2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback First Drive Review

I’m climbing into the 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback for the first time, an occasion that’s more notable than it might seem. Not only is my Navarra Blue metallic tester one of only seven units built in Ingolstadt before the factory shut down for Germany’s August holiday, our small group of American journalists is about to blast across the Autobahn months ahead of the non-U.S. motoring press.

While Audi will likely sell a gajillion more Q5s than RS 5 Sportbacks stateside, this latest high-performance variant was conceived with a particular focus towards the American audience. This isn’t a massaged humpback whale masquerading as a high-performance machine, but rather a stretched, expanded, and steroidal vision of a similarly functional conveyance. Drivers: Fold those rear seats, load up the trunk, and fire up the engine.

The Sportback’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 produces the same 444 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque as the coupé, but more of the mill’s low frequency notes make their way into the cabin thanks to the spacious tail section. Set the drive mode to Dynamic, and the sound symposer, which consists of a diaphragm that transmits vibrations through the windshield, creates a convincing (but sometimes too-boomy) bass note throughout the cockpit.

Back on the German Autobahn, the RS5 feels comfortable cruising at low triple digit speeds, offering a softened edge to the experience with its comfy massaging Napa leather seats and niceties like the Google Earth display on Audi’s virtual cockpit screen. Also appreciated is the RS5’s adherence to physical switches and knobs in an age when many automakers (including Audi themselves) are moving to a primarily touchscreen-based setup, which can be frustrating to use at speed or on bumpy roads.

Though the outer edges of its performance might not be razor sharp enough to inspire weekend track day excursions, the genius of the Audi RS 5 Sportback lies in its layout. While its Mercedes-AMG and BMW M car competition undercut its considerable 4,057-pound curb weight, the RS 5 Sportback’s spacious interior and generous cargo capacity — enough to swallow five golf bags — makes it an intriguing proposition for real-world usage.