2021 Audi Q5 Sportback road test review

The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.

Toby Hagon

Posted November 05, 2021


Toby Hagon takes Audi’s coupe-inspired SUV for a test drive to find out if the new Q5 Sportback’s beauty is only skin-deep. 

The Audi Q5 Sportback adds to the Q5 family with a sleeker design that focuses more on the look than interior practicality. Elsewhere, there’s The Q5 Sportback has a fastback-inspired roof that rakes more heavily at the rear. Like all Q5s, the Sportback has a Quattro all-wheel-drive system that powers all four wheels. 

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The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.

What do you get for the price?

Competing with the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, two other coupe-inspired SUVs, the Sportback shares plenty with the regular Q5, but it also comes with more equipment as part of its premium positioning. Expect to pay at least $4000 more for the Sportback look, or even more if you’re choosing one of the more affordable models, which come with plenty more equipment than their regular Q5 counterparts.

All Sportback models get the S-Line design that includes 20-inch alloy wheels (an inch up on those used on regular entry-level Q5s) and a honeycomb style grille. Audi has also deleted the roof rails, claiming it makes the car look sportier; at the very least it adds to the differentiation.

The Q5 Sportback comes with the choice of three engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in the 40 TDI, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol in the 45 TFSI and 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel in the SQ5.

The V6 diesel used in the 50 TDI of the regular Q5 is not available as a Sportback.

All three Sportbacks cost more than their Q5 SUV equivalents, in part because there is a smattering of additional gear.

But you’re also paying for the look.

The Q5 40 TDI Sportback is the entry to the range at $77,700 plus on-road costs. It comes with leather, smart key entry, tri-zone ventilation, 360-degree camera, an electric tailgate, ambient lighting and electric front seats.

The 45 TFSI is $86,300 plus on-road and adds to that with a higher quality quilted leather, matrix LED headlights (which automatically blank out other road users), heated front seats and a sliding rear bench seat that also reclines.

As the $110,900 range topper, the SQ5 gets various extras and a more aggressive look with things such as red brake callipers. It also picks up a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and head-up display that are optional on other variants. Plus, there are 21-inch wheels.

How safe is it?

The Q5 Sportback gets a five-star ANCAP safety rating as tested in 2017.

As well as eight airbags there’s a solid assortment of active safety systems that include blind-spot warnings as well as exit warnings, the latter alerting occupants of an approaching vehicle as they go to open the door. 

A 360-degree camera helps in carparks and there’s lane assist to provide gentle steering assistance to keep the car in its lane. 

The Q5 Sportback also gets autonomous emergency braking up to at least 85km/h, although in the 40 TDI it only washes off up to 40km/h. The 45 TFSI and SQ5 get a more advanced auto-braking system that operates at higher speeds and can bring the car to a complete stop. Those models also get adaptive cruise control that incorporates turn assist to apply the brakes if you try to turn across traffic. 

 

The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.

What’s it like inside?

The Sportback borrows most of its cabin from the regular Q5. 

Up front there’s no difference, including a 12.3-inch customisable digital instrument cluster (or Virtual Cockpit, as Audi calls it) as well as a 10.1-inch central infotainment touchscreen.

The cabin sticks to the modern Audi formula of having a centre console tilted gently towards the driver with the infotainment screen close to the driver’s line of sight.

It’s operated solely via the touchscreen (previously Audi used a separate controller and buttons in the centre console), which can cause the occasionally fat-fingered selection over bumps. But large icons and quick responses ensure easy operation.

Finishes and materials are also of a high quality and everything is put together meticulously. In the rear is the same attention to detail as well as two USB plugs to match those up front, ensuring gadgets should stay topped-up.

However, that sloping roof line does take its toll on rear-seat headroom to the tune of 16mm. It’s something only likely to impact taller adults, but is a noticeable difference over the regular Q5. 
Otherwise, there are rear air vents and comfy sculpted outer seats to ensure passengers are content.

Audi’s also done a good job with the boot. The official capacity is down 10 litres, but there’s still 510L to play with, available in a broad, flat boot floor. The tailgate also raises nice and high and it’s a practical load space that can be added to with a 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat.

What’s under the bonnet?

There’s the choice of two diesel engines and one petrol for the Q5 Sportback.

A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo can be had with petrol or diesel propulsion.

The diesel manages a modest 150kW teamed with a more meaningful 400Nm, the latter providing stout acceleration and effortless cruising grunt. What it lacks in excitement it makes up for in relaxed pulling power.

But it lacks some of the zing and sporty flair evident elsewhere in the car.

The turbo petrol makes up there, with a freer revving nature and more power to play with. With 183kW and 370Nm it needs more revs to make it sing, but the engine is a willing participant. And there’s enough mid-range thrust to make easy work of the suburbs.

Those wanting peak Sportback performance need to choose the SQ5 with its 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6.

The diesel delivers a big slug of torque, albeit after a brief hesitation as the transmission sorts itself out. There’s modest 150kW but the 400Nm musters the sort of shove in the back that suggests there won’t be many times it’ll feel undernourished. Even at 90km/h there’s still loads on reserve to pile on more pace.

The noise of the diesel is one of the standouts. Somehow Audi has managed to give the SQ5 a husky rumble that announces the car’s intentions from the second you push the start button. Driving it harder amps up the aural excitement.

 

The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.

Is it efficient?

The most efficient of the Q5 Sportbacks is the 40 TDI, with claimed consumption of just 5.4 litres per 100km. While you’re unlikely to achieve that in everyday driving, it’s still easy to have the trip computer forecasting more than 1000km between refills.

Helping keep fuel use down is a mild hybrid system that allows the engine to cut out when coasting to a standstill. It also provides some mild assistance when taking off, although it’s almost indistinguishable.

It also emits the least CO2, although at 142g/km it’s not as thrifty as a full-blown hybrid.

The SQ5 diesel is the next most efficient, claiming 7.1L/100km fuel use. For an SUV that accelerates to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds it’s a thoroughly respectable achievement.

Whereas the 40 TDI and 45 TFSI use a 12V mild hybrid system, the SQ5 gets a 48V system able to provide more power. But, again, it’s a mild hybrid system and the diesel engine is clearly doing plenty more work than the electric motor.

The petrol-powered 45 TFSI uses a claimed 8.0L/100km and calls for premium unleaded (you’ll likely use more than that). Still, its average CO2 emissions of 183g/km just undercuts the SQ5 diesel, at 186g/km. 

How does it drive?

The Q5 Sportback drives very much like a Q5, which is a good thing.

It’s very car-like in its demeanour with cornering panache nicely blending with everyday comfort. But it’s an SUV that places driving enjoyment ahead of outright comfort.

That translates to a reassuring sense of security that adds confidence in the suburbs or when you’re snaking along a country road. Loads of grip helps there, too.

We sampled cars on regular suspension and those with the optional air suspension setup.

Even with the standard steel-sprung system, the Sportback disposes of bumps with authority, albeit with an associated tautness.

There’s added compliance from the adaptive air suspension, at least when it’s in its most relaxed mode.

Even the ride quality in the more focused SQ5 is thoroughly liveable, although a short, sharp bump sends a jolt through the system.

Drive modes include Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual, the latter allowing tweaking of the drivetrain, suspension, and steering feel.

Each Sportback can also tow up to two tonnes.

 

The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback.

Should I buy one?

Like all coupe-inspired SUVs, the Q5 Sportback isn’t for everyone. The price premium and slightly reduced rear headroom means it doesn’t make as much sense on paper as the regular SUV version of the Q5.

But the sleeker look and more aggressive S Line design package add lure to an SUV that doesn’t bring many packaging compromises.

 

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