- I tested a $US98,000 Audi RS 5 Sportback sedan, a car that combines stunning performance with four-door versatility.
- The RS 5 now has a twin-turbo V6 in place of the old RS 5’s V8, but the new motor makes just five fewer horsepower than the old engine.
- The RS 5 Sportback is jammed with tech.
- The Audi RS 5 Sportback, as tested, wasn’t cheap – but it was stunning.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When it comes to high-performance luxury sedans, we’re spoiled. BMW’s M-Sport cars are fantastic, as are Mercedes’ AMG machines. To complete the German triad, we have Audi’s RS lineup.
These days, owning a car that can serve up blistering speed and breathtaking handling while being capable of making weekend runs to the grocery store is something of a given. The compromises of old are long gone. You can have a sports car that, for many practical purposes, is a family sedan. That Jekyll-and-Hyde vibe has been perfected.
True, if you want utterly proper performance, a snug-two door should be more your thing. But sometimes you just want a decent trunk and a back seat. And now you can have the best of both worlds. (You can also choose the RS 5 Coupé, if four doors horrify you in any way.)
We first saw the RS 5 Sportback at the 2018 New York auto show. I was personally psyched to take it for a spin, given that the more the US auto market moves away from sedans, the more I like the darn things. About a year later, I got my wish, when Audi flipped us the keys for a few days in the New York-New Jersey area.
Here’s what I thought.
Behold, the glorious 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback, in a show-stopping “Sonoma Green Metallic” paint job. Before many thousands of dollars in options, the car costs $US74,200. As tested, it was $US97,815.
A few years back, I tested the coupé version of the RS 5. That car was from the previous iteration of the RS 5 lineage and packed a 450-horsepower V8 under the hood.
The RS 5 Sportback is a really, really, really nice-looking car. Smoothly muscled, with curves in all the right places, and a pleasantly long, low stance.
The RS sits a bit lower to the ground than the Audi S5. The car was also equipped with a $US5,500 black carbon-fibre package that included …
An aggressive front blade to pair with the four-rings badge, the Quattro all-wheel-drive callout, the blacked-out grille, and …
the LED daytime running lights.
Even the side-view mirrors get the carbon-fibre treatment.
There’s a carbon-fibre decklid spoiler …
And a rear diffuser. Note the RS 5 badge, which …
is echoed around the car, in rather subtle ways.
A $US5,800 “Dynamic Plus” package adds spectacular ceramic front brakes and grey calipers. The 20-inch wheels are forged alloy and “mill-cut.” Price? $US2,500.
The Audi RS 5 Sportback is a fastback sedan, with a sloping rear roofline that forms the hatchback.
Pop the hatch and …
about 12 cubic feet of useful cargo space is revealed. That’s plenty for a weekend getaway, or for grocery-store runs.
The V8 I richly enjoyed in the RS 5 coupé has been replaced in the revamped version of that car and in my RS 5 Sportback by a 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6, making 444 horsepower with 443-pound-feet of torque. (C’mon, Audi engineers, couldn’t you make it an even 444/444?)
Fuel economy is respectable if not remarkable: 17 mpg city/26 highway/20 combined, running premium fuel.
The eight-speed transmission is fantastic, corralling the RS 5’s power and torque and directing it to the masterful AWD system. My favourite drive mode was the individual, which allowed me to take some stiffness out of the suspension without dialling back the throttle response. The paddle shifters are great for manual-esque driving, but overall I favoured the car shifting its own gears.
Time to step inside.
Audi interiors are usually minimalist, but the “Black with Rock Grey Stitching” in the RS 5 combines purposefulness with sporty, in a good way. The seats are heated up front …
and the rears still benefit from the lovely Nappa leather interior package, a $US1,150 extra. They also have their own climate controls.
The seats get some RS branding …
along with a cool honeycomb pattern.
You’re gonna need to like carbon fibre to own this car.
I usually like spending time in Audis, but the RS 5’s interior took matters to a new level.
The moonroof brightens up the black cockpit.
The perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel feels very good in the hands. But most folks will zero in on the Audi MMI/Virtual Cockpit instrument panel, which can be customised to show the entire map from the navigation system.
Virtual Cockpit can also display more driving-focused info, such as the front-and-center tachometer when the RS 5 is in dynamic mode
The flat-bottom wheel gets a bit more RS branding.
The center-mounted infotainment screen runs Audi’s exceptional MMI system, a two-time Business Insider Infotainment System of the Year award winner.
This cluster of buttons and the puck-like rotary controller manage the system. GPS navigation is flawless, Bluetooth pairing is a snap, and there are several USB/AUX ports for device plug-in and interfacing.
Beyond the MMI/Virtual Cockpit system, the RS 5’s interfaces for climate, driving modes, and so on are a model of simplicity.
The head-up display is quite useful for displaying vital info while keeping eyes on the road.
AND you get a nice RS-branded key fob …
with basic functions (no remote start, sadly).
So is the Audi RS5 Sportback worth the price premium — and is it as good as the coupé?
Oh heck yes it is! Nature has been on my side (so to speak) both times I’ve tested an RS 5. The coupé saw me making a run from Manhattan to upstate New York and back in a downpour, while the RS 5 Sportback also squired me through a heavy rain, between New Jersey and New York City.
The all-wheel-drive setup – Audi’s legendary Quattro system – fills you with confidence when the conditions are terrible. This is a fast and powerful machine, this Audi RS 5, capable of blasting to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds. But unlike, say, a rear-wheel-drive-only, high-performance sedan, you don’t have to sweat the stability on slick roads. For my money, the RS 5 is just about the best high-grade car you can buy for miserable weather.
On other fronts, it’s simply capable. BMW’s M-Sport cars are wilder, Mercedes AMGs have more bling. (And as for Porsches, corporate siblings of Audi, the motor in the Panamera S also sits under the hood of the RS 5.)
My tester came with almost $US4,000 worth of drive-assist features, and I’m proud to say that I used almost none of them, apart from the top-view camera. (The Traffic Jam assist feature of the adaptive cruise control is useful, but I was in a traffic jam only briefly.)
The bottom line on the Audi RS 5 is that it’s absolutely crammed with tech while serving as a spectacularly versatile daily driver that can be instantly transformed into a near-race car. It has, in a word, range. The turbo V6 provides lagless power, abundantly spread through the RS 5’s gearing; ask for some pop, and the car is happy to deliver. The steering is crisp, and the suspension can be set for severe tightness, enhancing feedback. You’d be both dragster quick in a straight line and agile around corners in this thing.
Plus, the Sonoma Green Metallic paint job is GOR-JEE-US!I couldn’t take my eyes off it. And it received numerous envying stares during my testing adventures.
At nearly $US100,000, the 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback sure ain’t cheap. But in the realm of serious performance and luxury, it’s a winner. I quickly forgot about the old RS 5. However, I do now want to get my hands on the coupé, for a proper updating of impressions. Stay tuned!
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.