Driven - August 2019

Audi RS5 Sportback Driven Review

Audi RS5 Sportback

Our thoughts after spending a week with the Audi RS5 Sportback. 

There was a time in my life when I would love nothing more than to zip around in my hot hatch, rear seats removed and all, with coilover suspension that provided sharp handling and a terrible ride.  It wasn’t practical but I loved it. To this day those types of vehicles can be such a buzz to drive, just not every day. Emotive experiences along with daily practicality, its a balance many try to find and a goal brands constantly try to achieve. This is why we find many of our performance-orientated vehicles fitted with enough varying engine, drivetrain and suspension settings to match our every mood – nearly. 

One vehicle which recently added a little more practically to its offering is the Audi RS5 in the form of the Sportback. The RS5 Couple isn’t what I’d describe as impractical, but it doesn’ t have 4 doors and for many, that does not rate well on their (Partner’s) practicality list. 

How does the Audi RS5 Sportback look? 

While the RS5 Sportback is instantly recognised as an Audi RS5, keen car people will most likely notice a few changes.  Along with the obvious longer wheelbase, the RS5 Sportback is also 7mm’s lower to the ground and the rear arches are 15mm’s wider. There’s also some distinct styling differences, most notably on the front end with changes to the bumper and the grille.  Personally, it looks better than the RS5 Couple. While having the vehicle on test, I’d often find myself just starring at how sporty it looks just sitting in the car park. 

This seemed to be something everyone else on the road and on the pavement noticed too, the normally understated “ Audi” received quite a bit of attention as I went about my daily routine. Audi have seemed to make the RS5 Sportback more practical, yet even more sexy. Bravo! 

How does it drive? 

Most of the Audi RS5 Sportback changes are cosmetic, as you’ll find the same 2.9l V6 power plant is bolted in the front, along with the same output figures of 331kW and 600N.m. 

While you may think the Sportback would come across a little more sluggish than its Coupe counterpart, and while the figures on paper would say so, in real life this wasn’t the case.  The typical, blisteringly quick Audi RS straight line speed I’ve come to experience in more than one of their vehicles was ever-present. As expected, the Quattro system ensured I never at once felt like the situation was about to get a little hairy, or the vehicle was out of my control. This is something that Audi do very well – offering accessible, easy to drive, very fast vehicles. 

With the vehicle in its comfort settings, it can be very much enjoyed as a comfortable Audi suitable for your daily needs. The only hints you may receive to remind you that you’re driving an RS vehicle will be the slightly dulled but present hum pushed out of the rear, and the feeling of an irresistible, oncoming surge if you just dare to push the pedal a little bit too far into the floor. 

A big plus for me is the ability to drive the Audi RS5 Sportback easily in all weather conditions. The RS5 gives you feelings of confidence and control when the weather goes south. Would these feelings of confidence be betrayed in an M3 or C63s? Probably not. 

Technology

Due to this vehicle being based on the RS5 Coupe which arrived in South Africa in 2018, I found the infotainment system to be lacking compared to systems in competitor vehicles and the newer systems Audi are rolling out in their 2019 vehicles, such as the Q8. I think the RS5 arrived at an awkward time, just as the old systems were fading out, and the new ones fading in. 

The RS5 Sportback does feature the full digital cockpit which is great, but you won’t find dual screens located in the centre of the vehicle. This isn’t a major issue, as the current system does do the job required and this is something we could see upgraded in facelifted vehicles.  

How does it make me feel?

It’s worth noting that while the Audi RS5 Sportback will reach 100km/h in under 4 seconds and still not feel like it’s going to kill you, in my opinion, it still possesses an emotive and exciting driving experience.  The Benefit of the Quattro system is that corner speed and exit speed is impressive, and you’ll sooner find your face pulling to the side before the car even hints of getting out of shape. I touched on it earlier, but the power is very usable no matter the skill level. 

Personally, the noise produced when all the settings are turned up is wonderful. I also found that if the driver pushes the gearbox into Sport, and then over to the left into manual mode, even more overrun pops and bangs can be heard which is never a bad thing.

 

The RS5 Sportback very much provides a stealthy, superhero styled experience. Drive the RS5 Sportback and you’ll feel like you can own the day, that’s how it made me feel. From the streamlined cabin and fighter jet styled gear shifter, right through to the straight-line speed and understated yet sporty appearance – it hits the spot. I would never imagine Batman driving a BMW M3 or Mercedes-AMG C63s, but an RS5 Sportback….I don’t know, it works in my mind. 

What else could I buy for the same money?

In terms of direct competitors, you’re looking at the BMW M3 Competition Package, Mercedes-AMG C63s and Alfa Romeo Giulia QV. While all of which produce similar power and torque outputs, a big difference is that they are also all rear-wheel drive, compared to the RS5 Sportback’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. This makes the Audi much better suited for adverse weather, and it’s a lot more sensible. The M3 and the C63s particularly are considered the tyre screeching, smoke billowing hooligans of the segment. 

In the Audi brand, the Audi RS3 Sedan might be a great choice if you’re looking for similar performance but a smaller vehicle. The RS3 houses a 2.5L 5-Cylinder engine which is a fantastic engine and has the accolades to prove it. On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking for even more space, the brand-new Audi RS4 Avant could be what you’re looking for. The RS4 Avant features the same engine and drivetrain the RS5 and produces the same power. 

Is the RS5 worth it? 

The Audi RS5 Sportback starts at a price of R 1,314,784 and you’ll need to add on to this any optional extras you choose. From a monthly point of view you’ll most likely be looking at payments from R 25k – deposit depending.  If we look at RS5 Couple models currently for sale, we can see that 2018 models with roughly 8-12000 km’s on the clock are hovering around the R1 million mark. 

Does the RS5 provide value for money? For me, this is a personal question and really depends on the person. A road user who isn’t a petrol head and only views a vehicle as a means of transport from A to B would probably view the RS5 as a waste of money.  However, the opinion of one who appreciates this type of vehicle, along with the performance and experience it offers would vastly differ. If you want to reach 100km/h in under 4 seconds today, you’re going to pay for it. 

The Audi RS5 Sportback isn’t your standard run of the mill vehicle, therefore we can’t imagine demand is going to be that high when it comes to resale. It’s one of those vehicles that doesn’t always make sense to own, but in return provides an emotive, unique experience which many other vehicles simply can’t offer. If resale is something of high importance to you, the RS5 is probably not best suited to your situation and you could perhaps look at an S5 or even an A5 if you’re a fan of the model.