words: Tim Enders, photos: Mike Kuhn & Adam Hummel
Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q3_2020 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.
It is a good time to be an owner of a modern Audi, and in particular those of the performance-oriented S and RS range. There is a panoply of different choices on the market for those in search of a little more performance, or a little customization, or some of both. From ECU flashes to turbo or supercharger upgrade kits, coilovers to big brake conversions, and subtle OEM+ style modifications to full-on body kits, there is no shortage of options. The downside of this is that with this flood of choices comes difficulty in choosing upgrades – do I combine this ECU with that exhaust? Or do I choose this front splitter to pair with that rear diffuser? It’s a good problem to have, but a problem, nonetheless.
Enter ABT Sportsline, the longtime German Audi tuning house. For the record, you pronounce it as you would the founder’s surname, “ahhbt” – and not the acronym A-B-T. The firm has been in existence for no less than 122 years, and in that time has gone from producing specialty wagons to some of the best engineered upgrades in the tuning world. All of ABT’s products are German TÜV approved, which means that they meet some of the most stringent engineering and safety standards in the world. Many of their products are available for purchase as individual upgrades, but it’s their package “whole car” transformations where ABT really takes form, making for a turn-key thorough final product with racing pedigree for those looking for a finalized cohesive look, or maybe those who don’t have the time to assemble something themselves piecemeal.
This whole car approach is quite attractively on display in the form of their RS 5-R, an even more extreme take on Audi’s RS 5 model. In this case, it’s the 5-door Sportback variant. ABT typically limits the number of their kits that they sell and in the case of the RS5-R, there will be only 50 cars built worldwide.
The transformation from RS 5 to RS 5-R begins with a customer-supplied car. From there, the owner can order the “standard” RS 5-R package, to which they can also add selected other upgrades. The standard RS 5-R offering begins with body upgrades, which include a carbonfiber front lip, carbonfiber front winglets, carbonfiber front grille frame with RS 5-R logo, replacement fender emblem with ABT logo, carbonfiber rear spoiler, and carbonfiber rear diffuser. Performance elements of the RS 5-R package include an ABT exhaust with quad outlets and carbon fiber tips, height-adjustable suspension springs, an anti-roll bar, and a set of 21-inch ABT GR21 wheels shod in new 275 25 ZR21 tires. Interior upgrades aren’t left out either and include special logo ABT RS 5-R floor mats, a “1 of 50” RS 5-R dash plaque, RS 5-R door sills, a carbon fiber shift knob, and RS 5-R entry lamps. The price for the entire basic package is $23,900.
Like the factory, the basic RS 5-R package can be had with various optional upgrades. These include carbonfiber front and side blades, wheel arch vents with carbonfiber fins, and carbonfiber seat and dash panels. Performance options include a coilover suspension system and a power upgrade, which bumps the stock 444 hp / 443 lb-ft to approximately 503 hp and 501 lb-ft. ABT’s power upgrades are done as a “piggyback” ECU solution that ABT calls their “ABT Engine Control (AEC)”, which consists of a standalone ECU that comes with mounting brackets and a wiring harness to allow it to connect to a car with no permanent modifications. For the RS 5-R, the power upgrade kit includes both the AEC system and an additional intercooler.
Over the years, ABT has set up a worldwide network of dealers for their tuning line. One key addition to the American region of the network is GMP Performance in Charlotte, NC who built the RS 5-R Sportback you see here. GMP is a shop specializing in performance upgrades for German cars, and they have a very close working relationship with ABT. In fact Joe Klitzsch, the founder of GMP, grew up in Germany literally across the street from ABT Sportsline headquarters, and remembers watching Hans-Juergen Abt, the current head of the company, driving his go-kart around the parking lot when they were boys. This led to a long-term relationship between ABT Sportsline in Germany and GMP in the US which was only strengthened when ABT opened ABT America in Miami a few years ago.
For this build, the customer supplied a 2019 RS 5 and GMP worked with ABT America to source the RS 5-R kit. The car’s owner selected the standard RS 5-R package with the additional power upgrade. Once ABT America had delivered the kit to North Carolina, GMP undertook the transformation and the result is stunning. The RS 5 Sportback is a beautiful car to begin with, and the ABT styling upgrades add handsome but subtle aggression that hints at the extra performance without overpowering the basic design language of the RS 5.
The RS 5-R package really defines what ABT is all about – offering well-engineered performance upgrades matched with the highest quality styling additions in a package that takes some of the finest cars on the road and lifts them into the realm of the truly exclusive. The conversion into an RS 5-R certainly isn’t cheap, but in a world of endless tuning options an ABT conversion package allows one stop shopping that gets the buyer some of the finest products available on the market, all designed to work together seamlessly. That’s a pretty good solution for the Audi owner shopping for upgrades in today’s saturated market.