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Audi RS 5 2021 review: Sportback

The Audi RS5 Sportback: Fast, pretty and immensely good

Thumbing through Audi's RS sports car range is quite the roller-coaster. SUVs compact, medium and large; two- and five-door coupes; wagons - you're rather spoilt for choice.

Chuck in the V10-powered R8 sports car and it becomes even more eclectic. If you can't find an RS car to fit your lifestyle - with the possible exception of a hard-core off-roading preference - you're just not trying hard enough.

We've all got our preferences, but the one car that always seems to excite pretty much everyone is the RS5 Sportback. Fast, practical and ever so good looking, the RS5 is something of an anomaly, with neither BMW or AMG offering anything like it. Not right now anyway.

Audi has given the RS5 a very mild update for 2021 and priced it at a solid $150,900 - the same price as the two-door coupe and a few thousand dollars more than the similarly engined, and only slightly more sedate, RS4 Avant.

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✅ What does it look like?

I wasn't sure about the new A5 Sportback design when it arrived a couple of years ago, but it has definitely grown on me. When I parked this car next to a first-generation A5, it looks so much better. With Audi's funky lighting and recent commitment to gentle curves, this car is genuinely pretty.

I think it's better looking than the coupe, with a more flowing roofline and a classic low-slung look. There is truly no bad angle to the RS5, with its pumped-up guards, big wheels and aggressive aero additions. And, of course, those big oval tail pipes.

With Audi's funky lighting and recent commitment to gentle curves, this car is genuinely pretty. With Audi's funky lighting and recent commitment to gentle curves, this car is genuinely pretty.

The big grille is wider and flatter for 2021 (there's one for the trainspotters) and it's finished in gloss black. You can switch much of the black for matte aluminium as a no-cost option. 

Audi's reputation for interior design and quality is well-founded. While A4/A5 cars are yet to get the funky double-stack screen setup, there's still plenty to like in the RS5, with beautiful materials, hugely comfortable seats and a cool, techno aesthetic. The seats feature hexagonal stitching and are very huggy for front seat passengers, without getting too fresh around the hips.

The big grille is wider and flatter for 2021 and it's finished in gloss black. The big grille is wider and flatter for 2021 and it's finished in gloss black.

✅ How does it drive?

One of the great things about the Sportback is that when you get in, it feels like the Coupe. You sit low and in the car, everything is right where you want it to be, and if it isn't, you can further adjust the seating and steering wheel positioning to make sure you're perfectly setup. You can get yourself a massage in the driver's seat, too. 

In day-to-day driving, whether that's battling the 'burbs or the motorways, the RS5 could be a regular A5, only with a bit more poke. It's extremely comfortable - bearing in mind I had the Dynamic Ride Control system - and even the 20-inch wheels don't bash over potholes, nor do the tyres make too much noise until you're up in triple figures.

One of the great things about the Sportback is that when you get in, it feels like the Coupe. One of the great things about the Sportback is that when you get in, it feels like the Coupe.

Usually when I test one of these things, I point it down a winding road and tell it there's a full tank of premium at the bottom and see how it goes. While I hate lying to it, it's tremendous fun getting to the other end of the line. The torque is always there and while the transmission isn't always in the right gear, a quick pull of the steering wheel-mounted paddles sets things aright in the blink of an eye.

What I don't often do is a long highway run. I mean, yes, I take it on the highway, but not loaded up with people and bags for a four-hour return drive. And this is the thing about the Audi RS cars - they do it all, and they do it well.

Even the 20-inch wheels don't bash over potholes, nor do the tyres make too much noise until you're up in triple figures. Even the 20-inch wheels don't bash over potholes, nor do the tyres make too much noise until you're up in triple figures.

While it's not as effortlessly comfortable as its A8 sibling - obviously - its ability to breeze through four-hours of highway cruising and deliver us home in fine fettle is something sports cars like this aren't supposed to do. 

The steering is super sharp, and the turn-in and change of direction impressive for a car of its length and weight, which is a hefty 1830kg. The engine's huge torque certainly negates some of that weight, but the combination of an agile chassis, superb punch from the engine and very reassuring braking performance all combine for a properly exhilarating experience on a twisting road.

All the while ensuring you get home from that far-flung deserted strip of tarmac in good shape.

The steering is super sharp, and the turn-in and change of direction impressive. The steering is super sharp, and the turn-in and change of direction impressive.

✅ How spacious is it?

The Sportback's five-door body delivers a proper four-seater cabin with room for five, if you don't like the fifth person very much.

Front and rear passengers each score a pair of cupholders for a total of four. All four doors will hold a bottle of some description and both front seats have net pockets on the back.

The front seats ensure good headroom for the driver. The front seats ensure good headroom for the driver.

Rear legroom is adequate rather than generous, and headroom borders on marginal if you're over six foot, thanks to the combination of the diving roofline and the sunroof. Having said that, our tall son was pretty happy in the back for a bombing run up to the Central Coast from Sydney. He was also happy with the third climate-control zone and the USB ports.

Rear legroom is adequate rather than generous. Rear legroom is adequate rather than generous.

The front seats ensure good headroom for the driver as they're set nice and low and feature plenty of adjustment to make yourself comfortable.

Cargo space is rated at a decidedly reasonable 465 litres. Being Audi, if that's not enough, the similarly-engined RS4 Avant should sort you out with a little extra flexibility, even if the actual cargo volume isn't much bigger.

  • Cargo space is rated at a decidedly reasonable 465 litres. Cargo space is rated at a decidedly reasonable 465 litres.
  • You can drop the back seats for a little extra cargo space. You can drop the back seats for a little extra cargo space.

✅ How easy is it to use every day?

Cars with this kind of performance used to be pain. Some still are - a C63 AMG of any kind doesn't ride as well as the RS5 and the dearly departed BMW M3 didn't either. Loading smaller kids into car seats might be a bit tricky as the door aperture is tight. But once you're all in, it's easy to get around in, easy to learn, and behaves like just about any other Audi.

The gesture-operated power tailgate makes hands-full loading easy, it has four doors for passengers and plenty of room for your stuff. Wireless Apple CarPlay combined with wireless charging is one of the few good things 2020 has delivered.

✅ How safe is it?

The RS5 Sportback comes laden with eight airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, driver-attention detection, active lane-keep assist, high- and low-speed forward AEB, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, turn assist (lets you know if you're going to turn across oncoming traffic when turning right), exit warning (to help stop you opening the door into cyclists), reverse cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning (various warnings and interventions if you're coming up to clobber someone) and a clever system that closes the windows and pulls the seatbelts tight if you're about to get rear-ended.

The camera package features the usual reversing camera, as well as front and side cameras, which is handy in a car with mildly limited visibility to the rear.

The A5 range scored five ANCAP stars in 2017.

✅ What’s the tech like?

Expensive Audis are usually chock-a-block with stuff, and the RS5 is no exception.

You get multi-zone climate control, interior ambient lighting, around-view cameras, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, powered and heated front seats, panoramic glass roof, sat nav, auto Matrix LED and laser headlights with auto high beam, head-up display, keyless entry and start, auto parking, power tailgate, digital dashboard, power everything, auto wipers, leather and suede interior and wireless charging.

Expensive Audis are usually chock-a-block with stuff, and the RS5 is no exception. Expensive Audis are usually chock-a-block with stuff, and the RS5 is no exception.

Audi's MMI system comes up on a big 10.1-inch touchscreen. The system features Audi ConnectPlus, which augments various functions with Google connectivity to help you dig up petrol prices and parking information among other things and some useful voice control stuff.

The Bang & Olufsen-branded 19 speakers are predictably excellent, and you can get your music from your iOS device with wireless Apple CarPlay and USB Android Auto. You also get DAB+ radio and there's an embedded SIM card to keep the Google stuff flowing.

✅ How much does it cost to own?

Audi's official combined-cycle claim for the RS5 Sportback is 9.4L/100km. With a mix of a heavy right foot and liberal application of the customisable RS1 mode (mostly, I confess, for the noise), as well as a 200-odd-kilometre round-trip, I averaged a creditable 11.1L/100km. That's not bad for a car with supercar power.

Stop-start certainly helped, as the 2.9-litre V6 goes without the mild hybrid systems seen on other Audis on this platform.

Audi's official combined-cycle claim for the RS5 Sportback is 9.4L/100km. Audi's official combined-cycle claim for the RS5 Sportback is 9.4L/100km.

Audi is persisting with a three-year warranty with the ongoing claim that customers aren't too fussed about the length. If you're one of those customers, we'd love to hear from you and the nice men in the white jackets will take you to your suite for further evaluation. BMW says the same thing, while Mercedes-AMG does not, offering a five-year warranty on even its wildest variants.

There is, however, a five-year servicing plan for $3050 which works out about $600 per year for servicing, which isn't bad considering the performance, and it lines up well against rivals. And some rather less exotic/powerful/fun cars cost almost as much, too.


The Wrap

The RS5 is an exemplar of the modern sports sedan. It does everything well, and the only sacrifice is some headroom, slightly restrictive access if stepping down into a low-slung car is a problem, and not much else. 

The RS5 is colossally fast and its appeal is immensely broad - it turned heads of all ages and genders with its lines, and my wife - who is a very hard marker - let slip a breathy "oh, it's so good," to one of our friends. The kids I pressed into service to try the back seat (the ones who weren't toweringly tall) loved the high-tech interior and the awesome shove from the engine made them giggle. Made me giggle, too.

Likes

Gorgeous
Hugely fast
Can do just about anything

Dislikes

Sometimes dithering transmission
Rear headroom
Short warranty

Scores

Peter:

4.3

The Kids:

4.5

$150,900

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

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