New Car Reviews

The Audi RS5 Sportback Is a Monster Lurking in a Practical Body

They’ll never know what hit ’em.

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. Yes, Audi is now selling another of its heroic, sought-after Audi Sport models—this time, the new four-door RS5 Sportback—in the United States. Not only that, we get it before anyone else, even before Germany. We’d sneer “How do you like them apples, Deutschland?” but we don’t speak German.

The Sportback in many ways mirrors the RS5 coupe that arrived last year, but its wheelbase and length have been stretched by 2.4 inches and it stands just over an inch taller. And, of course, you get two additional doors and a rear hatch (it’s power-operated). The car is a luscious piece, squatting on flared fenders, the nose an angry cluster of narrowed-eyed LED headlamps and gaping air intakes, the rear end sloping gracefully into a sleek, upturned ducktail. The packaging works, too: The rear seats are comfortable for two (three in a pinch) and there’s 22 cubic feet of cargo space out back—almost double the coupe’s offering.

The penalty for the extra room? Basically nothing. The wheelbase and body stretch add not even 100 pounds to the overall weight—the Sportback might be a tick slower to 60 mph than the coupe, but you’d never notice—and in every other respect the hatch is the same rip-snorting lion as its stubbier sibling. The engine, which you’ll also find in Porsche’s Panamera 4S, is a twin-turbo 2.9-liter V-6 good for 444 horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque (a tad fewer ponies but way more grunt than the V-8 in the previous RS5). Shifting is handled by an excellent eight-speed automatic with manual mode and wheel-mounted paddles. Quattro all-wheel drive is, of course, standard. Boot the throttle hard and the Sportback can rip to 60 mph in about 3.8 seconds or possibly even quicker. Top speed is normally limited to 155 mph but my test car included the optional Dynamic Plus package ($5,800), which raises the limit to 174 mph and also adds hugely welcome 15.7-inch carbon-ceramic front brakes.

My example was sumptuously appointed indeed. Also on board: the Black Optic Carbon package ($5,500), which adds 20-inch forged wheels wearing summer performance rubber plus a number of carbon-fiber body accents; the RS5 Driver Assistance package ($3,700), with active lane assist, adaptive cruise, park-steering assist, a head-up display, and more; the Dynamic package ($3,350), including a sport suspension with Dynamic Ride Control and a sport exhaust; quilted Nappa leather ($1,500); Dynamic Steering ($1,150); a Bang & Olufsen audio system with 3D sound ($950); and more. Total tab: just under $100K.

The Sportback is a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too machine. In Comfort mode, the ride is controlled but pliable, gearchanges are smooth, and the engine burbles along. You could easily use this highly pressurized RS5 as a daily family wagon. Beyond the agreeable dynamics, the cockpit is roomy and simply gorgeous, filled with rich cowhides and Alcantara, gleaming carbon trim, cool LED interior-lighting accents, and an abundance of conveniences. Audi’s superb 12.3-inch high-resolution Virtual Cockpit is standard, enabling you to, say, summon a large dynamic Google Maps display surrounded by smaller speedo and tach gauges. Or select another gauges/readouts combo of your choosing. The primary driver’s display is complemented by an 8.3-inch screen on the center stack that, via Audi’s MMI control system, can showcase everything from nav routes to SiriusXM satellite channels to vehicle systems. It’s a breeze to use.

But there’s another vehicle lurking just a click away. Via the Drive Select tab, switch into Dynamic mode and immediately the exhaust booms. The transmission refuses to play subtly, instead hanging resolutely onto lower gears for maximum performance and, when it does shift, slamming them home with a bang. The steering quickens. Also, the suspension gets hard. I’m talking seriously stiff, enough to rattle your fillings unless the road is absolutely perfect. Even on billiard-table asphalt you feel a vertical surge with the slightest deviation in the road’s pitch. Frankly, it’s harsh. Even when I was hustling the Sportback through my favorite canyon twisties, I soon switched back to Comfort.

Fortunately, an Individual setting allows you to mix and match system responses—you can have Dynamic transmission, throttle, and steering but the more elastic Comfort suspension at the same time. That’s the setup I used most often, and there’s little if any performance penalty as a result. The Sportback is easy to push hard, the handling and grip really impressive and biased toward predictable understeer, the brakes unfailingly strong, the power simply sublime. There’s no turbo lag whatsoever, the little V-6 pulling to redline like a fiend as it mashes your skull into the headrest, the paddle shifts lighting off instant swaps whether changing up or down. Pull over and turn your head around: Yep, there’s a nice back seat and a very decent, hatch-accessible trunk behind the driver’s seat of your screaming road rocket.

Just remember: When you go to pick up the kids from school, don’t let them see the goofy smirk on your face.

2019 Audi RS5 Sportback Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $75,195/$99,990 (base/as-tested)
ENGINE 2.9L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6; 444 hp @ 6,700 rpm, 443 lb-ft @ 1,900 rpm
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 17/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 188.3 x 73.4 x 54.6 in
WHEELBASE 111.2 in
WEIGHT 4,000 lb (est)
0–60 MPH 3.8 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 174 mph

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2019 Audi RS 5

MSRP $74,200 quattro Coupe