2021 Audi Q5 Sportback First Review

The new Audi Q5 Sportback coupe-SUV takes the old family-wagon-on-stilts formula to stylish new heights.

Is it possible to put a price on style? Audi thinks so, setting a premium for the rakish new Q5 Sportback over the existing Q5 SUV.

It’s the second of the brand’s SUVs to take the Sportback name, and like the Q3 Sportback before it, the Q5 variant gets a coupe-inspired profile to set it apart from the regular model. Why the raised price point? Well Audi argues that, just as with regular coupes, buyers will be willing to pay a premium if they feel that they get a little more desirability thrown in.

Audi’s determination to fill as many SUV-sized niches as possible makes sense once you go over the stats. Around 42 per cent of the brand’s sales can now be credited to its Q-badged models, and Audi reckons that the split in Q5 sales between SUV and Sportback will reach 60/40.

View the Sportback in profile, and there’s another 60/40 split: only this time it roughly describes what’s unchanged from the current Q5 and what’s new on this model respectively. While the nose, the windscreen’s rake and the front doors are pretty much identical to the standard car, from there the roof gently drops off at a more sporty angle, while the side glass tapers to a sharper point.

Despite the new design, practicality hasn’t been compromised by quite as much as you might think. Boot space has dropped by 40 litres compared with the regular Q5, but still stands at a vast 510 litres. That is 15 litres less than the BMW X4, however, but the Q5’s wide boot opening – accessed through a powered tailgate on all models – is unaffected by the Sportback body.

This can be increased by 60 litres in models equipped with a sliding rear seat bench. Even with the seats in their most advanced position, there’s still enough rear legroom for kids and smaller adults. Slide them back, and just like the standard Q5 legroom is pretty much class-leading, hampered only by a large central tunnel. The new roof line has compromised headroom, but only the very tallest passengers will notice the 17mm height reduction.

Up front, the cabin is identical to the standard Q5. In other words, the finish is flawless and everything is logically laid out. It’s a pity that the enlarged 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system that’s now standard throughout the Q5 family does without the physical clickwheel of the old setup, however. The touchscreen is welcome when entering addresses while parked, but the click wheel and shortcut keys were much easier to use if you wanted to switch between menus or adjust the map’s zoom on the move.

On the road, the only reminder that this is the Sportback rather than the regular Q5 is when you glance in the rear view mirror – visibility is ever so slightly compromised by the new rear body work. Otherwise, it’s identical to drive.

The left-hand-drive German-spec model we sampled featured air suspension – something reserved for top-spec models, with the rest getting adaptive dampers. The air set-up is prone to the odd low speed thump over potholes, but once on a more open road it’s supremely relaxing.

Select Dynamic mode and the ride height drops slightly, the body control firms up and the bumps become more noticeable. Regardless of the mode, however, road and wind noise are well contained so the Sportback makes a great long-range cruiser.

Despite precise steering, strong grip and a neutral balance, the Q5 isn’t particularly fun. Of course, that’s hardly the point of a big-ish SUV, but the fact that a BMW X4 feels both more fun and a touch more planted makes it noteworthy.

The Sportback’s engine line-up is carried over from the existing Q5 range. From launch there will be a choice of one petrol and one diesel, with two plug-in hybrids and the high performance SQ5 TDI following later.

This2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol 45 TFSI makes 195kW. Performance is strong, though recent experience with the 40 TDI in the standard Q5 suggest that the diesel’s extra torque would better suit this car’s character.

Both the 40 TDI and 45 TFSI benefit from mild-hybrid technology. It’s a 12-volt system – unlike the more powerful 48-volt setup that Audi fits to six-cylinder cars – but it still functions in a similar way: regenerative braking charges a small battery, with this energy allowing the Q5 Sportback to coast, sometimes with the engine off altogether.

This mild-hybrid tech, combined with a quattro system that only sends drive to all four wheels when it’s needed, aims to trim fuel consumption. While the official 8.4L/100km claim is close to what we experienced, the 40 TDI’s advantage makes it a better choice for longer journeys. For those who mainly cover short distances with occasional long hauls, the plug-in hybrid variants are the most efficient way to go.

Equipment levels are identical across Q5 Sportback and SUV ranges and all are well-stocked; minimum 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a 12.3-inch ‘virtual cockpit’ digital dash, plus a reversing camera and all-round parking sensors. There are some quirks to the trim levels though. That sliding rear bench, which would likely be a useful addition for any family, at least in overseas models, is only available on the top spec variant.

Those looking for an alternative to the regular Audi Q5 can buy the Sportback in the knowledge that it rides, handles and performs just as effectively as the regular model, with only a minimal compromise in practicality. The question is whether the extra style it brings is really worth the price premium; from a strictly objective point of view, we’d stick with the standard model.

Alex Ingram

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