Audi adapts its mid-sized Q5 SUV into a coupe-inspired Sportback model. Is this a case of style over substance, or is the new Q5 Sportback the variant to go for in the line-up?
It’s Audi using the ‘Sportback’ moniker in one of its various fashions. Over the years, this name has been appended to five-door hatchback versions of the A3, to grandiose four-door A5 and A7 cars, and more recently to coupe-SUVs. Although, oddly enough, at the top of its SUV portfolio, the German company doesn’t call the coupe offspring of the seven-seat Q7 the ‘Q7 Sportback’; it instead calls it the Q8.
However, with the smaller Q3 SUV, a Q3 Sportback arrived in late 2019 for the 2020 model year and now, in the second generation of the larger Q5 model and timed to coincide with the facelift of the regular SUV, there’s a similar if upscaled Sportback derivative added to the mix. It features a sportier roofline and rear glass hatch than the Q5 it is based upon, although in most external dimensions – width, height and wheelbase – all the Sportback’s measurements are the same as the Q5’s. It’s only in length where it differs, the Sportback being a nominal 7mm longer and ‘all’ that extra metal coming in the rear overhang.
Minimal compromises are demanded of the Q5 Sportback buyer when compared to the Q5 – the new coupe-SUV loses a mere 17mm of rear headroom, while boot space with all seats in place is trimmed by 40 litres to a minimum of 510 litres of cargo capacity. Fold down the standard 40:20:40 split rear seats and fully 1,480 litres are on offer, that figure being 70 litres less than the 1,550 litres the ‘normal’ Q5 provides.
However, outside and in, the new Q5 Sportback is most pleasing to behold. The styling is pretty amenable for one of these contentious coupe-SUVs, albeit the new Audi looks better as a racier S line model with its beefier lower bodywork and larger alloy wheels.
Inside, everything is beautifully made and there’s a good mix of the digitised and the physical when it comes to controls and switchgear. By this, we mean that although there’s a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster and a 10.1-inch MMI infotainment touchscreen atop the dash that no longer can be controlled by a rotary dial on the transmission tunnel, there are still buttons and dials for the climate-control settings to ensure the Audi is ergonomically intuitive. In terms of showroom appeal, the Q5 Sportback appears to be a winner.
How is it to drive?
You sit nice and high in the Audi Q5 Sportback, this position subliminally reminding you why you chose a coupe-SUV in the first place, instead of just a coupe or even a premium hatchback. However, you don’t feel as if you are perched on the vehicle, the driver’s seat suitably adjustable so that you can hunker yourself down in the cockpit. Visibility out in all directions is good, even through the narrower rear windscreen and when looking over your shoulder for reverse-manoeuvring.
Aside from two plug-in hybrid models, Audi has confirmed that the 35 TDI and 40 TDI will be sold here, while we wait for information on the 45 TFSI and SQ5 drivetrains for the Sportback. All of these are mild hybrids, with onboard 48-volt electrical technology going some way to improving fuel economy and CO2 emissions, as well as subtly massaging performance. No doubt the 35 TDI will be the big seller here, but we were handed a 45 TFSI quattro in S line specification, capable of a claimed 33.6mpg with 191g/km of CO2.
This has ‘ultra’ quattro all-wheel drive, which means the rear wheels can be ‘decoupled’ in certain situations to save fuel. It also has 265hp and 370Nm, enough to propel this Q5 Sportback from 0-100km/h in a sprightly 6.1 seconds. It feels every bit as quick as that suggests, the smooth, insistent powertrain and its attendant, excellent automatic gearbox doing fine work when the driver requests significant acceleration with larger throttle inputs. Thankfully, with pleasant steering, good body control, lots of grip and exceptional traction, the Q5 Sportback is also as talented in the corners as it is in a straight line – yet, for all that, it doesn’t feel appreciably sharper, sportier or much more enjoyable than the regular SUV it is based upon. It is a bit more fun to steer quickly down a back road, but the dynamic difference between the two oh-so-similar Q5s is certainly not night and day.
Refinement is its A-game, though, as the Q5 Sportback is a delight to travel in. A caveat here is that our test car had optional adjustable dampers, whereas standard S lines get a firmer tune of springs and conventional shock absorbers, but with minimal wind and tyre noise seeping into the cabin, a cosseting ride and impeccable, steadfast manners on the motorway, the new Audi Q5 Sportback feels every inch the big, expensive, premium SUV that it sets its stall out to be.
When is it coming to Ireland?
It is yet to be confirmed when the Audi Q5 Sportback will go on sale, but it should be imminent for our market. The SE and S line hierarchy of the regular Q5 are carried over, and initial pricing details, starting at €60,292 for the 35 TDI S tronic SE, suggests that the Sportback will be a few thousand more than the equivalent regular Q5.
Any juicy technology?
There are two plug-in hybrid derivatives of the Q5 Sportback that could be offered here, badged as the 50 TFSI e with 299hp/450Nm or 55 TFSI e with 367hp/500Nm. Beyond these part-electric models of the coupe-SUV, all versions have five-link rear suspension, giving them a sophisticated chassis set-up that makes the Audi good to drive.
Carzone.ie rating: 4/5
There’s a lot of choice in the world of prestige-badged SUVs these days and Audi itself, if you count these Sportback models as separate lines to their base vehicles, has fully eight ranges of the things for buyers – Q2, Q3, Q3 Sportback, Q5, Q5 Sportback, Q7, Q8 and e-tron. That the Q5 Sportback is also a divisive type of vehicle that doesn’t find favour with all car enthusiasts, plus it is more expensive, less practical and not markedly more exciting to drive than the Q5 it shares so much with, almost makes it look like Audi has dropped the ball here – giving us an unnecessary addition to its product portfolio. However, the execution of the Q5 Sportback is as accomplished and competent as you would expect of this German marque, and if you like the looks of the vehicle (and we do) then you can see it is going to be a major success story for Audi in the end.