The best way to experience the new Audi RS5 is on the racetrack

Mount Panorama was more than just a motor race for Audi in early February.

The German brand used the four-day event at Bathurst to lure dozens of eager fans to Australia's most famous motorsport venue as part of an experiential day that gave access to the teams, top shelf drivers and pit garages.

While the race didn't go Audi's way – Porsche won, ahead of Aston Martin and Mercedes-AMG – it was a chance to schmooze the VIP customers treated to corporate hospitality.

Many of those drive the pinnacle of Audi models, known as RS – with Audi choosing Bathurst as the location to launch its latest performance offering.

Speeding up

Audi's RS models (the R8 supercar is included in the count) now account for 6.4 per cent of sales, well up on the 4.3 per cent in 2017.

Blame it on Australia's love of fast cars, a trend stretching back to the 1960s.

While the RS3 has been a big part of the sporty success, so too have the RS4 and RS5, in some ways the cornerstone cars of the lineup.

But now Audi has added the RS5 Sportback, which fits in between the RS5 Coupe and RS4 Avant (a fancy word for wagon).

Two plus two

The RS5 Sportback delivers the muscular good looks of the Coupe but with additional practicality, in part thanks to rear doors.

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With an extra 59mm between the front and rear wheels that also means there's more rear legroom, although it's no limousine – and head room out back is tight for those over 180cm tall.

Those wanting more can choose the RS Design package ($3300) with red stitching and suede-like Alcantara trim on the steering wheel, centre console and gear selector.

Or you can opt for more carbon fibre (from $1000) or lighter, more potent carbon ceramic brakes ($11,900).

No carbon fibre roof option, though: that's reserved for the RS5 Coupe.

Body style

While it's trying to be a coupe, the Sportback is actually a hatchback – with a tailgate with an automated operation that allows you to kick under the back bumper to get things opening.

That also translates to a sizeable boot, the 480-litre space eclipsing the RS5 Coupe's by 15 litres.

It's surprisingly practical, with things such as the frameless windows reminding of its coupe-based design.

Fast track

But any RS is more about pace than practicalities and it's no different with the RS5.

At its heart is a 2.9-litre V6 with two turbos nestled in its V.

It's the same engine uses in some Porsches (Audi and Porsche are both part of the Volkswagen Group) and pumps out 331kW and 600Nm.

Good enough, says Audi, to propel the RS5 to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds – matching the acceleration of the Coupe.

That's despite the Sportback adding 60kg to the equation, the result of that longer body.

Hold on

Seat of the pants impressions confirm it's a quick car, the Quattro all-wheel drive system faithfully transmitting all that grunt to the ground with no hint of wheelspin.

While it's bordering on bland when in its regular drive mode, shift the eight-speed auto transmission to Sport and there's more snarl to the exhaust, the feistiness in keeping with the rapid acceleration.

But it's how the RS5 scampers around bends that is more impressive, grippy 20-inch rubber hanging on tenaciously.

It's not as playful as some rivals – the BMW M3 springs to mind – but it is brutally effective and fast.

Life of the party

That's the RS5's party trick – its ability to show some serious pace in such a broad range of situations, the all-wheel drive helping its point-and-shoot display.

Typically 60 per cent of the drive is sent to the rear wheels, but if slip is detected it can divert up to 70 percent to the front wheels. It all happens quickly and seamlessly, its capability the defining factor.

The adjustable drive modes are generally best left in Auto, the Dynamic setting stiffening the shock absorbers to the point where the ride is too jiggly; race track, yes, but Aussie backroads, no.

Adding up

The challenge for the RS5 is its stablemate, the RS4 Avant, a wagon with more space and a cheaper price tag.

At $157,700 the RS5 (Coupe or Sportback) is about $5K more expensive than the RS4 wagon, which gets the same basic architecture and an identical engine (the heavier wagon means it's slightly slower, but not much).

They're also almost lineball for equipment, from Nappa leather and a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system to the Virtual Cockpit and illuminated RS badges on the aluminium door sill panels.

Sure, the RS5 gets a head-up display, something optional on the RS4, but the wagon fights back with a sunroof, something not available on the Sportback.

Instead, it's up to the swoopy style of the Sportback to do the tempting.

Mountain heir

Back to Mount Panorama and the Bathurst 12 Hour is a fast evolving event, in part because of the array of cars: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin and Audi are all fighting for victory.

They're all desirable machines that attract very different attention to the Fords and Holdens in the main 'Great Race', the Bathurst 1000 in October. While the 1000 race is more about VB, barbecues and blokes, the February event is very different, attracting a broader crowd.

Corporate hospitality in 2019 was provided by such top end brands Porsche, Bentley, Audi and Mercedes-Benz – even Champagne brand Veuve Cliquout had a corporate suite, while also providing the bubbly to be sprayed at the finish line.

Little wonder luxury brands are taking notice.