The 331kW five-door RS5 Sportback fills the gap between RS5 Coupe and RS4 Avant

The money-no-object, three-car fantasy garage is a never-ending game for car enthusiasts, and there are numerous approaches to it. I was speaking with another dad at my son’s school recently and his approach was to fill the daily driver slot before thinking about the toys. For me, the first two spots are always the easiest to fill and always fall to a track car and a supercar/super GT. But it’s the third spot that causes me the most chin scratching.

As much as I’d like to pretend that roll cages and six-point harnesses are all that I need, the third spot in the garage needs to be a jack of all trades – school runner, grocery getter, holiday hauler, Bunnings bruiser. While brands such as Porsche, Ferrari and McLaren dominate the Edward Hyde side of my garage, the German trio of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG are the usual suspects to fill my Dr Henry Jekyll spot.

Like most car enthusiasts, I love a fast wagon, and no one does quick estates (or Avants in this case), quite like the folks from Ingolstadt. RS2, RS4 and RS6 have burned themselves into fast-wagon folklore. We’re big fans of the current RS4, and now we have a new addition to the family and one worthy of consideration for a slot in a dream garage.

Okay, you’ll have noticed that this isn’t a wagon, and it’s not even an RS4. It is, of course, the new Audi RS5 Sportback. Joining the RS5 Coupe, the five-door Sportback kind of rounds out the range until an RS5 Cabriolet completes the set sometime later this year or early next. With the introduction of the new RS5 Sportback, Audi confirms that there will not be an RS4 sedan, so think of the Sportback as a sexier and marginally more practical replacement for the three-box sedan. And yes, it’s a full five seater.

Like the RS4 and RS5 Coupe, the new Sportback is powered by a 2.9-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that produces 331kW from 5700-6700rpm. There’s also a very stout 600Nm on tap from just 1900rpm all the way through to 5000rpm. The power and torque is easily accessible thanks to the eight-speed torque converter auto and all-wheel-drive surety. The engine is a relaxing partner when you’re just cruising or commuting, keeping to itself with a background murmur. Crack open the throttle, however, especially if you’ve delved into the Drive Select’s fruitier modes, and the engine comes alive with crisp throttle response and impressive aural accompaniment from the popping-and-banging exhaust. Perhaps it’s our mind playing tricks on us, or perhaps it’s the open design of the wagon body, but we’re not sure if the RS5 Sportback is quite as musical as the RS4 Avant.

Regardless, the RS5 Sportback covers ground in the same fast and fuss-free manner displayed by both the RS5 Coupe and RS4 Avant. Speed is never more than a prod of the toe away, and this is blended with an adaptive suspension set-up that delivers control or compliance for the situation at hand. The steering doesn’t overwhelm you with incessant chatter, but there’s enough information to judge grip levels at the front tyres. Frankly, there’s always likely to be more grip left in reserve than you think, as genuine understeer only becomes a factor in the tightest of turns or under gross provocation with too much corner-entry speed or too aggressive an application of the throttle prior to the apex.

At the other end, there’s traction-a-plenty for slingshot corner exits – the Sportback simply squats and scampers. The RS5 Sportback feels like its set to neutral-to-understeer, but you can feel drive shuffle to the rear axle to help point the nose. In most circumstances, drive is split 40:60 front to rear, but the active system can send as much as 70 per cent to the front axle or 85 per cent to the rear. Even noting that last figure, oversteer is off the menu unless you’re prepared to switch off everything and use the weight and momentum of the car to back it into a corner. And frankly, the Sportback isn’t that kind of car and Audi isn’t targeting that kind of buyer.

Driven neatly with smooth inputs and an awareness of the 1730kg kerb weight, the RS5 Sportback is mesmerisingly quick across a typical backroad. The brakes (375mm front rotors clamped by six-piston calipers and 330mm rear discs with four-piston calipers) shed huge speed time and again. In all of our time in the current RS5 and RS4 models, we’ve only once cooked the brakes and that was during a fast run down the Pyrenees Mountains on the RS5 Coupe’s international launch. And if you’re hard on the gear, Audi does offer 400mm carbon-ceramic front rotors for $11,700, but even it admits that the expected take-up rate will be very low. As I said, it’s just not that type of car.

Just as we were blown away by the RS4’s turn of speed when we performance tested it (evo Australia 061), the RS5 Sportback also proved a demon sprinter when we plugged in the Vbox. Officially, Audi claims that the Sportback will sprint to 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds, which is 0.2 seconds faster than the claim for the RS4 Avant. However, like sister brand Porsche, Audi’s performance claims don’t often mean much and the RS5 Sportback proved considerably quicker than the claim. After just three attempts, we were satisfied with a 0-100km/h of 3.78 seconds, while 0-200km/h was dispatched in 13.47 seconds. The standing 400 metres took 11.8 seconds at a terminal speed of 190km/h. In all cases, the Sportback proved about a tenth of a second quicker than the RS4 Avant we tested (itself two-tenths faster than its claim).

Visually, the Sportback is the most sophisticated of the RS4/RS5 family, with a more subtle brand of aggression than that exhibited by the RS5 Coupe or pumped-guard RS4. At $157,700, the RS5 Sportback sits at the top of the family tree, around $1500 more than the Coupe and a bit over $5K more than the RS4. It might not be a wagon, but the RS5 Sportback would make a sensational daily. Jesse Taylor

Engine 2894cc V6, twin-turbocharged
Power 331kW @ 5700-6700rpm
Torque 600Nm @ 1900-5000rpm
Weight 1730kg (191kW/tonne)
0-100km/h 3.9 sec (claimed)
Top speed 280km/h (limited)
Basic Price $157,700