2022 Audi RS5 Sportback
Audi’s gorgeous five-door coupe has all the aggro you’ll ever need. From the day Audi unveiled its gorgeous A5 Sportback, it was inevitable that it would get the RS treatment. It is almost unquestionably one of the prettiest cars on the road today, eschewing the look-at-me-and-my-pig-grille antics from Munich and sticking with a sober, elegant but exceedingly pretty set of lines. The hoons at Audi Sport just threw a few black bits and air intakes on.
While it’s not the most practical RS – that goes to the RS4 Avant – it’s better looking than its coupe counterpart and manages to not just fill the gap between the two cars in the range, but feels like it stands alone. Low and sleek, it shares all of the Avant and Coupe underpinnings, with the Porsche-developed 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6 and a sophisticated driveline full of Quattro, ZF and limited-slip diff goodness.
It’s also loaded with gear and tech to (hopefully) match the price and with that reinvigorated competition from its German rival as well as the constant stalking horses from AMG and Alfa, the RS5 Sportback has much to contend with in the second half of its life.
Audi comes out punching with a starting price of $153,900 for the RS5 Sportback, which is a hell of a start but not far off the price of its M and AMG rivals. But the right kind of not far off – it’s priced lower than the BMW M3 Competition and I can tell you without even looking it’s cheaper than a C63 AMG (okay, I checked, it’s cheaper). No, it’s not as direct a BMW rival as it might be if the M4 Gran Coupe existed, but it doesn’t and we just have to sulk about that.
It’s worth pointing out that the original pricing of the RS5 from 2019 was more than $7000 higher than it is now, so that’s unusual and if my research is correct, it’s become better-equipped since then too.
The RS5 ships with 20-inch alloys, Matrix LED headlights, keyless entry and start, heated and folding rear vision mirrors, foot wavey boot opening, a panoramic sunroof (why?), rear privacy glass, Nappa leather seats, electric front seats with memory and heating, three-zone climate control, LED ambient lighting, Virtual Cockpit digital dash, wireless phone charging, 19-speaker B&O-branded sound, adaptive cruise, around view cameras, head-up display and a space-saver spare.
If you go insane you can add carbon-ceramic front brakes for a whopping $13,600. Slightly less insane is the $4400 dynamic damping setup added to this car, although it’s annoying that it’s not standard. This car also had the $3400 RS Design package that adds an Alcantara wheel and shifter, Nappa leather on the doors, more Alcantara on some surfaces, red edging on the seatbelts and front floor mats with RS stitching. I’d be happy with just the Alcantara wheel for a lot less, but here we are.
Five-star ANCAP safety comes courtesy of six airbags, blind-spot monitoring, reversing camera, front and side cameras, high- and low-speed forward AEB, forward collision warning, driver attention detection, auto high beam, lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, exit warning and reverse cross-traffic alert.
Here in the mid-size segment, you’ve got a choice of three RSes – the RS4 Avant, RS5 Coupe and RS5 Sportback. Unlike its rivals, it’s not available in a four-door sedan option, but again, neither do the other two have five-door coupes. Swings and roundabouts, I guess. I think the Sportback is the best of the three Audis, combining the five-door coupe looks with a hefty boot and space for four.
The front seats are sensationally comfortable, look great and have a ton of adjustment. You sit lower than you do in the Avant but pretty much the same as the coupe, so if you feel like you’re missing out, you’re not (as long as you don’t look behind you). The optional Alcantara steering wheel is absolutely lovely, too, as is the same material on the seats and the shifter.
You get bottle holders in the doors that actually hold bottles and a pair of cup holders in the centre console. Under the armrest, there’s also a wireless charging pad. This car had wireless Apple CarPlay but also USB Android Auto.
he rear seats are very comfortable but a little more claustrophobic than the Avant’s wider open space. The diving roofline means less light gets in (unless you open the headroom-robbing panoramic sunroof blind), so it’s definitely cosy but with an okay view out of the shallow glass line. It reminds me a bit of the rear of the Aston Martin Rapide, actually, which I’m sure is an entirely relatable thing to say.
The centre armrest should really be fixed in place because unless you’re very short and don’t mind crossing legs with both outboard occupants, there’s not a lot of space here. And there’s a transmission tunnel to take yet more space, but at least you have your own set of climate controls. So as I said, space for four, as five is really a pinch.
Boot space in the RS5 starts at 465 litres, just 15 down on the non-existent RS4 sedan and only 40 fewer than the Avant, it’s all just a different shape. I mean, the dog will have far less fun in the RS5’s boot than the RS4 Avant’s, but then again, does the dog really want to see how quickly you’re entering that corner?
Audi’s curious policy of maintaining two separate and very different twin-turbo V6s continues to baffle me, but who cares because the 2.9-litre is a whistling, chuffing and popping delight. Delivering 331kW between 5700rpm and 6700rpm and a monster 600Nm from 1900rpm to 5000rpm, to say it’s got a bit of mid-range is an understatement.
It’s so fast both off the line with its sub-four second run to the ton but all that torque available for so much of the rev range, you’re in a position to move extremely quickly with just a flex of the ankle. And it’s so smooth while it’s doing it that it’s almost necessary for the exhaust to go bang to provide the drama.
The official fuel economy figure is 9.4L/100km and it’s unlikely you’ll get anywhere near it, with my week or so sending fuel through the lines at a rate of 12.8L/100km, including my wife’s calming influence both when with me and when she was driving.
An eight-speed ZF automatic does the shifting and it’s now de rigeur for most fast premium stuff (AMG has its own wacky nine-speed multi-clutch unit). Here in the Audi, it seems a bit crisper in the more enthusiastic modes than it does in the BMW, which is interesting. It’s soft and pliable in normal modes and sharp and responsive when you’re up for a fight.
The all-wheel-drive system is unique in this class in October 2021, at least until the M car arrives with a similar arrangement. Unlike the forthcoming M, you can’t switch off the front wheels, which is a shame but the rear-biased Quattro system isn’t the Haldex you’ll find the usual internet bores trashing when this car comes up. In RS mode, the system can send up to 85 per cent of the power to the rear wheels, so that’s not messing about.
The RS5 also has a proper limited-slip diff between the rear wheels for the inevitable shenanigans should you wish to try this car out on a track, which I cannot recommend enough having done so before our world closed in around us. Obviously, it’s not just useful on the track, but handy to know it’s there.
This car had the optional-but-should-be-standard dynamic damping. In Comfort mode, it’s extremely manageable on a day-to-day suburban drone, something I did a lot of given the rules in a local government area of concern in Sydney. It coped perfectly well with the combination of poorly-maintained Sydney suburban roads, 80km/h and higher runs and everything in between. In its hardest mode, usually self-selected when you press the RS button (like BMW and Mercedes, the two RS modes are configurable), it’s very hard but on a smooth road, effortlessly grippy and fast.
Turn-in is impressive, helped by the rear diff and the very sticky tyres, which on this car were from Continental (Audis come with whatever is on the shelf on the day at the factory, but none of them are bad). The trade-off for the big rubber is of course thundering tyre noise across coarse surfaces. Audi’s efforts to dampen the racket are valiant if not entirely successful, so you will have to raise your voice on the garbage surfaces that abound in Australia.
It’s that engine, though, which really impresses. While I recently drove – and praised – the S4 sedan for being a lovely all-rounder, the RS5 will blow it into the weeds, which is quite an achievement. Everything is turned up past 11, making it probably one of only two noisy Audis left, the other being the V10-powered R8. Regulations have toned down the bonkers RS6/RS7 V8 and the newer fives in the RSQ3 and, one assumes, the RS3 will also be quieter.
The colossal brakes match the engine power and they never feel like they're even considering fading. Quite why you’d need the carbon-ceramics – apart from the lack of brake dust – is beyond me, in normal use at least. What’s more impressive is that this is not a light car. The wrong side of 1700kg means there’s a lot of energy to deal with when you hit the brakes, and they do a tremendous job. And that weight also means that an RS5 without the dynamic damping is a car that feels heavier.
Putting it all together, the RS5 is a car with a deep well of performance as well as an inherently secure vibe on the road. Flooring it even in the wet gets you just a flicker of traction control as the Quattro sorts itself out and sends you towards the next set of lights with an exuberant bang on the very firm upshift. The seats ensure that cornering won’t dump you into the door, but make very sure you fit before you buy this car because while they look great, they might be a bit narrow for wider folks.