Road tests

New Audi Q5 Sportback 2021 review

The new sporty Audi Q5 Sportback coupe-SUV joins the German brand’s line-up

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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What strikes us most about the Q5 Sportback isn’t the styling, but the lack of compromise that it seems to bring. Space in the back is still strong, while rearward visibility isn’t hampered, either. It’s solid to drive, rides well even on S line trim’s passive sports suspension, and is sumptuously finished inside, too. Perhaps this TFSI petrol option isn’t the pick of the bunch, though. So most buyers will go for the TDI diesel or one of the two petrol plug-in hybrid options.

More than a quarter of a million Audi Q5s were made in 2020. It’s the most popular model in the brand’s ever-enlarging line-up, which is now chock full of SUVs. But Audi hasn’t run out of space in its growing ‘Q’ range just yet. In fact, this latest addition   – the Q5 Sportback – feels more like an inevitability than a surprise.

That’s because it’s a long-awaited coupé-styled version of the brand’s best-seller, and around a quarter of Q5 buyers in the UK are expected to dish out the £2,450 premium over the regular Q5 to be seen in it.

Naturally, it rivals the BMW X4 and the Mercedes GLC Coupé, and just like those two, it’s a style-driven choice, trading a little practicality for a sportier rear end. The Q5 Sportback is available in four trim levels (Sport, S line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung), and with a variety of engine options, which range from diesel and petrol four-cylinder units, to plug-in hybrids, while there’s a hot SQ5 diesel variant as well.

We’re trying the new Audi in popular S line trim with petrol power (although the 40 TDI quattro will be more popular). The 45 TFSI quattro set-up uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a hot-hatch- rivalling 261bhp and 370Nm torque.

A lot of what is on show here is a known quantity. The new aspect of the Q5 Sportback is found entirely behind the B-pillars, the newly sculpted coupé-like rear.

In practical terms, that means a reduction in boot capacity compared with the Q5; it drops by 40 litres with the rear bench in place, to 510 litres of storage. In real terms, however, buyers will be hard pressed to find the difference, and it’s still a very large boot that’s competitive with its rivals from Mercedes and BMW. The opening remains wide, too, owing to the Sportback having a similar tailgate to the regular Q5’s.

Buyers will also find it difficult to spot the difference when looking in the rear-view mirror. That’s because the Sportback variant’s roofline is only 2mm lower, and the rear windscreen, despite its new sloping angle, is still relatively large, so rearward visibility isn’t really compromised.

Adults sitting in the back won’t take exception to the sportier styling, either. The Sportback loses around 6mm of headroom, but there’s still plenty of space back there, and legroom remains a strong point, too. An optional sliding rear bench is available on S line models, so you can trade legroom for more boot space, but only if you’ve ticked the option box to order fine Nappa leather. A sliding bench is standard on the higher-spec Vorsprung and Edition 1 cars.

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The Q5 Sportback’s cabin remains one of the newcomer’s higher watermarks. The presentation of the dash, infotainment and switchgear is classy and is complemented by the high quality of the materials used.

The infotainment is a strong point, too. While we’ve come to miss the click wheel of the old Audi MMI system, the operation of the 10.1-inch central touchscreen is refined. The graphics are razor-sharp and it’s very slick to swipe and prod through menus, while every version of the Q5 Sportback comes with navigation and Audi Connect live services as standard, enabling remote control and monitoring of key vehicle functions via your smartphone.

Alongside the central display is Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit. After all these years, it’s still one of the best digital instrument panels on the market. It’s easy to interact with via the scrolling wheels on the steering wheel, and it can broadcast full- screen Google Earth mapping data just below the driver’s eye line.

In the UK, S line models like ours ride on a passive sports suspension set-up as standard, in contrast to the adaptive air system offered on the Vorsprung and Edition 1 models.

When we tried a German-spec car with the air system earlier in the year, we found its adaptability and ride quality at speed impressive. However, the standard set-up found on S line cars should be sufficient for most people. You do lose the ability to alter the ride height, though, which is perhaps a necessary function if you need to take your Q5 off road. Few owners will, however, and generally the fixed damping ratio of the sports suspension set-up behaves similarly. It picks up the odd low-speed thump over potholes, but the damping smooths out at a higher pace, making the Q5 Sportback a comfortable option–more so than the BMW X4.

That’s said, the Audi isn’t as interesting to drive as the BMW. The steering is light and precise, but is part of a package that feels solid yet unspectacular on a B-road, where the X4’s marginally more engaging steering and tighter body control are more akin to the sportier coupé appearance of SUVs like these. The Q5 has a raft of drive modes, ranging from Dynamic to an off-road mode setting. The on-road options only offer differences in throttle response, gearing and a minor change in steering weight, however, so it’s best just left in Comfort.

The mild-hybrid-assisted 2.0-litre petrol engine is more than powerful enough for the 1,775kg weight. Performance is strong, with 0-62mph coming up in 6.1 seconds and a top speed of 149mph. It picks up nicely, too; the seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission is seamless in operation and rarely hesitant to select the right gear. It does all this while being suitably refined, too, keeping the engine roar well at bay.

You’ll only pick up on the 12-volt mild-hybrid aspect of the engine if you really look out for it. Small clues, such as the speedo’s battery regeneration bar filling up when you lift off the throttle, and the engine defaulting to idle when it can while you coast are the only obvious signs of electrical assistance.

The fuel economy of the 45 TFSI is still not one of the model’s finer points. A claim of 32.5mpg means that it will cost more to run than the cheaper 2.0 TDI option, which is still probably more suited to an SUV of this size, and will return up to 44.8mpg. Two plug-in hybrid versions of the Q5 Sportback are offered, starting from £53,435 for the 295bhp 50 TFSI e model; the other is the 55 TFSI e variant that produces 362bhp. Both use a 2.0-litre petrol engine, battery pack and electric motor that enables up to 38 miles of running on electric power alone, and benefit from company car-friendly Benefit-in-Kind rates of 10 per cent.

Model: Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro S line S tronic
Price: £49,990
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 261bhp/370Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Top speed: 149mph
Economy: 32.8mpg
CO2: 197g/km
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