Audi RS5 Sportback

Splendid Sportback delivers

Some cars just look as if they are travelling at 300km/h. The Audi RS5 Sportback is one of them - even if it's limited to a spoilsport 250km/h, or optionally upped to 280. 

This version gained its more angular more purposeful looks at the same time as it dumped the old V8 for an all-new biturbo 2.9-litre TFSI V6 — it really looks the part and turns heads, especially in this virile red hue, enhanced by RS Dynamic Package complete with Matrix LED headlights.

The high tech V6 was clearly conceived to beat emissions laws and that it certainly achieves in regular driving, but push it and it sucks gas like the village drunk downs a gimme beer. Maybe without the splatter. The 331kW 600Nm V6 is a big step up on the old normally aspirated V8 though — it makes the same power than the lump it replaces but develops 170 more Newton-metres than the old eight.

That sees this one taking a whole second off the old car’s 0-100km/h trot as it also shaves a bit more than that off to the quarter mile, while taking a huge chunk out of the old one’s 80-120 and 120-160km/h overtaking acceleration ability on our test strip. So it does quite a bit more than just saving a few litres per hundred when driven economically (Ingolstadt promises 17 percent). Not so sure how much it saves when those turbos are all spooled up, if anything.

Those turbochargers nestle into the vee of the six, with each supplying a separate cylinder bank through an ‘efficient new' B-cycle  central direct injection and combustion process. On the road that V6 delivers a glorious soundtrack accompanied by a splendid little whine — a little like a current F1 car, but delivered in a far subtler and genteel fashion. The new cat’s diet clearly also contributes to both its performance and efficiency gains, considering it has lost 60 kilos over the previous car. 

The V6 turns an optimised shift timed eight-speed auto and obviously turns quattro permanent all-wheel drive in a 40:60 split front to rear through a self-locking central differential. Add revised RS-tuned five-link front and rear suspension with Dynamic Ride Control, dynamic steering and ceramic brakes.

One of the more impressive aspects of the RS5 is its quite sublime ride in normal driving — you’d never believe that you were in  sport-tuned car with such low profile rubber, but on the flip side, it delivers brilliant handling, precise turn in and a great follow through when asked. An all-wheel drive car aways loses a bit of finesse, but then it gains sure-footedness and instils driver confidence and I prefer those significantly more tangible gains over a little lost feeling that 90% of people will never notice anyway.

There's not much RS5 Sportback does wrong beyond its gluttony when asked — except perhaps that we had a new Q8 a week or two before this and while this one has all the right infotainment and comms kit in that splendid cabin, it’s now all of a sudden a bit last season versus the latest rendition of Audi MMI. It’s quite astounding how fast electronic technology is progressing in cars — what was great last year already seems quite inadequate, even versus Audi’s own latest kit…

The other aspect worth mentioning are this car’s Matrix LED headlights — they work brilliantly, illuminating even treacherous Cape Northwester lashed roads as if it was daytime while allowing you to keep the lights on bright as they block out oncoming cars so those drivers are not dazzled. This car has a huge selection of fantastic safety kit, but none of it quite impressed me as much as those new Matrix headlamps...

RS5 may be a bit tight to access and leave, but inside its perfect and then you can choose an RS4 Avant if that really gets to you, so Audi has it all covered. In all, RS5 Sportback represents the epitome of performance driving at this level on so may fronts, even if technology in some areas is accelerating faster than carmakers can cope. But that’s a good thing, no? - Michele Lupini

Images - Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Audi RS5 Sportback
Engine: 331kW 600Nm 2884cc biturbo petrol IV6               
Drive: 8-speed automatic AWD
0-60km/h:               1.80 sec
0-100km/h:             3.98 sec                      
0-160km/h:             8.94 sec       
400m:                      12.0 sec @ 186km/h            
80-120km/h:           2.55 sec
120-160km/h:         3.63 sec          
VMax:                      250km/h                               
Fuel:                         9.1 l/100km                         
CO2:                         206 g/km
Warranty/Service:  1y Unl./5y 100Kkm 
LIST PRICE:              R1.3M           
RATED:                     88%