Unlike the occasionally antisocial-looking products from the likes of BMW M or Mercedes-AMG, Audi Sport’s fastest models tend not to look like they'd punch you in the mouth for no apparent reason. Their performance-oriented styling is usually subtler and more conducive to flying in under the radar. But while this RS5 Sportback would likely still come across as the more sophisticated member of a trio comprising a C 63 and an M3, the 20in alloy wheels, high-gloss black trim pieces and louder sports exhaust introduced as part of the Audi Sport Edition mean it can still turn heads.
The cabin, meanwhile, is as smartly appointed as ever and is home to all of the obligatory Alcantara and leather you’d expect from a ‘shporty’ German saloon. Without the new dual-screen infotainment system that’s being rolled out in Audi’s latest models, you might accuse the RS5 of looking a touch last generation, but you’d have to be a slightly miserable individual to make any great fuss out of it. Truth is, this is a nice car to spend time in. And a reasonably roomy one at that - even with that sloping roofline.
But is it a fun one? Over the past few years, the answer to that question as far as quick Audis are concerned hasn’t always been a resounding ‘yes’. A change of tack around the time Quattro GmbH relaunched as Audi Sport is probably partly responsible, when the brand decided it wanted to be known for making ‘premium sport daily drivers’ as opposed to a ‘super-sports firm’.
In any case, the second-generation RS5 Coupé wasn’t particularly memorable for being an engaging, tactile driver’s car. It was damn quick, and incredibly capable on a twisting mountain road, sure. But exciting? Nah, not really.
This new Sportback model can be summed up in much the same way. That V6 engine is impressively responsive and leaves no doubt about the accuracy of Audi’s claimed 0-62mph time of 3.9sec. It pulls hard from low down in the rev range and will continue to do so across a range that’s impressively broad, all the while being accompanied by shifts that are timely and executed with impressive dexterity. Its soundtrack is a menacing, if moderately subdued, growl that’s unmistakably sporty, but comparing it with the old 4.2-litre V8 from the first-generation model remains an exercise in futility.
The steering, meanwhile, is defined by that stereotypical Audi numbness and there are times when it can seem a touch inconsistent in its response to your inputs. Those issues aside, the RS5 Sportback inspires plenty of confidence in its dynamic ability, just not a lot in the way of endearment. But you can’t help but be impressed with just how sure-footed it is when you really push it. On the fantastically twisty roads that snake their way through the hills that surround the Nürburgring, it was devastatingly fast and impeccably composed. Not particularly expressive, but stable, secure and planted.