The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is a high-speed techno-cocoon

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November 06, 2019 08:00 AM

The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is a high-speed techno-cocoon

Powerful and sure-footed, this Audi is more ‘comfortable tourer’ than ‘practical sports car’

Graham Kozak

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

Toggle Fullscreen

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

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The 2019 RS5 Sportback’s sport mode displays a large central tachometer and performance statistics, such as a lap timer, horsepower and torque gauge, G-meter, and if equipped with the Dynamic plus package, tire pressure and temperatures.

What is it: The Audi RS5 Sportback is the highest-performance variant of the A5 Sportback—a stretched A5 coupe or a downsized A7, depending on how you look at it. The idea is that you get rear seats and extra cargo capacity with a sporty, coupelike (or at least fast-backed) profile, to which the RS designation adds 444 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque courtesy of a 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6.
Key Competitors: BMW 4-Series Gran Coupe, Audi S7, Mercedes-AMG GT63
Base Price: $75,195 As-Tested Price: $96,990
Full review: 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback
Highlights: In this case, at least, RS designation doesn’t mean this Audi is going to beat you up for the privilege of higher output; the RS5 Sportback remains, at its core, a sure-footed and comfortable tourer, not a hardcore sports car. Options on this $96,990 tester vary from the helpful to the borderline superfluous; whether you need the $5,800 Dynamic Plus Package, which unlocks a 174-mph top speed (and adds ceramic front brakes) is going to depend on your tolerance for speeding tickets.

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The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is available with Audi’s virtual cockpit and a digital 12.3-inch instrument display.

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The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is available with Audi’s virtual cockpit and a digital 12.3-inch instrument display.

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The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is available with Audi’s virtual cockpit and a digital 12.3-inch instrument display.

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The 2019 Audi RS5 Sportback is available with Audi’s virtual cockpit and a digital 12.3-inch instrument display.

Our Opinion: How it was supposed to work was this: I line up the RS5 Sportback for a work trip from Detroit to New York City, point it more or less eastward once I get south of Toledo and let its 444-hp twin-turbocharged V6 cut the roughly 10-hour drive in half. Or something like that.
How it actually worked out was, I got stuck in a weather system that stretched from Pittsburgh to Jersey City. Most of the drive was spent crawling through torrential rain. There were many miles, more than I care to remember in detail, spent creeping along with the flashers on, one in a long line of drivers utterly hobbled by nature. Any faster than 5 mph and the wipers couldn’t keep up; I wouldn’t have been able to exceed the speed limit even if I had wanted to. Then, I drove into lower Manhattan in an attempt to make it to Brooklyn. Lower Manhattan is not—and this is probably going to come as a surprise to you—a great place to drive. The next day I had to get to and from Sleepy Hollow (it’s a real place!), which involved driving through upper Manhattan. Also not a great place to drive, as it turns out.
But, weirdly, battling through the city during the afternoon rush hour was when the Audi started to come into its own. Sport mode dialed up throttle responsiveness, heightening the car’s reflexes and making it easier to bash my way through the aggressive, self-absorbed, anarchistic traffic. It felt just as pissed off as I did at the double-parkers and oblivious Uber drivers. It wanted to close any exploitable gaps, ward off anyone trying to cut in on my lane. Maybe this is why New Yorkers are always so high-strung. Anyway, by the time I’d reached my destination I felt like I’d accomplished something.

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The next day, when I finally did turn westward to head back to Michigan, the weather had cleared somewhat; I was able to stretch out the RS5 on the turnpike and, no surprise here, it’s great at speed. Yet even though it’s an RS model, I didn’t find the RS5 Sportback to have much of an edge. This is itself a sort of double-edged sword. On the one hand, the relatively light steering—I’d be curious to try out a model not equipped with the weight- and ratio-varying, $1,150 dynamic steering option—and clinical, consistent delivery of power makes it easy to chew through miles (the massage function in the seats helps a little bit there, too).
On the other, the sense of urgency you feel in an Mercedes-AMG or a BMW M-car is mostly lacking here. It’s not that the RS5 isn’t capable or good—it’s that, even in the most aggressive performance-oriented drive settings, it doesn’t quite feel racy while you’re performing feats of speed. Maybe it comes to life on-track, when you can fling it around and explore its limits, and 174 mph top speed, without regard for traffic laws. I can’t speak to that, though.
Perhaps related to this, the RS5 is probably the best of the bunch when it comes to tech integration. There is a lot of it here, especially since our tester was equipped with the $3,700 RS driver assistance package (which gets you adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, a top view camera and so on). The driver assistance stuff is less clunky than other systems I’ve tested—BMW’s comes to mind here—and in any case you can turn it off. With regard to infotainment, the Audi virtual cockpit system still holds up; I find it intuitive, fluid and relatively unobtrusive, despite the fact that it can take up the entire instrument cluster screen if you want it to. And this is from someone who prefers analog gauges. If you’re going to do tech, do it well. Audi, by and large, does.

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So is the RS5 worth it? Believe it or not, I don’t always default to the highest-power variant of a given model. I’d tend to recommend the Audi S7 over the RS7 in most cases, for example, because I think it’s more balanced for everyday use. In this case, though, you get a substantial bump in output (compare the RS5’s 444 hp and 443 lb-ft to the S5’s 354 hp and 369 lb-ft) without too many boy racer conceits or a suspension that will shake your teeth out. So there’s really no reason to avoid the 5 Sportback’s RS trim.
Except, maybe, the cost. Going on $100,000 like this tester, it’s a whopper. Closer to the $75,195 base, it feels pricey, but not totally unreasonable all things considered; a lot of the options here, like the $5,000 Matte Alu optic carbon package (which gets you special wheels and carbon-fiber bits) feel, well, very optional. Know that in any case, what you’re getting is more accurately described as a punchy techno-tourer rather than a hard-edged track car that just so happens to come with four doors and ample luggage space.
–Graham Kozak, features editor

Specs

Base Price: $75,195
As-Tested Price: $96,990
Drivetrain: 2.9-liter twin-turbocharged V6, eight-speed automatic, AWD
Output: 444 hp, 443 lb-ft
Curb Weight: 4,000 lb (est)
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 17/26/20 mpg
Pros: Well balanced and suitable for long trips, even in high-output trim; class-leading tech integration
Cons: Overall feel is a little cold; gets pricey fast

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2019-audi-rs5-sportback-high-speed-techno-cocoon

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