To paraphrase a famous SNL sketch, Audi been very, very, good to us. Looking back, we spent quality time with the beautiful A5 coupe, the potent S5 Sportback, and now we’re driving the Uber-fast (not to be confused with Uber, fast) RS 5 Sportback.
It’s a nice progression, as each one has built on the other, but you’re never really prepared for the jaw-dropping performance an Audi RS model can provide.
Green, with Energy
The first thing that hit us about our tester was its Sonoma Green Metallic paint. We loved it. Audi has a tradition of bringing some awesome out-of-the-box colors to the market, and the signature green of our tester really stands out in a crowd. Now to be fair, everyone didn’t love it. Which is probably part the point, but the funny thing is, everyone loved the look of the RS 5 – they just would get a more traditional color if it was theirs. Fair enough.
Even if you don’t follow Audi, you know it’s something special the moment you lay eyes on it. For those in the know, the RS 5 features design inspiration from the Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO. That was the car that turned the racing world on its ear with quattro all-wheel-drive giving a tremendous handling advantage.
Up front, there’s a large Singleframe (Audi’s name) grille with large RS-specific honeycomb air intakes and matte aluminum optic front spoiler with cool QUATTRO script. Come along to the side and you’ll notice flared fenders and a sharp wave-design shoulder line that cuts an imposing presence, while matte alu-optic (also Audi’s name) mirror housings and high-gloss black side sills balance out the looks.
Out back of the Sportback (sorry…) there’s an RS rear diffuser, oval RS exhaust pipes, and a rear spoiler in a high gloss black.
That’s a standard RS 5. Our tester wore some extra goodness with the Black optic carbon package, with 20-inch 5-am-Flag design wheels (made all the better by the Audi Ceramic Brakes between the spokes), a high-gloss black exterior kit, with Carbon rear lip spoiler, Carbon front blade and rear diffuser, Carbon exterior mirror housings and Carbon side sill inserts. And it looks fantastic!
Audi’s are renowned for their beautiful cabins, and RS 5 is no exception. Before you get in, you see the S sport seats, covered in optional Fine Nappa Leather seats with honeycomb stitching. (If you don’t go for the Nappa, you still get a high-quality leather and Alcantara combo).
Get in, and you notice the same leather covers the center console and armrests. The quality, the smell, the workmanship all creates a “wow” moment. Those sport seats are special; not only 8-way power adjustable, they feature power side bolsters and your choice of massage settings, including Wave, Stretch and Knead! (We felt the need for knead).
The rear seats are also adult friendly and the RS 5’s party trick – lift up the hatch and you have useful cargo space, which is enhanced by easy folding rear seats. Maybe you didn’t need an SUV after all…
Back to the front! Reach out and there’s a flat-bottomed RS sport steering wheel covered in perforated leather framing the 12.3-inch Audi virtual cockpit. While watered-down versions of this system have managed to flow downstream, even to VW’s Jetta GLI, Audi still did it first (with the TT) and it’s still the best, with sharp, brilliant displays, the ability to show the nav map, and adjust the prominence of the speedo and tach. For the RS, additional displays are offered, including G-forces, torque, a shift light indicator and tire pressure.
The large 8.3-inch center screen features Audi’s MMI Navigation, with all the expected modern tech, including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Wi-Fi, and Audi connect CARE and PRIME & PLUS. Made all the better by our tester’s optional Bang & Olufsen sound system with 3D sound.
More important is how you interface with all this tech – a large rotary knob with two “wings” and a couple push buttons are extremely intuitive – there’s a ton of tech on this car, but it’s all easily accessible, and it comes so naturally. Perfection in action. Lexus, please take note!
Like the exterior, there’s loads of carbon-fiber trim everywhere – completely sporting and exactly what you’d want.
Of Course, a lot of this goodness is available on other Audi models, what you really pay for in the RS trim is the performance. Under the hood is a 2.9-liter V6 boasting twin turbos and churning out a jaw-dropping 444 horsepower and 443 lb.-ft of torque that comes in below 2,000 rpm. It’s a wonderful engine too, starting with a deep growl that could easily be mistaken for a V8. It’s perfect inside – not too loud, not too quiet, and it just snarls as it pulls.
It’s backed up by an eight-speed automatic, and it’s as quick and positive as any Direct Sequential Transmission we’ve driven, it pops off lightning fast shifts, and gives a satisfying “braaap” on downshifts. Progress is almost ridiculously fast – 0-60 comes in under 4 seconds, and thanks to our optional Dynamic Plus package, it tops out at 174 mph. Great for the Autobahn. Or a trip to the pokey here in the U.S!
Part of the credit for the tremendous grip has to go to Audi’s famous Quattro all-wheel drive. To give the responsive feel of rear wheel drive, it distributes the power 40:60 front/rear, while the standard sport rear differential helps the RS point into turns.
And point it does! Put it into Dynamic Mode (the sportiest) and the optional Dynamic Steering responds with amazing agility that will slam you into the supportive side bolsters of the sport seats. Giving race-car reflexes to such a relatively large vehicle is truly impressive. And lots of fun.
While that Dynamic mode is fun in the twisties it would be pretty harsh for the daily drive. Luckily the adaptive dampers serve up a lovely smooth ride in Comfort and Auto mode, yet it never gets loose or sloppy – this is a sport vehicle after all. And if you don’t like how Audi does the tuning (there’s one in every crowd), you also have Individual mode, so you can adjust to your preference.
This much power and cornering grip requires strong brakes, and our tester had some great ones. Thanks to the optional Dynamic plus ackage, our SR 5 had ceramic front brakes, with superb pedal feel and massive stopping power. We’re guessing that we didn’t even get close to testing them.
Is it Easy Being Green?
Only if you have lots of it. That’s okay – you’re talking immense flagship performance for the privileged and lucky few. And our tester was a showcase of what one can build.
The RS 5 Sportback starts at $74,200. And like most European products, there are loads of options. On our tester, that included Sonoma Green Metallic paint ($595), The Dynamic plus package mentioned above adds $5,800, The Black optic carbon package, $5,500.
The RS Driver assistance package throws in Active Lane Assist, Traffic Sign Recognition, Adaptive Cruise with Traffic Jam assist, Park steering assist, High beam assistant, Top view camera system and head up display comes in at a reasonable $3,700. We also enjoyed the Dynamic package, with RS Sport Suspension with Dynamic Ride Control, RS sport exhaust system with black tips, and red brake calipers. Yours for $3,350. But there’s more!
You’d be remiss not to get the special 20-inch peak-design forged wheels ($2,500), Fine Nappa leather package ($1,500), Dynamic steering ($1,150) and the Bang & Olufsen sound system ($950). Add in $995 for destination and our tester came in at $99,990. Change back from your Hundy!
It’s hard to find exact competitors in the supercar liftback division, but we’d consider the Lexus RC F Track Edition at $97,825. A softer way towards performance. A 503 hp Mercedes AMG C63 S Sedan comes in at $94,800. Also cool, but the V8 AMG’s have a very different vibe – exhuberant and bordering on brash. Both would be exciting options, but we think the Audi finds a middle ground – still thrilling but more livable and usable as daily – hey, it’s a hatchback! If that’s a consideration. And even if it isn’t this is an Amazing ride.
Near supercar performance, beautiful looks, superb quality, even hatchback versatility – the Audi RS 5 is a stunning achievement in every way.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.