Why would I buy it?
- Can eat other sports cars for breakfast
- Deceptively quick yet effortlessly usable
- Practical four doors and comfortable cabin
Why would I avoid it?
- Not a sensible buy over the credible S5 Sportback
- Low ground clearance and stiff ride
- Doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you
Between you and me, I was pretty scared of the prospect of driving the Audi RS5 Sportback. Look at it. It’s a mean ‘green’ machine with close to 450 horsepower at its disposal. It appears capable of ripping a hole in the time-space continuum when you smash the throttle. It looked intimidating standing there on the bare tarmac, under the pale dripping sky, evil sneering out of its imposing fascia, dual exhaust tips the size of my head, crouching like a wild feline ready to attack its prey.
But – and there’s a big but here – get inside and start driving, and the RS5 turns out to be like any other Four Rings. It’s nimble and easy to drive. Yet will burn the ego to ashes of those who dared to rev their motor next to it. Docile enough to protect your child, but capable of tearing an intruder limb to limb – like a Rottweiler. Or rather it’s like Bruce Banner – is green, has a doctorate, and will smash!
Engine and Performance
It’s a ‘hot V’ this one, which means the two turbos are positioned between the 90-degree banks of the V6 with the exhaust manifold pointing towards the inside. This layout allows a compact construction, shorter gas flow paths with minimal flow losses, and better heat management. But more importantly, it improves the response from the Porsche-developed 2.9-litre engine at the drop of the pedal. And that becomes apparent in its surreal standing quarter and acceleration times. Audi claims a 0-100kmph time of 3.9 seconds, and seeing how the RS5 launches itself off the mark it isn’t hard to believe either. Especially once you witness the four-door sedan defying the laws of physics, launching itself off the line.
Despite the fact that it can manage to rearrange your internals at the drop of the dime – when you aren’t pushing the RS5, it drives like any other Audi. Not only is it comfortable, but the RS5 Sportback is also fairly usable at any driving scenario you can imagine putting it through. Dropping kids to school – check, office commutes – check, getting groceries – check, taking the family for weekend outings - check, blowing competitions to smithereens at drag strips or setting blistering lap times on your favourite racetrack – double-check.
It’s surprising how there’s no launch control on this 444bhp sports sedan and yet it disappears into the horizon quicker than you can say ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’. In our V-box test, the RS5 did a 0-100kmph in 3.79 seconds – and that’s in drenched road condition, imagine the time on a grippier dry tarmac. Sending all of the 600Nm twisting force to the Quattro permanent all-wheel-drive system is an eight-speed ‘Tiptronic’, which is a classic torque-converter automatic transmission. Although, there are three drive modes to choose from – Auto, Comfort and Dynamic – the changes done to the drive system are barely noticeable. Pull the lever to S and there’s an improved throttle response, steering weight up slightly, and a bit harder snarling of the motor– but that’s pretty much it. It doesn’t need those gimmicks in the first place.
Despite being effortlessly quick, the predictable and linear power delivery makes the RS5 usable as a four-seater runabout. Unlike its arch-nemesis, the BMW M4, it won’t spoil the driver’s pants each time he/she goes hard on the throttle. It won’t even wiggle its tail unnecessarily. And won’t make the driver call out the creator when he/she makes a mistake. No matter how hard one tries, it is difficult to unsettle the Quattro and make it lose its grip.
Ride and Handling
We weren’t able to get the RS5 to the twisting mountain roads in the little time it was with us. But as mentioned earlier, this Four Rings grips as surreally as it accelerates. There’s a nice weight to the steering that feels natural and effortless at slow speeds. Manoeuvring the 444bhp monster through city traffic is easier than one can comprehend. Get up to highway speeds and the responsive steering helps slither through as easily as a hot knife through butter. It’s communicative too. You are aware of what the wheels are doing at any given point and this makes driving the RS5 even more fun.
Being a modern-day Audi, there is a gamut of electronic wizardry keeping things in check. While the Quattro AWD manages the right flow of power, there are clever differentials, electromechanical actuators, and complicated computational dynamics making sure the RS5 remains equally usable on any street as it feels at home on the ring. But these never feel intrusive. Even shifting through the Audi Drive Select drive modes barely alters the neutral and well-balanced handling charisma of the RS5.
As for the ride, the sports sedan is stiffly sprung. Surprisingly, the 265/35 R19 section Continental tyres offer some absorption over sharp irregularities. But each bump and crease is felt on the inside since there’s little give from the suspension. That said, the RS5 Sportback’s ride isn’t something to complain about in everyday usability. But the low ground clearance needs to be mindful of. Especially when driving over the ill-made speed-breakers or trudging through a gravely withered piece of tarmac.
Interior Space and Quality
Step inside the low-slung sedan and it’s a typical Audi affair here. It’s a no-fuss, no-nonsense cabin with the facade of an RS. You slide into a huggable sports seat that holds you tight in all the right places. Grab on to the meaty steering with flat-bottom steering wheel and there’s a reminiscent to the original R8 hidden there somewhere. Although there are no fighter jet-like dual-circular buttons mounted on the steering here, there’s a dedicated RS button for when one wants to wake up the slumbering monster in this ‘Sleeper’.
Everything about the RS5’s cabin follows function over form. It’s a rather simple looking cabin for a car that’s upward of an eight-figure price tag. But its simplicity helps you reach out to all the controls easily, thus focusing on what’s more important in an RS badged vehicle – driving! For example, take a look at the centre console. There are no unnecessary buttons to navigate the multimedia or adjust the air-con or navigation. Just the gear-lever, engine start button, electronic-parking brake, and a volume dial. Just dab-slot-punch-rotate and off you go!
Although it’s a touchscreen, the floating infotainment screen is carried over from the standard Audi range and doesn’t pack anything special for the RS beast here. But it does throw out all the essential information just like the all-digital driver’s display. And the latter is configurable too.
Space-wise, it’s a little tight in terms of the headroom owing to the sloping roofline of the Sportback. Nonetheless, you can accommodate three other passengers easily and can manage a quick cross-country jaunt too. Since you’d be travelling so fast, you’d be spending less time in the tight cabin, innit?
Lastly, since this is a proper four-door sedan and not a tight coupe like the previous RS5 was, there’s a usable boot space as well that can put some coupe-SUVs to shame. The notchback opens up quite tall and wide and the cavernous boot is good enough to swallow everything belonging to a bachelor pad if not the whole house.
Equipment and Safety
Usually, high-performance cars are robbed of their luxuries to save a few kilos and shave off a few milliseconds from the quarter-mile time. But not this one. The RS5 Sportback comes loaded with all the equipment and features available in the book, and then some. In terms of hardware, there are all the usual RS gadgetries like Drive Select, large steel brakes, 10-spoke star-style silver-finished wheels, Virtual Cockpit with MMI interface, and sport suspension. In terms of safety, there is a multitude of airbags, rear-view camera, park assist, TPMS, ISOFIX, head restraints for front passengers, and all the usual driver aids you could expect from true-blue sports cars.
And for comfort, the RS5 Sportback is available with three-zone climate control, electric front seats with lumbar support and memory, sunroof, space saver, electric tailgate, 40-20-40 split-seats, smartphone connectivity, and Alcantara upholstery.
With the 2021 update, Audi India decided to ditch the two-door coupe version of the RS5 and brought in the Sportback instead. Moreover, they decided to position it above the slightly mellow (but still ferocious enough) S5 Sportback, which is priced at Rs 79.06 lakh. Meanwhile, this – the full-blown RS – costs around Rs 1.04 crore (both prices are ex-showroom, India). That’s a viable difference of around Rs 25 lakh between these two quick Audis – that are equally unostentatious and won’t grab a second look by a passer-by.
But buying an RS5 Sportback is for those who want top-tier, unadulterated performance and bragging rights. It sounds fantastic, looks eccentric, and feels equally at home on the streets of South Bombay or attacking corners of BIC. Surprisingly, with two extra doors, it can be used for daily commute as well. And will make mincemeat of other full-blown sports cars/coupes when you show it some long strip of tarmac with Christmas lights (the automotive kind) placed at the start of it. Trust us, we know!
Pictures by Kapil Angane