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Audi RS5 Sportback 2019 review

Does the RS 5 Sportback do the RS formula best?
EXPERT RATING
7.9
First there was RS 5 Coupe, then came RS 4 Avant. Now we have RS 5 Sportback, which could be the best of them all.

If you think about it, Audi’s high performance machinery tends to buck bodystyle convention.

Arguably the coolest cars in the lineup are station wagons - a bodystyle seemingly destined for extinction with the Gremlin-like multiplication of SUVs. Go on, argue against the je ne sais quoi of the RS 4 and RS 6.

Yes, the R8 at the very top of the tree is the ideal layout for performance, but the previous RS 5 was the brand’s first front-engined proper hi-po coupe in 2010, and the Ur-Quattro that started it all was a three door liftback.

On the other hand, the German competition from BMW and Mercedes built their performance pedigrees on conventional coupes and sedans, a lot like the US and Australia.

These days the other premium brands will make you a very fast mid-sizer in most shapes, but not a liftback.

I’m yet to see the word ‘liftback’ appear on any car nut’s Christmas list, but Audi has now lived up to its convention-bucking reputation, with the five-door RS 5 Sportback continuing the tradition started by the RS 7 Sportback and sitting alongside the RS 5 Coupe and RS 4 Avant mechanical twins.

We were among the first to drive the closest thing (on paper) to the original Quattro at its Australian launch this month. We’re already big fans of the RS 5 Coupe and RS 4 Avant, so expectations were high.  

Audi RS5 2019: Sportback
Safety rating
Engine Type
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded
Fuel Efficiency8.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$157,700

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

If you’ve ever found yourself perusing Audi’s mid-size RS line-up and been disappointed by the lack of back doors in anything without a wagon body, the RS 5 Sportback is the solution.

Two door coupes are a pain to live with unless you have no need for the back seat, and I’m led to believe that there are some who aren’t enchanted by the RS 4 Avant’s epic cool factor.

The RS 5 Sportsback fills in the gap between the coupe and RS 4 Avant. The RS 5 Sportsback fills in the gap between the coupe and RS 4 Avant.

If this is you, and your local freeway onramp isn’t long enough to suit the S5 Sportback’s 4.7s 0-100km/h claim, you’ll also be delighted to know that the RS 5 Sportback is priced at the same $157,700 (before on roads) as the RS 5 Coupe, and $4800 above the RS 4. You won’t be as delighted by the $51,900 premium over the S5 Sportback.

The standard equipment is a match also, with the Quattro sport rear differential, RS sports exhaust and 'Dynamic Ride Control' with adaptive dampers all on the list.

You’ll also find the black 'Fine Nappa' leather sports seats with diamond stitching, Bang & Olufsen 3D audio, LED headlights, gloss black exterior details, panoramic sunroof and red brake calipers.

The multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The multimedia system comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Audi virtual cockpit driver display also features, plus RS-specific tyre pressure, torque and g-force readouts and a shift light.

The RS 5 Sportback aligns with the MY19 RS 5 coupe spec upgrade, which brings a head-up display, wireless phone charger and USB outlets for rear passengers.

The RS 5-exclusive 'Sonoma Green' paint seen on the coupe is also now available on the Sportback for the same extra $1950 any colour aside from Nardo grey will add to the sticker price.

One detail you don’t get on the coupe is the auto liftback with gesture control, similar to the RS 4’s tailgate.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

From the B-pillar forward, the RS 5 Sportback is identical to the Coupe, with the same deep and aggressive front apron to set it aside from the lesser S5 and A5 models. The same applies at the rear, with a bespoke rear bumper with large oval exhaust outlets on either side.

It also scores the delightfully pumped wheelarches on each corner of its mechanical siblings, along with the same 20-inch wheels.

At each corner of the car are 20-inch wheels. At each corner of the car are 20-inch wheels.

Like the coupe though, one detail that seems to be missing from the previous RS 5 is a significantly wider track. Compared with the S5 Sportback, the RS 5 Sportback’s track is just 11mm wider at the front and 20mm at the rear, so if you halve those figures per side they’re likely just from additional camber in the wheel alignment settings.

So those wheelarch blisters are largely for aesthetics, rather than a necessary adjustment to allow for a broader stance.

Enough of the comparisons though, the five-door liftback bodystyle gives it a uniquely sleek yet practical appearance, with all of the tasty performance cred of the coupe and wagon.

  • From the B-pillar forward, the RS 5 Sportback is identical to the Coupe. From the B-pillar forward, the RS 5 Sportback is identical to the Coupe.
  • At the back of the cars is a bespoke rear bumper with large oval exhausts. At the back of the cars is a bespoke rear bumper with large oval exhausts.

Also as I alluded before, BMW is unable to build you an M4 Gran Coupe, which would be its BMW equivalent, due to the regular Gran Coupe being built in a different factory to the 3 Series sedan and 4 Series coupe. And Mercedes-AMG’s C 63 bodystyle options are limited to sedan, coupe, wagon and convertible - there just isn’t a five-door liftback on the list.

The RS 5 Sportback’s interior is a continuation of the beautifully detailed coupe and wagon, with real carbon fibre, aluminium and leather tastefully applied leather that has a subtle edginess that really fits the Audi RS brand.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

This is where it’s hard not to make Goldilocks analogies. Where the RS 5 coupe has a decent boot with a small, sedan-like opening and a back seat for two that’s difficult to access via the front doors, the RS 4 has a great wagon boot with a huge opening and a back seat for three that’s easy to access because it has back doors.

The RS 5 Sportback is closer to the latter, but sacrifices the cargo height of the wagon and the sloping roofline will mean that taller passengers may want for more headroom and easier access to the back seat. It does retain the wagon’s third seating position back there though, and neither back seat compromise is an issue for my 172cm height.

Inside, there are 'Fine Nappa' leather sports seats with diamond stitching. Inside, there are 'Fine Nappa' leather sports seats with diamond stitching.

Its 480 Litres VDA seats-up boot capacity is a match for the S5 Sportback, which is only 25 litres short of the RS 4. Like the S5, a space saver spare sits beneath the boot floor.

The RS 5 Sportback also ticks important convenience boxes like dual cup holders front and rear, bottle holders in each door, decent oddments storage and auxiliary connections front and rear, plus ISOFIX child seat mounts for both outward rear seat positions.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The RS 5 Sportback is a genuine mechanical match for the coupe and RS 4, which means the same and impressive 331kW/600Nm 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and delightfully adaptive eight-speed ZF torque converter auto.

The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 makes 331kW/600Nm. The 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 makes 331kW/600Nm.

Max power is available from 5700-6700rom, while peak torque is accessible all the way from 1900-5000rpm.

The Quattro all-wheel drive system retains it 60 per cent native torque bias for more of a rear-drive dynamic. 

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Given the familiarity of the RS 5 Sportback’s mechanical package, there’s also no surprises with its fuel consumption.

The official combined fuel consumption figure is 8.9L/100km, which is 0.1 more than the coupe, and the same as the RS 4.

We managed a rare feat during our 350-plus kilometre drive taking the back way from Canberra to Goulburn, to Oberon, then to Bathurst via Lithgow, where we managed to match the official combined figure on the car’s trip computer.

While it’s a good rule of thumb that you can do this on a steady motorway cruise, it was mighty impressive to do it along the flowing country route with regular climbs and overtaking.

It is worth noting though that like all RS models, the RS 5 Sportback commands expensive 98 RON Premium unleaded as a minimum.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   8/10

While not specifically stated, the RS 5 Sportback should be covered by the same five-star ANCAP safety rating as the rest of the fixed-roof A5 family. Note that this rating was awarded based on older 2015 criteria though.

It matches the RS 5’s impressive list of standard safety features, which includes front city AEB with pedestrian detection.

Interestingly, the initial Sportbacks being delivered to Australia match the six airbag count of the coupe, which covers front and side airbags for the driver and passenger, along with curtain airbags covering the front and rear.

The second batch and all future RS 5 Sportback examples will match the eight airbag count of the wagon, which adds rear side airbags to the list above. If you’re about to place an order, I’d strongly recommend insisting on the eight airbag version that this score is based on.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   6/10

Like all Audis, the new RS 5 Sportback is covered by a three year, unlimited kilometre warranty. This is short of the five year-plus periods that now form the status quo among mainstream brands, but equal to the terms offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Lexus differs by offering a four year, 100,000km plan. 

RS 5 Sportback service intervals are a generous 12 month/15,000km though. 

Another detail to be aware of is that RS models are still exempt from Audi’s Service Plan Pricing capped price servicing plan.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

There’s a good chance you’ve skipped straight to this point, and if you've driven the excellent RS 5 Coupe or the RS 4 you won’t find any surprises in the RS 5 Sportback. This is a very good thing.

Compared to its muscular looks, its general refinement around town is still a really nice surprise for a car of this performance calbre. It’s not hard to imagine driving your grandmother around in comfort. In fact, she would have been right at home on our 350-plus kilometre country cruise between Canberra and Bathurst. 

Around town the RS 5 Sportback is refined. Around town the RS 5 Sportback is refined.

You might miss the V8 growl from an AMG, but the V6 does make a nice bark once you give it some decent throttle, and it delivers those 331kW and 600Nm very effectively through those two turbos. As I often find myself saying these days, this thing is so easy to drive so fast!

Its very impressive 3.9 second 0-100km/h claim feels entirely realistic, which matches the coupe and trumps the RS 4 by two tenths.

The overall refinement means the RS5 isn't quite as exciting to drive fast as the AMGs or BMW Ms. The overall refinement means the RS5 isn't quite as exciting to drive fast as the AMGs or BMW Ms.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that the ZF eight speed torque converter auto feels right at home with the RS5, being smooth as around town, and as responsive and quick to shift as you’d ever want it to be when you’re getting up it.

Its overall refinement does mean it’s not quite as exciting to drive fast as the AMGs or BMW Ms, even with the controls and mechanicals tightened up in Dynamic mode.

Our best opportunity to put it through its performance paces was via the surprise set of bends hidden between Bathurst and Sofala, where it simply honked its way uphill. You instantly forget that it's a rather large five seater with almost room for a pony in the boot. There’s miles of grip, it steers really nicely and the big brakes do a really good job under pressure. This, is a proper RS.

Verdict

It's hard to look past the fact that the RS 5 Sportback is more than $50k more expensive than an S5 Sportback, which itself is hardly cheap. But is it the pick of the RS 4 and RS 5 family? Probably, but I’m personally still a sucker for the RS 4’s wagon shape

I also reckon it’s currently the pick of the three fast German options, and I love that you can get it in this bodystyle.

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Would you take the RS 5 Sportback over the coupe? Tell us in the comments section below.

Pricing Guides

$157,150
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$156,600
Highest Price
$157,700

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
2.9 TFSI TIPTRONIC 2.9L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $157,700 2019 Audi RS5 2019 2.9 TFSI TIPTRONIC Pricing and Specs
2.9 TFSI QUATTRO 2.9L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $156,600 2019 Audi RS5 2019 2.9 TFSI QUATTRO Pricing and Specs
2.9 TFSI TIPTRONIC 2.9L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $157,700 2019 Audi RS5 2019 2.9 TFSI TIPTRONIC Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption8
Safety8
Ownership6
Driving9
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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