, for some supernatural reason, handles better. 

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2019 AUDI RS5 SPORTBACK SPECS:
Engine:
 2984cc V6, twin-turbo, DOHC, 32v
Drivetrain: 8-speed automatic; all-wheel drive
Power: 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1900-5500rpm
Weight: 1660kg
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Fuel consumption: 8.8L/100km (combined claimed)
Price: $167,900*
*As tested with metallic paint, 20-inch alloys in matt titanium and milled finish, RS specific inlays in carbon, Audi matrix LED headlights with darkened trim elements

Like: Grunt, style, grip, classy cabin
Dislike: Weight, feedback

Rating: 4.0 out of 5 stars