Audi’s 2019 RS 5 Sportback at the New York Auto Show: Meet History’s Fastest Hatchback

Ford Focus RS? Bwaa ha. Mercedes-AMG GLA 45? Please. Audi’s newest Sportback crushes them all in power, speed and practicality.

byLawrence Ulrich|
Audi News photo


Hmm, you say you’ve outgrown a VW GTI? Try strapping the kids into Audi’s 2019 RS5 Sportback, and hold the Ritalin. Just in time for spring, the Audi Sport division unveiled its RS 5 Sportback — blooming in verdant Sonoma Green paint — at Classic Car Club Manhattan on Tuesday, one day before kickoff of the New York Auto Show's official media previews. 

Like the trend-setting A7, every member of Audi's growing Sportback lineup — A5, S5 and now RS5 — cleverly disguises a liftgate to look more like a sedan or fastback coupe. But make no mistake: This RS5 Sportback is a roomy, seat-flipping hatchback. And going by The Drive’s usually trusty memory bank, the Audi is surely the fastest hatchback ever offered in America. 

Let’s review: Mercedes’ latest GLA45 AMG will stomp to 60 mph in about 4.3 seconds. A Ford Focus RS or Volkswagen Golf R take roughly 4.5 seconds. At Classic Car Club Manhattan's soaring digs on the Hudson River, Audi was coy regarding the RS 5’s 0-60 mph sprint, citing “under four seconds.” But please. With the identical engine, the RS5 Coupe — which I greedily sampled in Arizona in February — turns the trick in 3.7 seconds, max. So figure no worse than 3.8 seconds for the barely-weightier Sportback. Ergo, the world’s fastest hatchback, including a 174-mph top speed (with optional Dynamic Plus package) that outstrips the 167-mph of Mercedes’ top-spec, GLA45 AMG.

Meet the RS 5 Sportback, likely the world's fastest production hatchback, Audi Sport

Or, forget mostly-plebeian hatchbacks and consider bigger prey, because Audi certainly has: The RS5 Sportback should even nip such two-door luxury monsters as a 444-hp BMW M3 Competition Pack, or Mercedes-AMG’s 503-hp, C63 S Coupe. This family-friendly Audi should even run neck-and-neck to 60 mph with Cadillac’s CTS-V sedan, and that Motown beast kicks out 640 horsepower. And compared with such performance coupes and even sedans, the Audi easily wins the practicality battle. Its 21.8 cubic feet of cargo behind rear seats roughly doubles the space of some luxury coupes, even before the hatch expands to about 35 cubes with rear seats tucked away.

Now consider the Caddy’s supercharged, 6.2-liter V8, and it’s a real head trip that the Audi delivers such epic acceleration via an engine with two fewer cylinders, less than half the displacement, and nearly 200 fewer horses. (Sure, the Audi has an AWD traction advantage, but still). Like its RS5 Sedan and Coupe stablemates, the Sportback ditches its previous, naturally aspirated V8 for an en vogue, forced induction engine: A 2.9-liter, twin-turbo V6 with 444 horsepower and a snorting 443 pound-feet of torque. And to shut the yaps of those V8 fans, this RS5 is a whole hell of a lot faster. Developed by the recently relaunched Audi Sport performance division, a version of this V6 also powers the latest Porsche Panamera. That power-mad V6 is twinned with an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and permanent Quattro AWD — with its self-locking Torsen center differential — that sends 60 percent of torque rearward (and the remainder up front) under normal operation. That RS-tuned Quattro unit can guide a maximum 85 percent of grunt to rear wheels, and a maximum 75 percent up front to help the Audi claw out of corners. American-market RS 5’s add a standard Audi Sport rear differential to further divvy torque and maximize traction. With its standard suspension, the RS 5's body sits nearly 0.3 inches lower than the 2018 model's. Buyers can also choose a Dynamic Ride Control suspension with steel springs, adaptive hydraulic dampers that cleverly connect via oil lines and a central valve. And a redesigned front five-link suspension and optimized steering rack geometry add up to sharper steering and handling. 

As for the alluring design, flared box fenders widen the body by 0.6 inches versus a tamer S5 Sportback. A wide, flat Singleframe grille is bookended by a dramatic pair of honeycomb air intakes, and a matte, alu-optic spoiler features natty “quattro” script. An RS-designed rear diffuser, big oval exhaust pipes and glossy black lip spoiler remind people that the Audi that just blew past is anything but ordinary. That sleek silhouette also made the Audi look right at home at Classic Car Club Manhattan, where members can grab the keys to everything from a 1956 Porsche 550 Spyder and 1966 Ford GT 40 to modern baubles including a Caterham Superlight and Lamborghini Huracan.

Audi was mum on pricing for this hatchback RS5 that goes on sale in the second half of 2018. But a 354-horsepower S5 Coupe starts from 55,575, or $200 more than an S5 Sportback. So with a 2018 RS 5 Coupe priced from $70,895, expect this 2019 RS 5 Sportback to also be priced right atop the two-door version. Audi executives did note that this RS 5 is one of 20 new Audis headed to U.S. showrooms this year. That's a record-setting onslaught of cars for Audi. Fittingly, this one appears to be a record-setting hatchback.   

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