2021 Audi RS5 Sportback review: Where’s the drama?

Ascari Blue. What a color.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback has 444 horsepower, 442 foot-pounds of torque and will hit 60 mph in under 4 seconds. It has Quattro all-wheel drive with rear differential with torque vector, ceramic front brakes, adaptive shock absorbers and sports exhaust. Add in plenty of tech, comfortable housing, and a liftback shape that’s both stylish and functional, and the RS5 positions itself as hell of a fast all-rounder. So why don’t I want one?

Like it

  • It looks fantastic
  • Comfortable cabin
  • Functional hold
  • World-class technology

I do not like

  • Steering insensitive
  • It lacks emotion
  • The Ascari edition is super expensive

The biggest problem with this car is that it desperately lacks drama. It’s not enough that the RS5 Sportback is just fast, fast or agile. It must be visceral. It must be exciting. It needs to make you laugh. You should want to ride it harder and harder, again and again. Audi absolutely nails this unquantifiable feeling with cars like the R8, RS6 Avant and also the electric RS E-Tron GT. The RS5, in comparison, is a bit sterile.

The 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 has plenty of punch, but is too quiet, ditto the RS sports exhaust. The eight-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly, but the small steering wheel-mounted paddles offer no experiential appeal. At least the RS5 is more fuel efficient than other compact luxury sports cars, returning 18 mpg in the city, 25 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg combined. Normally I’d say good luck hitting those numbers given the RS5’s performance stats, but since this car doesn’t really push you to drive it hard, those EPA numbers are pretty spot on.

To its credit, the RS5’s adaptive shock absorbers make it really comfortable to drive around town and will devour hundreds of miles on the highway. But when you call up dynamic mode and point the RS5 on a mountain road, it’s like you’re forcing it to do something it’s not up to par. There is a pronounced roll in the fast corners and an audible protest from the 275 / 30R20 Pirelli P Zero tires. You’d think Audi’s sport steering option would help spice things up, but it’s too light and too numb, regardless of how you drive. The ceramic brakes are very powerful, but the inconsistent feel of the pedal hinders confidence. Really, the RS5 is happiest when you rock at a moderate pace, which somehow defeats the purpose. The BMW M3 e Mercedes-AMG C63 they may not be that well-rounded, but the sacred smokes are more fun. And isn’t that what made you want to buy one of these in the first place?

All of the aforementioned performance kit can be fitted to any RS5, but comes standard with my test car’s limited-run Ascari Launch Edition package. Only 100 RS5 Sportback and 25 RS5 CoupĂ© will be optioned in this way, painted in the aptly named Ascari blue, which is such a beautiful shade that it almost makes up for some of this car’s shortcomings. Coupled with matte aluminum finishes, this RS5 looks hot as hell, and those 20-inch wheels really fill the wheel arches for a great location. The special edition trim line also includes a 360-degree camera system, head-up display, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, navigation, and loads of other goodies. Then again, considering the Ascari Launch Edition is a $ 20,500 option, it was damn better to be fully loaded.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

The RS5 receives the same updates as Audi’s other 2021 A5 / S5 models. You’ll notice the redesigned headlights, wider grille and larger exhaust pipes, and inside, Audi’s updated MIB 3 infotainment interface is displayed on a 10.1-inch touchscreen. This technology is fantastic – colorful, responsive and easy to use, with Google Earth map imagery and a standard Wi-Fi connection. you can use Apple CarPlay wirelessly or connect Android Auto with a USB cable. Combined with Audi’s always fantastic Virtual Cockpit digital gauge cluster, the RS5’s tech game can’t be beat.

Another big win, the RS5’s Sportback form adds a ton of features. The entire rear hatch opens to reveal 21.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which is more than double what you get in an RS5 Coupe. You can lower the rear bench seat to carry even longer items, making this one of the most functional vehicles around that doesn’t get slapped with an SUV or crossover designation.

At least the RS5 looks great.

Steven Ewing / Roadshow

All things considered, the RS5 Sportback would make a great day-to-day driver. But $ 76,445 (including $ 1,045 for the destination) is a lot of money, and if I’m shelling out for an RS-badged Audi, I want it to make me feel all the feelings. Oh, and this Ascari Launch Edition runs for $ 96,945, which would normally make some sense given its limited run status, but not when the RS5 is so inherently meh.

Also, if you’re looking for a quiet skill, why not just get one? S5 Sportback? It’s just as luxurious and functional, and you can get one generously equipped for around $ 65K. The RS5 may have 95hp more, but it’s not worth the extra cost. Remember, the specs don’t always tell the whole story.

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