2019 Audi RS5 Sportback review

Like the idea of a hot Audi, but find wagons frumpy and need more than two doors? The RS5 Sportback might be up your alley

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WHAT IS IT?

Audi’s mid-size performance flagship, packaged in a svelte yet practical five-door body style.

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WHY ARE WE DRIVING IT?

We’re well familiar with the coupe variant of the RS5, and the wagon version (RS4 Avant), so we were keen to see how the dynamic abilities married with the specific packaging attributes of the Sportback body.

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MAIN RIVALS

Mercedes-AMG C63S Estate, or, if you can live without the hatch and folding seats, Alfa Romeo Giulia QV or BMW M3.

THE WHEELS REVIEW

WHEN is a sedan not a sedan? Why, when it’s a Sportback, of course. Seemingly specifically conceived to send car styling purists into paroxysms of rage or confusion, the odd combo of swept coupe roofline, two rear doors and a hatchback-esque tailgate at first seems at odds with the mission statement of the RS line-up.

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Take a closer look, though, and the truth reveals itself – it’s just a different take on the sedan. Five seats? Yep. Decent cargo capacity? With 480 litres seats-up and 1300 litres down, you bet. Take the other two cars on the same RS plane – the three-door RS5 coupe and the hound-tastic RS4 Avant – and it’s a tidy box set.

Given its lineage, you won’t be surprised to learn that the RS5 Sportback shares its 2.9-litre hot-vee twin-turbo six with the others, along with its centre diff-based AWD set-up and eight-speed automatic transmission.

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The sportified interior treatment comes across, as well – though the B9-spec centre console and multimedia set-up looks decidedly last season with the advent of cars like the A7.

Thank goodness for the digital dash, then… Although the multiple screen modes can feel a bit complex and unwieldy in use, the included heads-up display helps to simplify things.

With all 331kW and 600Nm present and correct – and just a 40kg increase in weight over the 1655kg Coupe – you won’t be surprised that performance levels are similar. The $157,700 RS5 is more of a delicate wallflower when compared to the ten-pound sledge of something like a Mercedes-AMG C63S, but sometimes it’s the quiet ones that need watching.

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With a fat, plentiful and linear wedge of torque available from just off tick-over, the RS5 has no trouble building serious pace. No siree. It’ll fire through to 100km/h from rest in a claimed 3.9sec, and onto 250km/h if you live Up There. Whang it in its sportiest mode and its deep, throaty warble is a (slightly too muted) pleasure to invoke.

The adaptive steering is weighty – perhaps a little artificially so – but it’s easy to direct at pace. Audi’s diagonally linked adaptive dampers work well with steel springs and a stiff roll structure to adhere the RS5 to rippled terrain, though the road noise from the stock ContiSports is a bit too intrusive on NSW’s coarse-chip stuff. The standard steel brakes are bonza, and there are expensive carbon-ceramics should you have the need for them.

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 Audi E-Tron at Pikes Peak

Back-seat room is good leg-wise, but headroom can be marginal. However the size and flexibility of the luggage compartment is a great addition to this mile-munching, softly-spoken backroad blaster. 

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THE WHEELS VERDICT

Don’t expect Mercedes-AMG levels of engine explosiveness, or the style of edgy, highly interactive rear-drive thrills delivered by Alfa’s Giulia QV. The RS5 Sportback is a more measured offering, delivering its formidable pace with greater subtlety, a less shouty engine note, and more overall day-to-day liveability and comfort.

Plus: Relentless pace teamed with smooth composure; all-weather traction; room for five and ample luggage.
Minus: V6 hides light under bushel; coarse-chip noise; lacks the manic charisma of rivals from Mercedes-AMG and Alfa Romeo.

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SPECS

Model: 2018 Audi RS5 Sportback
Engine:2894cc V6, dohc, 24v, twin turbo
Power: 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm
Torque: 600Nm @ 1900-5000rpm
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Weight: 1695kg
0-100km/h: 3.9sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 8.8L/100km
Price: $157,700
On sale: Now

 

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