ROAD TEST: The four-door that is more class than RS
REFLECTING on life, a wise woman delivered one of the most resonating quotes. "I'm not sure whether it's more exciting wearing frilly knickers or hanging them on the line.”
Those resounding words resurfaced when behind the wheel of Audi's RS5 Sportback.
Refined and attractive on the outside, it's not until you peel back the layers that you find true sublimity.
Four doors and a steeply raked roofline are the hallmarks of a fine grand tourer. Throw in an insanely powerful twin-turbo V6 and hearts begin to race - it's a little like catching a glimpse of those frilly knickers.
Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder, yet the circa $160,000 asking price would make many wince.
The sticker price is the same for the two-door coupe version, so practical folk would find the two extra doors value for money.
Open the frameless doors and it looks the part, awesome honeycomb patterned Alcantara seats, flat-bottom steering wheel, shiny stainless steel pedals with rubber grips, stubby gear lever and metal dash trim. Other givens include 20-inch alloys, sunroof, wireless phone charging, massage function in the front seats, USB charging points front and back, Bang & Olufsen sound system, as well as three-zone climate control.
Colour options include grey, metallic silver, white, black, blue and green, as well as pearl effect grey and red.
Warranty coverage is on par with prestige standards at three years unlimited kilometres, but that's two years short of what's become the mainstream benchmark. Service plans are available for three ($1950) or five ($3020) years, with maintenance needed annually or every 15,000km.
Five-star status was awarded in 2017, and while it hasn't been tested under the more stringent 2019 criteria the RS5 does come with the vital safety technology, including automatic braking if the driver fails to act fast enough, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, head-up display, blind-spot warning, parking system, active lane correction, LED headlights and auto high-low beam.
It's also armed with traffic jam assist which takes all the hard work out of stop-start congestion by braking, accelerating and providing steering assistance up to 65km/h to keep the vehicle in lane.
Dynamic with an addictive sporting bent, that doesn't mean the RS5 is pure performance.
The four-door configuration is a decisive practical advantage over the coupe, as is the liftback boot which pops up to offer 480 litres of space (15 litres more than the two-door) - enough for a pair of large suitcases.
Audi was at the forefront with its virtual cockpit design when launched, although things are beginning to look a little dated compared to newer models like the Q8 SUV which showcases the next iteration of tech. The RS5 remains impressively savvy, with the primary 8.3-inch colour screen and digital driver's display easy to operate.
Many sporting offerings preference performance over ride quality, not the RS5. It's firm, yet remains comfortable in most circumstances. Cup holders in the console, fold-down rear armrest, nook for the key and bottle holders in the doors make the cabin a combination of common sense and opulence.
Unadulterated weaponry. Nowadays the zero to 100km/h time is often regarded as superfluous, but the fact the RS5 can achieve the feat in less than four seconds showcases its supercar-like firepower.
Extend the throttle and its delivers brutish punch.
While it may have a V8 soundtrack, shift the adaptive dampers setting from Comfort to Dynamic (which also quickens the acceleration response and adds some additional growl to the exhaust) that firms the suspension, and it launches with relentless force.
The self-locking centre differential directs 40 per cent of the torque to the front axle and 60 per cent to the rear in normal driving conditions - although keen drivers will love the fact up to 85 per cent can be sent rearward when the conditions are right.
Steering feel is light, sometimes lacking some feel, yet it remains direct and easy to manoeuvre.
Life's been good, getting places faster than anyone else always seems appealing.
My racecar driving ambition never came to fruition, but now I can rival the best steerers with the family in tow.
ALFA ROMEO GIULIA QUADRIFOGLIO FROM $145,900
Gorgeous looks and Alfa's first rear-drive performance car has ample Italian flair with a "Ferrari inspired” 375kW/600Nm turbo 2.9-litre V6. Matches the Audi with a 0-100km/h sprint in 3.9 seconds.
MERCEDES-AMG C63S FROM $160,900
A refresh brought nine-speed auto and revised suspension. Still the sole V8 at this level, with 375kW/700Nm from its 4.0-litre turbo and acceleration to 100km/h in 4.1 seconds.
Stately performance at its best. This is beauty and the beast - but far more entertaining.
AT A GLANCE
AUDI RS5 SPORTBACK
PRICE $157,700 plus on-roads (cost of performance)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3yr unlim km wty (short); $1950 for 3 years (OK)
ENGINE 2.9-litre 331kW/600Nm turbo-petrol V6, AWD (rapid)
SAFETY 5-star, AEB, adaptive cruise control, 360-degree camera, head-up display, blind-spot warning (good)
THIRST 8.9 litres per 100km (about 10 on test)
SPARE Space-saver (expected)
BOOT 480 litres (rear seats also drop)