First Drive: Audi’s RS5 Sportback – the performance car for all occasions?
What is it?
In case you hadn’t noticed, Audi’s RS5 has been on a little hiatus of late. New WLTP efficiency tests meant that Audi had to withdraw its performance saloon and more practical Sportback version (which we’re testing here) to ensure that they meet the latest emissions regulations. In fact, this model is a short-term thing; it comes in Audi Sport trim and is limited to just 250 models in the UK, before a refreshed car arrives next year with a petrol particulate filter to help drive emissions even lower.
This is the first time we’ve been able to get behind the wheel of the more five-door Sportback however, so we’ve headed out to see what it’s like…
As we mentioned, some of the biggest changes have been simply to make the RS5 Sportback compliant with the latest emissions rules. However, that doesn’t stop it from being a proper performance-led Audi; there’s still a hugely powerful V6 under the bonnet, quattro all-wheel drive and bigger brakes too.
As this is an exclusive trim level too, there’s plenty of equipment on board as well as some more dynamic styling touches. You could say it’s still a proper sporting Audi at heart, then.
What’s under the bonnet?
The RS5’s beating heart is a 2.9-litre turbocharged V6 engine which kicks out 444bhp and 600Nm of torque. Power is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and torque is split 60:40 with a bias towards the rears. The RS5 also benefits from multi-link suspension.
The race from 0 to 60mph is brisk at just 3.8 seconds, and it has to be electronically held back at its top speed of 155mph. Audi claims that it’ll return up to 30.1mpg while CO2 emissions – despite the latest tests – are still relatively high at 206g/km. Though many people mourned the loss of the V8 found in the old RS5, you can’t deny the punchiness of this V6 unit.
What’s it like to drive?
There’s a word which accurately sums up the RS5 Sportback – accomplished. That V6 engine under the bonnet is, as we mentioned, punchy and gets the Audi up to speed in a savage way. It’s not accompanied by the most invigorating of exhaust notes, but it sounds sporty enough. It just can’t match rivals such as, say, the Mercedes-AMG C63S for sheer aural theatre.
The chassis doesn’t push you to try and exploit it – there’s plenty of grip, but not a huge amount of adjustability. The steering is lacking in any feel, though it’s accurate and confidence inspiring. The around-town ride is on the firm side – this is a proper sports car after all – but gains composure at higher speeds. For long-distance motorway jaunts, this is the car you’d want the keys to.
How does it look?
We’d argue that in Sportback layout the RS5 looks even better than the Coupe. It remains a sleek design and one which attracts quite a lot of attention to itself. It’s purposeful and quite aggressive, with the black contrast trim pieces helping to give it even more presence.
At the rear you’ll find an imposing set of exhaust pipes, and on our test car a set of blacked-out badges. A touch too far? Perhaps. But it’s a feature which does help to showcase the RS5 as no ordinary A5.
What’s it like inside?
The cabin of the RS5 reflects the premium image given off by the exterior, with plenty of high-quality materials used throughout. The sport seats on our test car were wonderfully supportive, and there’s plenty of adjustment to ensure that you can easily find a good driving position.
But the biggest benefit here is the added practicality you get with the Sportbrake layout. Access to the rear seats is, of course, made easier with the addition of an extra set of doors while the car’s 480 litres seats-up boot space is more than enough for most occasions. It can be extended up to 980 litres by folding the rear seats flat too, and this gives you a large, level loading area.
What’s the spec like?
One area where the RS5 Sportback is in need of a more comprehensive update is its infotainment setup. It’s not that it isn’t intuitive to use, it just lacks the definition and clarity that we’ve come to expect from premium manufacturers. This is something that is likely to be rectified when the facelifted RS5 arrives next year – we’ve already seen Audi’s new screen setup in the latest A4, and it’ll breathe a lot of new life into the Sportback.
Elsewhere, everything has a solid and robust feeling to it. The heating and ventilation controls are positioned exactly as you’d want, while the metal finishers help to liven the area up a bit too.
The Audi RS5 Sportback is a competent, well-mannered sports car with a healthy dose of practicality added for good measure. Yes, the interior lacks a little of the cutting-edge flair that we’re coming to expect from Audi models, but this is likely to be remedied by an update next year. Likewise the V6 under the bonnet may not be the most characterful, but it’s effective.
And that, in a way, sums up the RS5 – it’s not bristling with charisma, but it’s razor-sharp in its approach to getting your down the road very quickly, with the minimal amount of fuss.