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2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback Test Drive: 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender

Audi’s fast and luxurious four-door is a compelling and powerful machine.

Ed TahaneyWriterWilliam WalkerPhotographer

Automobile's All-Stars awards are back, and this year we have one of the best fields of cars we've ever evaluated. In total, we invited 21 of our favorite new or significantly revised cars to find out which are the very best of the best. We've split them into Contenders and Winners, but let us make it clear: Every car invited to our All-Stars event is one of the most special cars on sale for 2020. Each day between March 8 and March 10, we'll bring you a new batch of Contenders, and on Wednesday, March 11, we'll announce our 2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners.

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback in Sonoma Green metallic paint and black leather interior is devilishly elegant. Sit in the drivers' seat, and it would be easy to vote it a 2020 Automobile All-Star based on its looks and stellar all-around performance. Just look at this car—we had the coupe version at last year's All-Stars competition, and that car also got my vote. And while I prefer two doors instead of four, I still ogle this grand tourer every time I see it as though it's my first time laying my eyes upon it. I'm not the only one.

"I love muscular German cars, and this one has a Porsche-influenced engine, so there's a lot to love in that department," social media editor Billy Rehbock said. "It also has the remnants of one of the best interior layouts any manufacturer has ever designed, with just the right amount of redundancy in the controls. And dynamically, it's super accessible for how fast it is."

Maybe it's the sweet paint job and the fact that I really miss my old TT, but I really enjoyed driving the RS 5 on the track and off. The Sportback packs a potent 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine that cranks out 444 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque. The boosted six is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, and the 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds. That's plenty quick for a big beast that can even seat five grownups and still offer plenty of space for their gear.

"It's very rapid and effortless; it drives like a lighter car than it really is, an Audi hallmark," features editor Rory Jurnecka added.

The RS 5 Sportback grips the road, pulls with passion, and delivers a consistently engaging ride. However, the steering, suspension settings, interior, and nearly $100,000 price tag did not suit everyone's tastes, let alone even imaginary budgets.

"I'm with everyone else on how the RS 5 Sportback is a big improvement over last year's RS 5 coupe, though I'm still not blown away," Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa said. Jurnecka wasn't a fan of the RS 5's suspension settings and felt it was too pogolike in Comfort mode, too firm in Dynamic. And although he said it was "a neat car overall," he also found the steering lacks feedback. He wasn't alone in the complaint department.

"The idea of a high-performance hatchback seems ideal," contributor Basem Wasef said. "Take a flexible, space-efficient platform, and add an angry engine and tight suspension to appease the hardcore drivers. But the RS 5's fatal flaw is its suspension, specifically the sometimes-violent heave motion that occurs in virtually every adjustable suspension setting."

That's a shame, because we all agreed the 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is an otherwise compelling exercise in powerful packaging. But if you don't mind ultra-stiff-riding cars, you might not be bothered, regardless—I know I'd be more than thrilled to park this lovely beast in my garage any day.

 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback Specifications
PRICE  $75,195 (base)/$99,990 (as tested)
ENGINE 2.9L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/444 hp @ 5,700-6,700 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 1,900-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 18/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 188.3 x 73.4 x 54.6 in
WHEELBASE 111.2 in
WEIGHT 4,057 lb
0-60 MPH 3.8 sec
TOP SPEED 174 mph

2020 Automobile All-Stars Awards: The Very Best Cars of the Year

This year's Automobile All-Stars awards saw us return to the Palmdale area for track testing at Willow Springs before spending a few days in Angeles Forest and Borrego Springs. So what are the best cars of 2020? These are.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Winners 

The new Ferrari F8 Tributo is arguably the best mid-engine car on sale today, delivering ludicrous performance and, just as important, a driving experience to match.

What makes the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette an Automobile All-Stars winner? Killer performance and unbelievable value, for starters.

2020 Bentley Continental GT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The third-generation 2020 Bentley Continental GT is a car so good we couldn't help but name it a 2020 Automobile All-Star.

2020 Kia Telluride SX Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

In a field of supercars, sports cars, and Europe's best, Kia's Telluride three-row SUV proved it's a great choice for anyone in need of an affordable, well-built people hauler. So great, it's an Automobile All-Star for 2020.

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner

Even facing down the very best supercars of the year, this American powerhouse proves it can do finesse as well as brute force—and earns an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

With its upscale interior, great chassis, and fun-to-drive demeanor, the Mazda3 proves that a car need not be expensive to be an Automobile All-Stars winner.

2020 Toyota Supra Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

The new Toyota Supra has been a polarizing figure since it hit the market, and our test drivers found plenty to debate about it. But it proved it's one of the most-fun sports cars on the market, and easily claimed an Automobile All-Star award in the process.

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Winner 

Reimagining a legend isn't easy, but sometimes Porsche makes it look that way. The 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S is not just a great sports car, it's an Automobile All-Star.

2020 Automobile All-Stars Contenders

2020 Subaru Outback XT Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

Subaru's family wagon might seem a bit out of place in this company, but that's only because you haven't driven it. The 2020 Subaru Outback XT is a 2020 Automobile All-Stars Contender.

It's Mercedes' smallest offering in the U.S. , and not even the hot version, but the A220 is breathing the rarified air of the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition.

2019 Subaru WRX STI S209 Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

This limited-edition, U.S.-market-exclusive super-STI is unlike any Subaru that's come before, that's for sure. But is the WRX STI S209 an All-Star?

The Lamborghini Huracán Evo is fast, loud, and gorgeous. No wonder it's a strong 2020 Automobile All-Stars contender.

2020 Porsche 718 Spyder Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender

It's a special edition, but is the Porsche 718 Spyder really that special? We found out during our 2020 All-Stars evaluation.

2020 Jeep Gladiator Overland Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

We spend three days in Southern California hills and desert testing the 2020 Jeep Gladiator along with 20 other All-Stars Contenders to see which rise to the top.

2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The very fact that an affordable family hauler is rubbing shoulders with hypercars and mega-luxe cruisers should tell you the 2019 Honda Passport AWD Elite is something special. It's also a contender for the 2020 Automobile All-Stars award.

How does a car this big drive this well? We dig into what brought the 2020 Mercedes-AMG 63 S to this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

It's McLaren's first car to put a serious emphasis on practicality and comfort over outright performance—but is the GT an Automobile All-Star?

2020 BMW Z4 M40i Test Drive: Automobile All-Stars Contender 

The 2020 BMW Z4 M40i proves it's just as much about good handling and driving fun as it is about top-down cruising.

BMW's excellent M850i xDrive luxury sport coupe does battle with 2020's best cars but falls short in this year's Automobile All-Stars competition.

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is a compelling and powerful machine that's a winner in its own right.

Electric cars have many inherent advantages over the combustion-powered competition, but does the 2020 Audi E-Tron have what it takes to hang with this year's best?