3 of the best Audi performance cars for 2020

Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan looks at some of the latest performance vehicles from Audi, including the new e-tron electric vehicle.

2020 Audi RS5 Sportback from €114,050

Audi sportback car.

Audi RS5 Sportback. Image: Paddy McGrath

As the new President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen is asking member countries to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. Not by the ambitious 40pc that was already on the table but up to 55pc.

Von der Leyen is on a mission and doesn’t care much for performance cars. T

he same breed as this 2.9-litre twin-turbo 450bhp Audi RS5 Sportback Quattro. Indeed, she’d probably be frothing at the mouth at the very sight of it. Never mind, that target is 10 years away.

Here’s the good news. Somehow Audi has infused this new RS5 Sportback with a new round of playfulness and fun that was missing in earlier leaden RS models. First, here are the performance figures. 0-100km/h in a conservatively claimed 3.9 seconds. I’m pretty sure I did better. How about 600 Nm of torque? Or a CO2 of 209 g/km and 9.2 I/100km (30 mpg). Expect around 25mpg if you’re lucky. It’s important to state early on that this is a very, very good car. Expensive, yes, but bordering on fantastic and possesses the completeness along with the missing vim that Audi had been trying to crack for a long time now.

The RS5 Sportback is no stripped-out road warrior. Weighing in at 2,210 kg gross that’s almost identical to the Mercedes Benz C63 at 2,225 kg. For perspective, an Audi A8 limo weighs just 360 kg more. Comfortable on a cruise, it’s goes all Bruce Willis in Armageddon when you put the car into Dynamic Mode and hoof the accelerator. The engine isn’t as vocal as the Mercedes C63 but the growling thrust of power along without so much as a teeniest chirp from the Quattro all-wheel-drive arrives when you committed on using all of the 600 Nm of torque. Immediately a wave of power pushes you back into your seat and all too soon you are approaching the motorway speed limit. Dispensing with the traditional Haldex four-wheel-drive system Quattro system sends more power to the rear tires and this proves the RS5 Sportback’s biggest playing card.

Through the bends it flicks its rear from side to side avoiding the granite feel that Audi RS cars has been criticised for. For comparison, if you’ve driven the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio you will come away a little disappointed. The Audi simply hasn’t the hyperactive steering or the sweeter chassis dynamics that seem to let the Alfa dance from side to side with pleasing ease. Game over for Audi? We’re back to that word again – completeness.

Previously Audi’s RS cars majored on high quality and aggressive looks but dropped the ball a bit. In adding this newfound fun the Audi turns up as one the best all rounders for the boardroom executive not looking that very last degree of performance on the track. Polished, suave and thunderously playful, the Audi RS5 Sportback is a proper milestone car for Audi. But time will be no friend to the RS5 Sportback and its ilk as grey-faced emission targets are looming. Want one? You’d best hurry up. In a decade’s time, this kind of car won’t even exist.

You’ll like: Incredible Hulk looks. 450bhp of thumping thrust. Exquisite cabin. Quattro assurance, now with real fun thrown in.

You’ll grumble: The price. Sounds a bit demure next to a Merc C63.

2020 Audi S6 3.0-litre TDI Quattro from €89,860

Audi saloon car, light grey colour.

Audi S6 3.0-litre TDI Quattro. Image: Paddy McGrath

Not too far away from where I live lies the R117 that connects Enniskerry Village in County Wicklow to the N11 motorway. Locals call it the Twenty-One Bends and it’s where I take most of the cars I review to properly test their mettle. This same stretch of tarmac is narrow with a footpath on just one side of the road.

That’s where this particular Audi S6 Saloon comes into the story. It was on this same stretch of road that it shone. I drove through all the bends, twenty-one of them, at a committed pace snaking left and right, then right and left. When I got back onto the N11 I realised that the Audi S6 carved a path that was so easy it seemed as if I as travelling a nearly half the speed.

Few cars I’ve run this stretch of tarmac have remained so composed and well within their ability. Intrigued, I did what anyone with an Audi S6 Saloon would do. I turned right back around and did it all over again. Only this time I drove even faster. Yet again, the S6 Saloon didn’t so much as even falter. It lurched up to corners, squatted down a bit under braking and surged out again with a polish ease that defied physics.

Using a 4.0-litre V8 up to now, the new S6 is – wait for it – now a diesel. Cue the shock and gnashing of teeth from Audi fans. However, the new 3.0-litre oil burner with 349bhp and a claimed 7.8-litres I/100 km (not too far off what I managed). By replacing the petrol engine with a diesel, Audi has undertaken a clever choice. By continually stoking the diesel engine the traditional momentum is maintained, only far more so in this case. Putting that into practice on that stretch of tarmac I’d wager the Audi S6 diesel would keep the old S6 honest for continual pace without being less frantic than the petrol engine of old.

Back to that frugality for a moment. Using a 48-volt mild hybrid system 36 mpg is possible. That’s remarkable when having that much fun. As for everywhere else, the S6 Saloon is business as usual A6 with top-drawer quality and classy looks. For the senior manager with a new territory to beat into shape the Audi S6 Saloon might just be the panacea for those early morning flights and the familiar queasy indigestion of too much Costa coffee. The 2020 Audi S6 Saloon earns itself a high recommendation.

You’ll like: Stealthy performance. Outstanding grip and refinement. Subtle looks. Interior is near enough up to A8 standards.

You’ll grumble: Lacks the steering feel of a hot BMW. (Fake!) exhaust sound too muted.

2020 Audi e-tron 55 Quattro €89,810 (including grants)

Audi e-tron electric car.

Audi e-tron 55 Quattro. Image: Paddy McGrath

What if the previous two cars are not quite your thing? You say you want to side with Von der Leyen and run a pure EV. Though you’ll be tied up before you’ll whoosh around in something from South Korea or Japan and want to stick with the four rings?

By now you’ll be fully aware of the Audi e-tron with an electric WLTP range of 336 km in the e-tron 50 Quattro or 436 km for the e-tron 55 Quattro I tested. Aside from the sprightly 0-100 km/h in 5.7 seconds and the real-world fact that the 436 km range swiftly becomes 336 km with enthusiastic driving, the charging capability to 100pc in 6 hours is done using either a 11 kW or 22 kW in 6 or 3 hours respectively.

Looking more handsome than the Q7 but less delightful than the Q8 the e-tron was a curiosity for passers-by who were only too happy to ream off EV charging statistics that approached Dungeons & Dragons level of nerdiness without ever being invited. A top tip if you’re hanging around while charging up – keep your windows up and doors locked.

Unless you need the extra 100 km range and to shave less than one second off the 0-100 km/h time you should consider the e-tron 50 Quattro at €64,990 including grants.

Unlike the Jaguar i-Pace the e-tron uses adaptive air suspension and it pulls off a better trick than the British usurper offering a less giddy, performance biased ride. Aside from that the e-tron is the opposite of the other two Audi included here.

This 2.5-tonne monster wafts onto motorways from slip roads with a gentle whoosh and settles there until the road runs out or your range need topping up.

Another fun element comes at traffic lights where e-tron whizzes forward like a silent monster truck way into the distance. Don’t think of the Audi e-tron as an EV. It is the new alternative to alternative performance SUV travel without guilt.

You’ll like: Silent thrust, from on high. Supremely composed. Feels like a very quiet Q7 to drive.

You’ll grumble: Ireland’s poor rural charging network frustrates. The e-tron’s battery range is starting to look small against rivals.