by Jay Traugott
It is the year 2019. You are a person of considerable means, seeking a weekend only supercar, practical station wagon or SUV for family duties and an executive business sedan to take you to your weekday business appointments. The only solution is to go out and buy an Audi R8 V10 Plus, a Q3, and an A6 right? Well technically you could, but why bother when you can have all of them in one car? Introducing the 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback, Audi's answer to our original question. The RS5 Sportback was unveiled at the 2018 New York Auto Show and went on sale soon thereafter. The RS5 Sportback is slightly longer than the regular RS5 Coupe due to the addition of an extra set of doors but is powered by the same 2.9-liter V6 twin-turbo engine developing 444 horsepower which it shares with the Porsche Panamera 4S. At a starting price of $74,200, the RS5 Sportback goes up against the more conventional Mercedes-AMG C63 and Alfa's Giulia Quadrifoglio, none of which feature all-wheel drive or a hatchback configuration. Score one for Audi.
The RS5 Sportback is a new model, so everything is fresh for 2019.
The standard RS5 Coupe is a handsome car, so adding an extra set of doors and a hatchback liftgate shouldn't harm its profile too much, right? The Sportback manages to look good despite not conforming to the classic lines of a GT coupe or even a shooting brake. Audi's Sportback has a shapely body, sharply contrasted by gaping air vents and aggressive hood lines that draw your focus to the front of the car. In classic RS fashion, the overtones of a hardcore motorsport heritage aren't that subtle, but weirdly enough it works out pretty well. LED headlights look typically Audi - cool as all heck - while sizable 19-inch alloy wheels fill blistered arches.
The RS5 Sportback is built on the Volkswagen group's MLB Evo platform, and is identical to its Coupe sibling from front bumper to B-pillar, but is one inch taller in the back for passenger comfort, and is 2.3 inches longer overall thanks to the addition of those extra doors and hatchback rear. Overall the RS5 Sportback is 188.3 inches long and rides on a 111.2-inch wheelbase. The addition of those extra doors and everything that goes with has taken its toll on the curb weight, which rises to 4,057 lbs, 89 pounds more than the Coupe. That extra weight costs the RS5 Sportback a tenth of a second in the benchmark 0-60mph sprint.
The 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6 found in the RS5 Sportback is an in-house developed unit that it shares with the RS5 Coupe and Porsche Panamera 4S. This engine can best be described as an iron fist in a velvet glove; it delivers its power in a smooth and relaxed manner and emits a deep grumble that's unfortunately muffled to some extent by the turbochargers. Some will miss the linear urgency of Audi's previous-generation V8, but this new unit produces a flood of torque, 443 lb-ft to be exact. All that pulling power is available from only 1,900 rpm and eventually fades into a peak horsepower figure of 444 hp. That amount of power is more than enough to give the RS5 Sportback supercar-like acceleration. It will run 0-60mph in only 3.6 seconds. Power is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed ZF transmission. With all that torque on tap, the transmission is happiest to just do its thing in auto mode.
The Sportback might look like a bit of an unagile and heavy car, but it only weighs 89 pounds more than the regular RS5, so you'll be hard-pressed to note any major differences in its handling characteristics. The electrically assisted steering is accurate but lacks any real feedback from the front tires when scrubbing through tight corners. The quattro system does provide generous amounts of all-wheel-drive grip and the best way to drive the RS5 Sportback fast would be to apply the mantra of, "slow in, fast out". The ride can be overly hard and jarring in dynamic mode, even on smooth road surfaces, so it's best to leave the suspension settings in comfort mode, and let all that power do the talking. All in all, the RS5 Sportback drives like an extremely rapid grand tourer that doesn't mind being thrown around the bends a bit rather than an all-out sports sedan a-la Giulia Quadrifoglio.
Fuel economy for the RS5 Sportback is on par with other force-fed V6 cars in its class. The Sportback will return 17/26/20 mpg city/highway/combined, on par with the more powerful, but lighter Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. The even more powerful Mercedes AMG C63 returns an impressive 18/27/21 mpg. A 15.3-gallon gas tank means a range of 306 miles on a full tank of premium unleaded.
Interior quality on the RS5 Sportback is peerless. It's easy to see why so many people go on about Audi's ability to craft a luxurious cabin. Inside the Sportback, you're greeted by vast swathes of leather, Alcantara and carbon fiber that blend well with the simplistic dash layout. Everything you touch has a tangible quality to it, especially the leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel, which also houses infotainment, cruise and shifter controls. The front seats are a great blend of race car ergonomics and private jet comfort. They are also heated and adjustable in all sorts of directions. If you've had a long day at the country club, you can even have them massage you. The cross diamond stitching looks great, front and back, and you'll even notice illuminated aluminum door sill inlays, accompanied by the prerequisite RS badging of course. The rear seats are usable, even if the sloping roof impedes headroom for the six-footers in the family, but the extra pair of doors means more practicality than the standard coupe.
The Sportback was clearly designed for people who prefer the sedan look, but also enjoy the practicality of a wagon or SUV. Audi has found a good equilibrium between the classic four-door and the trusted wagon configuration. Measuring in at 21.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up, the RS5's trunk space is only five percent smaller than that of the RS4 Station Wagon. Fold the seats flat, and you're met with a generous 35 cubic feet of space, enough to fit a child-size snowmobile or enough golf bags for a four-ball. Personal storage space isn't bad, but the center storage console is smaller than the class standard.
Besides the fact that the RS5 Sportback's interior is built like a five-star hotel lobby, it's also packed to the brim with features. The first thing you notice when you step inside is the flat bottom, leather-wrapped steering wheel and sport bucket seats with 12-way power adjustment and pneumatic side bolstering. The touchpoints are perfectly sculpted to make a driver feel at home. Other notable interior features include wireless phone charging, climate control, and those awesome looking carbon fiber inlays. Convenience is top-notch, with a power liftgate, dual-zone climate control, and heated front seats all standard, while optional features include a head-up driver display, heated rear seats, and driver assistance features like automatic parking, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition.
Infotainment duties are taken care of by Audi's MMI system that's been around for a while now. The RS5 Sportback displays important info through two screens; an 8.3-inch MMI infotainment and navigation display and a 12.3-inch virtual cockpit instrument cluster. The MMI infotainment system uses a dial to flick through menu selections, and as we've come to know it over the years, it's quite easy to understand and use. The system includes a pair of USB ports front and rear, Bluetooth, as well as Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, and sound is taken care of by ten standard speakers with a premium Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system available on the options list.
The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback has not been affected by any recalls, and as a new model derivative reliability hasn't yet been proven. Audi backs their RS5 up with a standard four years/50,000-mile warranty as well as a 12 year/unlimited mile warranty for corrosion, and a four year/50,000 mile powertrain warranty. You also get a one year/10,000-mile maintenance warranty and four years roadside assistance.
Most major crash safety rating agencies tend to shy away from bashing up cars that cost close to $100,000, so we can only report on how the 2019 A5 Sportback faired. The A5 scored well overall, managing to get the best possible Good scores for for most tests from the IIHS. The A5 got a superior score for its standard and optional front collision safety system, of which most of these features are available on the RS5, like adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, lane keep assist, and traffic sign recognition. Six airbags are also standard, as is the expected minimum of any modern passenger vehicle.
The RS5 Sportback is a good car, purely because of the fact that it can do so many things at once. It delivers breathtaking performance that borders on supercar territory but will gladly cart five adults to the country club in grand fashion. It might not have the cargo capacity of an SUV, but as we've seen in our cargo comparisons, it comes close to matching the RS4 station wagon for space while retaining the sleek lines of a traditional sedan. Inside, the RS5 Sportback cradles its passengers in classic Audi luxury. Alcantara, leather, and carbon fiber deck the halls, and everything you can see or touch has a tangible quality to it. For a 444hp performance car, the RS5 Sportback still manages to return a respectable gas mileage figure of 17/26/20 mpg city/highway/combined, and at $72,400 it starts making a lot of sense. It may not be a true sports sedan but as a four-door uber-GT, there's almost nothing that has it beaten.
The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback costs $74,200 excluding a $995 destination charge. The RS5 doesn't have any direct competition, but it's competitively priced against cars of similar size and performance. The 2019 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio starts at $74,245, and the 2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 goes for $74,600.
2.9-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
There is only one model on offer, which is good news, as you get all the features, safety tech, and performance in one go. The RS5 Sportback comes with full LED head and taillights, 19-inch wheels with direct tire pressure monitoring, RS sport suspension, a power liftgate for ease of access, and matte aluminum exterior trimmings. Inside you're spoilt with Alcantara, leather and carbon fiber inserts along with heated and power-adjustable front seats, Audi's virtual cockpit display, full navigation, front and rear USB ports, wireless phone charging and even handwriting recognition. The entire Pre Sense suite of safety tech is included in the deal.
The Giulia Quadrifoglio is a traditional four-door performance sedan that prices alongside the RS5 Sportback. The Alfa makes use of a similar 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 but sends its 505 hp (more than 50hp more than the RS5) to the rear wheels only. Gas mileage figures match up perfectly; the Quadrifoglio will get 17/24/20 mpg city/highway/combined. The Alfa offers slightly more legroom front and back, but can't match the Audi for cargo space. The Audi RS5 Sportback comes with a longer list of standard features, and all in, the RS5 Sportback will cost you $45 less than the Italian. But the Italian is a driver's dream, a Ferrari in a four-door suit, making it the choice for track enthusiasts, while the Audi suits those who love their luxury with a side-order of speed.
The $74,600 C63 S is a true German muscle car, and despite the growing trend of downsizing engine capacities, it has stuck to its guns by using an earth-warming twin-turbo V8 instead of a smaller V6. The RWD only C63 produces a hefty 503hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Those massive numbers should, in theory, take a toll on the gas mileage statistics, but in reality, it is actually more frugal than the RS5 Sportback, returning a gas mileage number of 18/27/22.5 mpg city/highway/combined. The Mercedes has a comparable amount of interior space, but once again, Audi's hatchback-style liftgate gives it an advantage in the cargo department. Both cars prefer the open road to carving corners navigating through canyons, but the Audi is a more stable car thanks to its AWD system - this is especially true in wet and snowy winter conditions. Both focus on luxury, but with the C63 you get a V8 soundtrack to your cross-continent cruise, and that alone may be worth the extra $400.