Launch impressions: Audi RS 5 Sportback

Audi breaths new life into the RS 5 Sportback.

Drawing inspiration from one of the wildest, most technologically advanced four-door race cars to ever hit the race track is not a bad way to breathe life into a new-to-market model.

Such is the new Audi RS 5 Sportback, which the maker says takes its cues from the mighty IMSA Audi 90 GTO of the late-1980s., basically a 700bhp (522kW) all-wheel-drive Group B rally car engine-drive train package mated to a space frame chassis and cloaked in a carbon fibre silhouette body. It looked the goods and walked the talk.

The RS 5 has a far different intended purpose, of course, that of a 21st century prestige Grand Tourer. To this end, its Sportback body adds versatility and five-door practicality to the performance car underpinnings shared with its Coupe sibling:  lightweight chassis, quattro all-wheel-drive drive and a 331/Kw/600Nm V6 biturbo engine.

Audi Australia coincided the RS 5 Sportback’s local launch with the recent Liqui Moly Bathurst 12 Hour race where the motoring media got to drive four examples from Canberra to Mt Panorama. Mostly quiet country back roads but with a mix of highway cruising and twisty hill climb thrown in, the 400km+ drive provided a good test of its GT credentials. Here’s how it went …

RS5 interior

With peak torque on stream from 1900 to 5000rpm and driving through a slick-shifting eight-speed tiptronic auto, the 2.9-litre biturbo V6 has the grunt to deal with any on-road challenge, dispatching slower-moving traffic instantly and safely. 0 to 100 km/h flashes by in just 3.9 seconds. Conversely, at the legal open road limit, it loafs along, unfussed and smoothness personified.

Kilometres are crushed with ease, thanks to consummate comfort enjoyed by driver and passengers alike. Inside what Audi calls a Virtual Cockpit, front occupants score RS sport seats in fine Nappa leather and with multi-powered adjustment. At their fingertips are dual climate control aircon, Audi Connect infotainment system and Audi Drive Select, via which a cossetting ride quality is at your command.

Come to the twisty bits of the drive and that same drive select can be tweaked to dial up the dynamics. Thus enabled, the sport differential actively transfers torque to the rear wheel with most traction under cornering, the RS 5 hunkers down on its sport suspension and carves up the curves with conviction.

In a nutshell, the RS 5 Sportback lives up to its GT aspirations emphatically. 

  • Priced from $157,700 (excludes on-road costs).

RS5 side on drive