The Audi RS5 Sportback is superb but has one flaw.
I provide an in-depth review of our recently delivered new car with mention of its performance, practicality, exterior and interior.
I have a confession - I am an absolute Audi fan with love for everything from the 100 Coupe S GT to the A6 Allroad. We were recently fortunate enough to take delivery of a brand new RS5 Sportback; over the last few months we have got to know all of its strengths and idiosyncrasies. It took a while to find a car to replace our S5 Cabriolet and after going through Porsche Panameras and Mustang Mach 1s we settled on the step up - the RS5.
The RS5 was revised in 2020 with a whole host of new features, options and even more performance. It's equipped with a 2.9 Litre Bi-Turbo V6 providing robust build quality and endless performance. The engine delivers 450BHP and its party piece - 600 NM of torque; mind-bending acceleration is one of the best parts of this Grand Tourer. Its capability to sit comfortably and then drop down a few gears and pull away from just about anywhere (on and off road) is staggering. It uses Audi's famous Quattro all-wheel drive system to distribute power over a selection of driving modes. This includes the two RS modes which can be custom programmed with a power setup of up to 20% front and 80% rear making it very rear biased if necessary. Perfect for a blast round some country roads.
Practicality, comfort and interior
With it being a sporty GT car, there's plenty of practicality to go around too. The 4-door saloon comes with a hatchback boot where space is in plentiful supply; mobsters and delivery drivers alike would find it helpful, if you understand my reference. The back seats are very comfortable and well bolstered with plenty of space and leg room. The rear climate control, privacy glass and carbon twill inlays are nice touches but the need to pay for rear cup holders, storage nets and interior lighting is a bit shallow for a car of this calibre.
The front seats are a similar story of comfort and luxury. There are similar carbon inlays along the dashboard with piano black in the centre console (rest assured, a cloth is provided for cleaning) and lots of aluminium accents and high quality materials like alcantara door lining. The sporty Nappa leather bucket seats with RS honeycomb pattern are supremely plush and the overall layout works superbly. The 10 inch infotainment screen and physical climate controls compliment each other very well. The menus are easily navigable and it obviously comes with the obligatory smart phone connectivity and Audi's navigation system which can be displayed in the digital cockpit instrument cluster; there is plenty of information and functionality available such as weather details and news headlines. One issue that I have is that the touchscreen is difficult to use when the car is moving and the scroll wheel from earlier models was a more tactile solution. The digital cockpit is easily visible with lots of configurations including an RS sports dial and the steering wheel is from new generation cars with dimpled leather trim, metal inlays and some RS embossing; it makes for a comfortable and ergonomically correct feel.
This particular car is the Carbon Black model which gives you black and carbon optics with carbon front lip and front side flaps, rear diffuser, rear lip wing, side skirts and the aforementioned carbon inserts in the interior. Then there is also black trim, 20 inch alloys and black badging. This coupled with pearl effect Daytona Grey paintwork as seen in the images above is a perfect recipe for a menacing, performing and practical Grand Tourer. We've also added the optional sunroof, and red brake calipers. The RS5 comes with the muscular RS bodywork and wheel arches, a rolled effect between the front arches and bonnet and venting where the bonnet meets the grille which is fake but these details all hark back to the original Sport Quattro rally car so who am I to complain (I'm a sucker for heritage details).
Sound and overall usability
Now, I wanted to talk about the sound; this car has the RS valved sports exhaust system with two huge black oval pipes large enough to stick your foot in so there's no complaints there in terms of size or presence. There is a wonderful cylindrical and meaty sound exiting from those pipes every time you touch the accelerator. It carries a much more throaty sound than the S5 with a similar V6 engine which is a welcome surprise. There is a wonderful overrun when you let off the throttle or on downshift (particularly down from 3rd to 2nd gear). RS mode specifically carries a marvellous cacophonous sound that could possibly rival the likes of the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV - what do you think?
However, interestingly, it is no where near as raucous in its more sedate comfort settings for day-to-day driving, being much more understated than even the S5 and this is the most powerful car we've ever had. I think that summarises this car quite nicely as a whole; it can be a maniacal beast ready to brawl with most cars on the road but all you need to do is click a few buttons and it becomes this subtle continent crushing luxury tourer. The ride is smooth and absorbs bumps well and it's just a nice place to sit even when dawdling about town or idly sitting in traffic. Check out this video from Youtuber Auditography who goes over the car in almost my exact specification.
But, as this article suggests, there is one major flaw that I have found in this vehicle and its not distinctive to this car, nor to all Audi models; It is a wider issue. It's that these cars are just too powerful; don't get me wrong I love being able to say that my car has 450 horsepower but that's all it is - bragging and self contentment. You just can't use it on the road and the phrase 'full throttle' is made redundant. There is a boost gauge on the digital cockpit of the RS5 and as much as we've pushed this car, the legal limit literally restricts that gauge being filled and I've never seen it glow red with that ludicrous amount of boost. Yes, this car would be monstrous on the track or blasting along the Autobahn but realistically, how often is that useful? The acceleration is mighty and going from 30-50MPH is an incredible feeling but what else is there when it comes to properly driving this car. It works superbly well on a country roads drive (roads which are, thankfully, in plentiful supply in the UK) and the manoeuvrability and raw power is perfect but there's always this daunting voice in the back of your head saying "don't go too fast". This car is mind numbingly good at just about everything and fulfils its purpose as a Grand Tourer perfectly but it's almost too easy to push too far.
So, I think there's a sweet spot; around 250BHP would be perfectly manageable on road to be able to push it with the throttle all the way to the floor without incident and a manual gearbox would make this more engaging. I think the All-Wheel-Drive nature of Audis works well for handling and acceleration but should be put into a different calibre of car. But what is there now? Audi no longer make cars of that specification after adding paddle shifts to most models and cancelling the S1 with its superb gearbox and drivetrain. Now look at other manufacturers; the Ford Focus RS is gone. The Volkswagen Golf R manual option is gone. These super sporty and affordable cars are dying out and the market is, once again, changing. But there is one last hope and it comes from Toyota. Yes, now you understand don't you? Is the GR Yaris everything that the RS5 is not? I'll be coming out with another article soon explaining exactly that.
This car is absolutely incredible as a machine but I have found myself at a loss when trying to properly read it; there are always different characteristics distinctive to each model of car, down to its finite details and I just don't think I've seen them all yet with this car. I still think of it as an object, something which I have not yet connected to. I'm sure as I continue to wake up to it on the driveway I will learn to appreciate everything from its aerodynamics to its power balance until I can describe and explain it down to its most minute characteristics.
I think this is the perfect car to waft along to the South of France in comfort with it's ten inch screen, luxury interior and endless connectivity. Then, you can put it in RS mode and have some fun over the Alps on the way home. I still look forward to the next few years of Audi RennSport fun and feel that even in this article my research has let me understand it more. As much as I respect and enjoy the thought of the latest Bavarian M car or Italian Quadrifoglio superweapon, I wouldn't change the RS5 for any of them because for some daft reason the brains at Ingolstadt just made it work splendidly for its purpose. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going for a cruise.
Please like, comment and follow me on DRIVETRIBE and Instagram for more articles such as this one and I'd advise checking out some of my earlier articles such as my review of the Golf GTI Edition 30.
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