Worthy Of The RS Badge

Audi RS5 Sportback.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Audi RS5 Sportback.

If you bought cars based solely on looks and the numbers that appear on the spec sheet, the Audi RS5 would probably be one of the easiest decisions you’d ever make. I concede that looks are entirely subjective, but tell me that it doesn’t at least look exciting? You’d move over if you saw it closing in on your rearview mirror. It also looks the business in Sonoma Green, which is exclusive to the RS5.



2.9-litre twin-turbo V6







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The 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 produces 450hp and 600nm of torque.

Audi makes the RS5 in coupe and sportback variants, but only the latter is currently available in Singapore. There’s no difference in on paper performance, but the Sportback is arguably more practical because of its additional pair of doors. The extra doors also help it look more balanced from the side too.

On paper, the RS5 Sportback is a specs beast. The engine might be smaller than its predecessors, but it’s claimed to be more powerful and efficient. It has a 2.9-litre V6, which sounds pitiable considering the old RS5 had a great big 4.2-litre V8. But then that V8 was naturally-aspirated, the new RS5 has two turbos to help force more air into the engine. Power, therefore, remains roughly the same at 450hp. However, torque figures are up 20% from 500nm to a whopping 600nm.

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Two adults can sit in the back quite comfortably.

The claimed acceleration figure from Audi is 3.9 seconds to a standstill to 100km/h – that’s over half a second faster than the old RS5. And while it is truly effortless to hit three-digit speeds on the RS5 Sportback, the problem is, it never feels that fast. There’s none of that pin-you-in-the-seat feeling you’d expect from an engine that produces 600nm of torque – more than Audi’s own R8. 

I suspect the lack of a sports exhaust system as a standard feature compounds the problem – that is a $6,157 optional extra. As a result, the powertrain sounds muted. There is noise, but it just doesn’t sound like the kind that’s made by a high-performance car that could do 0-100km/h in under 4 seconds. More aural drama, please.

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Sports exhausts doesn’t come as standard, definitely tick that in the options list.

The steering, fortunately, is sharp and accurate so you can place the car where you want. The RS5 Sportback isn’t a small car but the precise steering gives you confidence. However, like most modern performance cars today, the steering is devoid of any real feedback. With quattro all-wheel steering, it’s supremely planted too. Whenever you stomp on the accelerator, it just hooks up and goes. It is easy to drive it quickly.

There’s no doubt that, objectively, the RS5 Sportback is a formidable vehicle. It gains speed at a ferocious rate. But to drive it is to crave for more excitement and engagement. It never feels as sporty as it should and it leaves me feeling detached. 

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The upside to its lack of theatrics is that it is supremely refined. The ride is no worse than a regular A5, and the extra pair of doors means it’s practical too. Inside, it’s about as big as an A4, so four adults can sit comfortably. The boot is usable too – though the sloping roofline means taller objects might struggle to fit. 

And therein lies the problem. Audi already has a fast 4-door sedan with a sloping roofline and it’s called the S5 Sportback. On paper, it’s about a hundred down on power and torque. But with similar all-wheel drive, it’s rapid enough in the real world. 

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All that boils down to the fact that the RS5 Sportback doesn’t do enough to earn its RS badge. The last RS car I drove, the RS6, was special in that in that it felt like it was going to turn into a plane and take off every time you stomped on the gas. And it felt so eager and nimble that you couldn’t believe you were in an estate car that was closing in on two tonnes. The RS5 Sportback, on the other hand, never feels as ballistic or as engaging. It’s just a faster version of the S5 Sportback. They probably should have called it the S5 Sportback Plus.