It’s taken a while but Audi has finally asked Audi Sport to add its RS ingredients to the A5 Sportback recipe to create this, the new RS5 Sportback. Originally conceived as a peace offering to North American customers who don’t get the RS4 Avant, the RS5’s five-door hatchback body offers some of the Avant’s practicality in a sleeker style. You’ll be pleased to hear it offers all of the über-wagon’s performance, too.
Arriving in the UK to coincide with both the RS5 coupe and RS4’s return from their forced sabbatical from the production line - due to the requirement to modify the 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 to comply with the latest WLTP regulations - the RS5 Sportback is an intriguing proposition.
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Engine, gearbox and 0-60mph time
It’s not the most charismatic of engines, the 2.9-litre, twin-turbo V6 installed between the RS5 Sportback’s swollen front arches. Many will argue that its 444bhp and 442lb ft of torque mean it is found wanting against rivals from Italy and its home country, and in respects they would be correct.
No matter the engine driving mode selected via Audi Dynamic Select system, it never feels or sounds like a true thoroughbred. It lacks the fury and thunder of AMG’s V8s, the solid punch of BMW M’s straight-six and the snap and crackle of Alfa’s Ferrari-lite V6. A 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds suggests it’s no slouch in this RS5 but it’s slow to rev and only really comes alive when the rev counter lights up like a Christmas tree ahead of an upshift.
Talking of gear changes, the eight-speed S-Tronic gearbox is well matched to the engine’s power and torque delivery with shifts improving noticeably the more aggression you dial in via the driving mode controls. Sadly the gearshift paddles are too small, feel cheap and discourage you from changing gear manually. Though, that’s nothing new among cars with similar setups .
Unlike its rivals, the RS5 features four-wheel drive, Audi Sport’s quattro version rather than the simpler Haldex system. It will send more torque to the rear axle rather than the front, but there’s no option to switch to rear-wheel drive and drift for the cameras.
Ceramic brakes are an option, 21-inch wheels and tyres are standard and Audi’s Drive Select allows you to modulate engine, gearbox and differential settings, while the damper control allows you to switch between different interpretations of stiffness.
What’s it like to drive?
Approach the RS5 as a Giulia Quadrifoglio rival and you’ll be sorely disappointed. Not only does its engine lack the punch, panache and performance of the Alfa’s but the RS5 clearly hasn’t had the same attention to detail applied to its chassis that the Italian has. The steering lacks sharpness, although in today’s world of hyper alert racks it’s refreshing to have a set-up that’s more considered and linear in its action. It certainly helps the RS5 flow through an apex.
The ferociousness of an AMG V8 is lacking too (for obvious reasons), which means there isn’t the punch out of corners and down straights that you expect from a car wearing these badges and swollen arches. In isolation it feels decently quick when you ask it to get on with it, but it doesn’t have that sternum crushing punch of its rivals when you let it loose.
Then there is the chassis, which feels a little heavy footed and one-dimensional. Its body is neatly controlled but there is little flowing back to you as you pick your line. The chassis is competent rather than chatty and confidence inspiring, which doesn’t help mask the RS5’s portly 1720kg kerb weight - a figure that can ask just a little too much of the brakes if you find yourself on a road with more hairpins than fourth gear sweepers.
A bit of damp squib then? Compared to the aforementioned rivals yes, but consider the RS5 Sportback as a junior GT car rather than a junior supercar and it comes into its own.
Knock you approach back to 80 per cent, lighten your grip on its leash and settle into a rhythm that asks less of the chassis, allows the engine to deliver in its preferred mid-range operating window and the whole car strikes up a rapport with you and begins to come into its own.
For the money you could quite rightly expect the RS5 Sportback to be more competitive against the obvious alternatives, but actually I don’t think it has any clear cut rivals at all. So don’t consider it as an inferior AMG C63 rival, rather consider the RS5 Sportback as a cut price AMG GT 63.
Price and rivals
An RS5 Sportback isn’t cheap, with a price tag of £68,995, although this is partly immaterial in a world where a car’s ownership cost is measured by the monthly payment and not the list price.
By comparison, Alfa Romeo’s four-door only Giulia Quadrifolgio costs form £69,500, AMG’s C63 saloon from £66,754 and the estate from £65,479 and BMW’s M3 Competition saloon will require £62,905 of your British Pounds.