2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback first drive review: Faith at unholy speeds

Believe what you’ve heard about the blissfully open and unfettered stretches of the Autobahn. These long, gently curving and pencil-straight stretches of German highways are the last bastion for drivers to flex their figurative muscle and courage, directly proportional to the angle of their right feet. It’s what Wyoming should be like if it really took that libertarian thing to heart.

The 2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback is a wonderful laissez-faire missile, the right car for the left lane of the Autobahn. The new RS 5 Sportback is virtually identical to the RS 5 coupe already on sale, but with a better shape befitting its power and mission. There’s no escaping its nose-heavy construction, nor its all-wheel-drive grip. The RS 5 isn’t silly or dangerously sharp. It’s just the best four-door to drive fast for less than $100,000.

The Autobahn convinced me.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback, 2018 New York auto show

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback, 2018 New York auto show

Brawn for a beauty

Traveling at 164.6 mph, inspiration is largely unwelcome. So is talking. Or loud thinking. Any activity other than guesstimating the closing speed on that yellow speck of a hatchback miles ahead is unwelcome.

MUST READ: 2018 Audi RS 5 first drive review: green with mean

Good thing that the RS 5 is unfazed. Its carbon ceramic front brakes and firm steering add confidence when it’s needed, like when that yellow speck draws close enough that I can hear my heart beat louder than the wind buffeting on the windows.

I’d love to tell you about the rolling hills outside Munich, painted with forest-green shades rich enough to taste but I’m haul-assing at triple-digit speeds and less attentive to the countryside than a toddler after a can of Coke. Shrubbery can wait for another day.

Blame the intoxicating 2.9-liter turbocharged V-6 for that distraction. Like the coupe, the RS 5 Sportback’s 444 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque is unhinged, even if the intake sounds are strained inside the cabin.

Outside the car would be the RS 5 Sportback’s best vantage point—its elegant curves and lusty exhaust rumble on full display—if only you could drive it from the sidewalk.

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback first drive

2019 Audi RS 5 Sportback first drive

I’ll take the driver’s seat for now. Like the RS 5 coupe (and the S5), the busy 2.9-liter V-6 forces compressed air into one bank of cylinders before the other to minimize turbo lag and maximize insanity. At more than 150 mph there’s still more sound and pedal left to explore. Ask me how I know.

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The RS 5 Sportback’s two additional doors add just over 85 pounds to the overall mass and a fraction of a second to its 0-60 mph time, compared to the RS 5 coupe. The Sportback takes just 3.8 seconds to speed up to 60 mph and chews through the rest of its speedometer nearly as fast, all the way to a top speed of 174 mph.

Normally, the RS 5 sends 60 percent of its power to the rear wheels—one of the few times the words “normal” and “RS 5” will ever appear together. Toggle the drive select mode to Dynamic and the power prefers the rear wheels up to 85 percent. It’s enough to induce hillbilly oversteer on a wet handling course, or enough to launch my lunch into the rear seat from behind the wheel on a slalom course thanks to a completely defeatable traction control setting unique to the RS 5.

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