Test Drives

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback review: Back burner



The Audi RS 5 Sportback is effortlessly fast, but it’s more of an angel than demon

SINGAPORE — The Audi RS 5 Sportback is just the thing if you want to rearrange your insides, but feel like doing it in comfort. It’ll do 0 to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds and top out at an optional 280km/h, but it delivers it all in lounge-like comfort.

The recipe here is the sort you more or less expect from an outfit like Audi Sport GmbH (nee quattro GmbH), a make-everything-faster division inside Audi with 580 staff and its own factory premises.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a simple recipe. The starting point here was an A5 Sportback, yet the brief wasn’t just to add power and call it a day.

Instead, the RS treatment is recognisable from a mile away. The blistered wheelarches add just 15mm to each of the car’s flanks, but the effect is a nice mix of menace and understatement.

Check out the (blank) air vents on the outer edges of the front and rear lamps, too, which emphasize the extra width.

Of course, those wider arches are filled by fatter rubber on 20-inch wheels, connected to a tweaked suspension system and mighty brakes (375mm front, 330mm aft) that you can see from another postal district.

Even the differentials are, well, different from the stuff on the run-of-the-mill Audis. The centre one channels 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels (rising to 70 percent if needed) to make the RS 5 feel a bit more like a rear-wheel drive car, while the rear diff does something tricky: it actively channels engine power between the left and right wheels, depending on which one would help the car turn more sharply into a corner.

Does it all work? Yes, and with an effectiveness that verges on the scary. The RS 5 must be what it feels like to pilot a fighter jet, in that you take aim at a corner, feed in your inputs and then hang on while the car does the rest with some alacrity.

Yet, it’s very easy to get used to how fast the Audi is, precisely because it’s so well stuck to the road and feels so neutral to chuck into corners. From being super stable in a straight line it willingly morphs into something that hunts down a corner apex with shark-like efficiency.

A couple of things spoil the game somewhat. First is the feeling that you’re not really one of the players, but a spectator. The way the RS 5 shoots down corners with such ease, you just don’t feel deeply involved in the proceedings.

Second, there’s a difference between fast and furious, and… you already know the RS 5 isn’t slow. What’s missing is a tinge of hell-raising wickedness, the kind that Mercedes-AMG does so well.

Fans of the previous RS 5 will point out one missing ingredient immediately, and that’s a roaring V8 soundtrack. That’s because the engine is now a V6, with its cylinders boosted (but also muffled) by turbochargers.

It’s a smooth and effortlessly powerful unit, but it’s more angel than demon in terms of character and voice. The loud pedal makes it sing, but not howl.

Should you spend extra money on an optional sport exhaust? Maybe not, because the RS 5 Sportback is much more about the velvet glove than the iron fist.

The interior is an understated haven of poshness and refinement. Everything is made of best-in-the-business materials, and the controls hit a sweet spot in terms of ease-of-use and number-of-buttons.

The ride is exemplary, being on the correct side of firm and never straying over the line into harshness, and there’s little more than a quiet rustle of air around the pillars at highway speeds.

You can see the RS 5 Sportback as a hyper effective tool for demolishing huge miles; essentially it’ll convey you, three friends and your luggage overland in speed and comfort, with a touch of exoticism about it but perhaps without the flashiness of a sportscar brand’s badge.

It’s not as boisterous as a Mercedes with an AMG badge or a BMW with an M label, but that seems to be entirely by design. It’s as if the RS 5 Sportback exists to make you think about this: it’s one thing to drive a fast car, but another thing altogether to live with one.

Audi RS 5 Sportback 2.9 TFSI quattro

Engine 2,894cc, V6, twin-turbo
Power 450hp at 5,700-6,700rpm
Torque 600Nm at 1,900-5,000rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 3.9 seconds
Top Speed 250 km/h (limited)
Fuel Efficiency 8.9L/100km
VES/CO2 C2/202g/km
Agent Premium Automobiles
Price S$387,000 with COE
Available Now

 

 

about the author

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Leow Julen
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 25 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.