2021 Audi RS5 Sportback First Test: Just … Wow
Have you ever had a secret you badly wanted to tell someone, or the entire world? “Pssssst! I could live happily ever after with this four-door hot hatchback!” Yes indeed, the 2021 Audi Sportback is as quick as many sports cars and likewise goes around corners with aplomb, yet it rides comfortably, looks like a rolling modernist sculpture, carries five people, and holds 21.8 cubic feet of luggage beneath its sloping hatch. What more could you want from a car? This one does it all.
In the realm of four-door “coupes,” the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback (also available as a true two-door coupe) manages to straddle so many lines so well, you might easily overlook it. People tend to stick with what they know and like: traditional sedans, coupes, even hatchbacks. A lot of them seem to not want to hear about a car that blends the best parts of all three. Most faux coupes are larger than a true coupe, they don’t pull off “the look” particularly well, and most offer compromised rear access/seating accommodations. And most of them cost a good bit more than their siblings, too. Here’s why the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback is better than most.
How Quick Is the Audi RS5 Sportback?
Let’s dive into performance first. The car’s 2.9-liter twin-turbo V-6 makes 444 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, routed through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. Unlike lesser A5/S5 models, the 2021 Audi RS5 models boast a dedicated launch control feature. After a few acceleration test runs, MotorTrend associate road test editor Erick Ayapana noted the Audi RS5 Sportback delivers “explosive launch control. Shifts are very aggressive and snappy. Quattro ensures easy-breezy consistent launches. Nice engine note; any of it artificial?”
It’s a fair question, as this motor almost sounds like a V-8. The resulting 0-60 blast takes just 3.6 seconds on the way to a 12.0-second, 114.3-mph quarter-mile performance. A quick scan of sports cars we’ve tested recently showed the Audi RS5 Sportback is just as quick to 60 mph as the 503-hp twin-turbo-V8-powered 2021 Aston Martin Vantage Roadster, and it’s only 0.1 second behind at the quarter-mile mark. Stopping from either 100 or 60 mph was also impressive and consistent thanks to the RS5’s 14.8- and 13.0-inch vented and drilled brakes. Multiple 106- to 107-foot 60-0 stops demonstrated the brake hardware’s robustness. Cruising around town, though, you’d never suspect the RS5 is such a rocket when you want it to be.
How Does the RS5 Sportback Handle?
Also impressive is the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback’s figure-eight performance of 24.1 seconds, again exactly matching that same Aston Martin Vantage. The RS5’s adaptive dampers, all-wheel drive, and clever RS-specific rear differential make it easy to find the grip limits (0.98 g), but more important, you can do so in a very confident and non-threatening way. On our mini “racetrack in a bottle,” we found an amazingly capable and fun car. We appreciate the customizable RS1/RS2 modes where we selected Sport everything but “balanced” steering. The engine is very happy to rev, and upshifts are quick and smooth. The gearbox was also very smart to downshift to the correct gear into the corners.
The brakes are tremendous and capable of repeated flogging. The car allows a slight drift on the skidpad (cool!), and the clever diff plus all-wheel drive lets you go early to wide-open throttle. Altogether, the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback is super confident without the slightest hint of disaster; it’s an excellent beginner supersedan. Again, if you select Comfort or Auto from the available drive modes, you’d think you were behind the wheel of a luxury sedan.
There’s much new on the outside of the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback, but you need to know what you’re looking for. Much of it is subtle, simply improving what has been in play since 2019.
The car’s grille gets squeezed down and tugged apart a bit. The fender blisters bulge a little wider, but the Audi RS5 Sportback retains the same techno-organic gesture with its graceful “Coke bottle” character line that runs from stem to stern. This RS5 Sportback further benefited from the rare and pricey-yet-comprehensive Black Optic Launch Edition package (100 coupes and 325 Sportbacks) that adds, among many other functional things, black exterior trim and accents, and red brake calipers behind fender-filling 20-inch wheels wrapped in high-performance summer tires. Especially in this Daytona Gray metallic paint, it looks slightly more menacing, and there’s nothing fussy or busy in its execution. This is one of those excellent car designs that appears simple and handsome from a distance but grows more sophisticated and detailed with each step closer.
Inside the RS5 Sportback
The RS5’s standard honeycomb-stitched Nappa leather sport seats are supportive, and the front seats have a massage function. All the seats are now heated. The faux suede flat-bottom steering wheel controls the variable-rate steering, both courtesy of the launch edition. More items from the launch edition include navigation plus, Audi Connected Prime/Plus (six months free), matte carbon inlays, a specific interior package, RS sport exhaust, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, a head-up display with traffic sign recognition, park assist, and a 360-degree camera system. The standard 10.1-inch touchscreen features an all-new MIB 3 infotainment system that offers a multitude of connected features and is easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay is wireless, but Android Auto requires a USB connection.
Despite the RS5 Sportback’s sloping roof, front and rear headroom are nearly identical at 37.8 and 37.0 inches, respectively. The same cannot be said of other four-door coupes. The front and rear doors are nearly the same size, so access to the rear is not compromised.
Jack of All Trades
The 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback successfully combines the benefits of a sport sedan, “coupe,” and hatchback without looking ridiculous, which speaks to its great design. That it performs so competitively yet rides like a grand tourer is an impressive engineering accomplishment. Usually, trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for failure. But the 2021 Audi RS5 Sportback does so in a compelling package that will probably slip under most buyers’ bias radar, to their detriment. This category-bending performance car is truly worth your consideration if your priority is a car that can do it all.
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