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First drive: Audi Q5 Sportback. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi Q5 Sportback
The mid-sized Audi SUV gets the coupe treatment, with the arrival of the sharp-suited new Q5 Sportback.

   



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Audi Q5 Sportback

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Audi subtly re-sculpts the roofline and boot of its mid-ranking Q5 SUV to give us the first-ever Q5 Sportback. Is it worth considering over the standard model, or is it a styling exercise too far in a world awash with more SUVs than you could shake a stick at?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro S line
Pricing: Q5 Sportback range from 46,215, 45 TFSI quattro S line as tested from 49,625
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 48-volt mild-hybrid vehicle technology
Transmission: quattro ultra all-wheel drive, seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door, mild-hybrid coupe-SUV
CO2 emissions: 191g/km (VED Band 191-225: 1,305 first 12 months, then 475 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 150 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 33.6mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: 265hp at 5,250-6,500rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 1,600-4,500rpm
Boot space: 510-1,480 litres

What's this?

It's an Audi Q5 Sportback and you're probably wondering why the German company's SUV naming policies seem a bit, well, haphazard. We mean, BMW does it simply, yeah? In that 'normal', upright SUVs in the X portfolio carry an odd number, and if you want a coupe version of the same thing then you add a one to that for the corresponding even number. Meanwhile, Mercedes simply tags 'Coupe' onto the end of whichever model of its high-riding machines you're looking at.

Audi, though; Audi's all over the shop. First of all, Sportback has been used on hatchbacks and four-door coupes before now, never mind SUVs masquerading as sports cars. And then you've got to contend with the alphanumeric randomness of it all. Such as, there's a Q2 when there's no Q1 to go with it, isn't a Q8 a coupe version of the Q7, and haven't we heard there's a Q4 on the way? That's a, what? An electric SUV? Well, surely that should be an e-tron, eh? Oh, it IS a Q4 e-tron? But why isn't the Q3 Sportback the Q4? And why isn't this thing the Q6? WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO TO OUR CRUMBLING SANITY, AUDI?!

Ahem. Regaining what little of our composure we have left, we'll disregard the German firm's scattergun approach to model nomenclature for now and say that in essence, the Q5 Sportback is the Q3 Sportback, only enlarged. This newcomer takes the facelifted second-generation Q5 as its basis and replaces that SUV's largely upright tail-end with a gently sloping roof and a more rakish rear hatch. You lose 17mm of headroom in the back for this sort of swoopy styling, as well as 40 litres of boot space with all the seats up and 70 litres with the second, 40:20:40-split rear row folded down, and not only that but you pay the privilege of an extra 2,450 to go from an SUV Q5 to its equivalent coupe-SUV Q5 Sportback.

Not that this is unusual on Audi's part; every manufacturer charges more for a coupe than the prosaic model that's closest to it in make-up, whether that be an SUV or not. The fact is that people like these coupe-SUVs and such a model type attracts a slightly younger buying demographic to the Q5 fold, which will please Audi no end. For what it's worth, the Ingolstadt outfit seems to be designing these things to look less offensive than many of its rivals' efforts. We like the appearance of the Q3 Sportback and we also approve of the manner in which the Q5 Sportback stands on the tarmac, although its design is preferable in this more aggressive S line spec - the base Sport has more chromework on its form and looks a touch busier at first glance.

Physically, there's nothing in it betwixt Q5 and Q5 Sportback; they're the same height, the same width and there's the same amount of space in between the two axles. It's just that the coupe-SUV is a marginal 7mm longer, that added length all taken up by the rear overhang. With a 0.30Cd, it's no more aerodynamic either, and the centre of gravity is the same across both SUVs while the Sportback has identical five-link front and rear suspension, so really all you'll select it for is specifically whether you prefer the way the upper-back-half of the Sportback looks when compared to the standard Q5.

We've already touched on the moderate interior compromises of space that are required on the part of the Q5 Sportback buyer, although a 510-litre boot is still not to be sniffed at and while the centre-rear seat looks like an occasional item for younger children, at best, the two outer pews are no less pleasing to sit in than those in the back of the regular SUV. So, aside from those minor practicality sacrifices, up front the Sportback's fascia design is the same too. As the Q5 Mk2 has been available since 2017, it has the company's slightly outmoded architecture that sees the 10.1-inch MMI screen mounted in a freestanding fashion atop the dashboard, but those rebelling against the increasing reliance on touchscreen infotainment interfaces might be pleased to see the Sportback has a physical set of buttons and dials for its climate controls. What might not be so gratifying is that the MMI rotary controller you would ordinarily find on the transmission tunnel has been spirited away, in favour of, yes, touchscreen commands on the main display. Ah well, at least ergonomically the rest of the cabin is bang on the money and the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit is as superb now as the day it debuted. Throw in some truly excellent material finishing, like the open-pore wood trim running round the centreline of our test model's cabin, as well as the fact that all-round visibility in the Sportback isn't appreciably denuded from that available in the standard Q5, and on showroom appeal the newcomer isn't to be found wanting.

A few quick words on the UK range and then we'll get onto the driving. The same trims you'd find in the Q5 family will be ported over wholesale to the Sportback, so if you choose a petrol or a diesel - any of which are mild-hybrids now, with the 48-volt electrical assistance saving fuel and performing torque infill and so on - then you ascend from Sport through S line to Edition 1 and then finally fully stocked Vorsprung. This hierarchy also applies to one of the two plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that's offered, this being the 50 TFSI e, but the more potent 55 TFSI e above it has its own grades of Competition and then Competition Vorsprung. Finally, there's a high-performance diesel flagship in the form of the SQ5 Sportback, this again having its own specifications of the regular 341hp model and then a more lavishly equipped SQ5 Vorsprung. The fact that we've now got a coupe version of the Q5 for the first time since it appeared way back in late 2008 further raises the intriguing possibility that we could also enjoy the first RS Q5, maybe. After all, there's an RS Q3 and an RS Q8, so why should Audi's middle SUV child miss out on some of the wide-arched fun?

Anyway, what we're driving here is a 45 TFSI quattro S line, with the fancy 'ultra' quattro tech that means it can decouple its rear axle to save fuel if needs be, as well as a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch 'box (all Q5 Sportbacks have this, save for the SQ5 and its eight-speed Tiptronic torque-converter auto) and a 265hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor. This German-registered example also had the adjustable dampers, switchable through various levels of firmness, although UK S line models will come as standard with passive springs and dampers with a sportier tune than those fitted to the base, um, Sport model. Yes.

How does it drive?

Anyone hoping for a revelatory uplift in the way the second-gen Audi Q5 drives, as part of its metamorphosis from a plain SUV to a coupe one, is perhaps going to be disappointed, but maybe it was just us on the day or maybe there's a subtle degree of nuance to the Sportback; whatever, it did comport itself in a slightly more engaging, enjoyable fashion. Not sensational, mind - it's still a big, 1,775kg SUV at the end of the day, coupe nomenclature trying to convince you otherwise or not. But with clean, accurate steering, impressive body control and a really strong TFSI drivetrain, we pushed the Q5 Sportback reasonably hard through some intricate back roads and faster sweepers, and it didn't fail the test with early-onset understeer or dull neutrality in the corners. Fun? Yes, of a sort.

Tempering that, of course it's not going to set the dynamic world on fire, but then do you need a mid-sized SUV like this to do such a thing? Wouldn't you just be better off with a hot hatchback instead if all you're after is outright driving thrills, rather than carping about the shortcomings of a tonne-and-three-quarters' worth of family SUV not living up to your expectations? Well, precisely. The Q5 Sportback is perfectly fine for what it is. About our biggest complaint is that the 2.0-litre engine gets a bit raucous and buzzy beyond 4,500rpm, which is unusual for an Audi TFSI unit no matter what size its capacity, but as it never becomes obnoxiously loud and it stays velvet-smooth from idle to redline, this is a minor aberration rather than a possible dealbreaker.

It's in the refinement stakes where the Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI aces it, though. On a particularly blustery early spring day in Britain, driving into ferocious headwinds along the A421 the Audi was practically silent within as it oozed its way over the asphalt, the switchable dampers doing a fine job of masking the massive 20-inch alloys at all corners. It rides over rough surfaces and cuts through the air with equally sizeable amounts of grace and aplomb, so that it lives up to its billing as a premium product. There are similar vehicles from arguably more mainstream competitors which do not suppress external noise contributors with anything like the totalitarian skills of the Q5 Sportback, so if all you do is pound up and down motorways all day long, this is the coupe-SUV for you. You'll even get around 40mpg back from it in such circumstances with little effort, this reasonable parsimony thanks to the MHEV onboard gear. Although, if you drive it in a more hooligan fashion like we did for 160 miles of looping test roads across the midlands, expect more like 27.2mpg from the 265hp unit.

Verdict

Does the Audi Q5 Sportback look appreciably nicer on the outside than its SUV source material? Is the interior significantly compromised, in terms of visibility out the back, boot space and rear passenger room? Do you get a notably more invigorating drive from the Sportback than you would from a Q5 in precisely the same spec and exactly the same engine? In our opinion, the answer to these queries are 'no, not a lot nicer, but it's certainly pleasing on the eye', 'not really, no' and 'no, although - again - it does feel a tad more playful than the regular machine'. Are any of these unequivocal reasons for the Q5 Sportback existing? They aren't, arguably, but the fact of the matter is that these things sell in droves and Audi has, as you would expect of this marque, executed the new coupe Q5 to an incredibly high standard. Also, if the argument for its existence is purely an aesthetic one, we'd confidently say the Q5 Sportback has its main BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe rivals licked, so there's a good case to be made for saying it's already the class leader in this niche sector.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 7 Apr 2021



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2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.

2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI S line quattro. Image by Audi.








 

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