Audi’s exercise in endowing their conservatively-styled crossovers with a bit more emotional design has yielded a growing line of Sportback CUVs, including the A7 Sportback and e-Tron Sportback, that value form over function. With their sloping backlight, which limits cargo carrying flexibility, they seem a bit of frivolity that goes against the Bauhaus esthetic that has long guided German design. What would Walter Gropius think?
The Q5 Sportback and SQ5 Sportback are basically an Audi Q5 and SQ5 that don’t believe it’s hip to be square. So they share a sloping backlight that Audi considers sporty, but limits the utility of this crossover utility vehicle. And it’s hard to disagree; they do seem to have a sportier air about them. But getting a mammoth flatscreen TV home from the big box store might be a problem. Otherwise, the Sportbacks share the qualities and driveline of the compact Q5 luxury CUV. Both models are offered in ascending Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels.
It’s interesting to see German automakers marketing their crossovers with sloping rear backlights as sporty. When Saabs sported this very silhouette, albeit not hiked up and bulked up like some redneck pickup, the look was dubbed unusual or quirky. Now, I always thought Saabs looked somewhat sporty – Scandinavian sporty. And so is the Q5 Sportback. But it wears the sublime design language Audi has developed over decades. It’s sophisticated, emitting an air of quiet luxury that’s immensely alluring. Of course, if you opt for the Q5 Sportback over the Q5, you won’t get roof rails; after all, the roof is curved. But you will get standard S Line exterior trim, unique 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof and sport front seats.
If Gropius wouldn’t approve of the Sportback’s exterior, perhaps he’d be pleased with its interior. Its design is a paragon of simplicity that’s easy to understand and operate and finished in refined materials. The test vehicle, dressed in Premium trim, added a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated and cooled cupholders, side window shades and ventilated front seats, along with a host of mechanical and technical upgrades.
A large 10.1-inch infotainment screen crowns the center stack, and rests upon the climate control vents. The climate controls are below them, a well-designed amalgamation of 13 buttons and two large knobs that fall easily to hand. Below them, nestled at the base, are buttons for parking assist, Audi Drive Modes, and other functions. The interior proves spacious and comfortable, with good room for four, although some may find rear headroom limited. Also, despite its price, you get leather seating surfaces, not a full leather interior.
Two drivelines are offered. Like the Q5, Q5 Sportbacks are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that generates 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The Audi SQ5 Sportback’s turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine delivers 349 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard on both models.
Safety and technology
In addition to such expected safety features such as anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic stability control, standard safety equipment includes a rearview camera, preventative occupant protection, forward collision warning, avoidance assist, lane departure warning, blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist is standard with Premium Plus or Prestige trim.
The Audi Q5 Sportback’s instrument panel features a 10.1-inch touchscreen using Audi’s all-new MIB 3 infotainment software. It’s far better than anything the automaker has offered before. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard as well. It’s accompanied by a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that can be equipped with an optional virtual cockpit that offers a variety of viewing modes. Also standard is an integrated toll transponder for toll roads.
If you’ve ever driven an Audi, the Q5 Sportback’s behavior comes as no surprise. While a Porsche Macan or BMW X3 might be more entertaining, the Audi Q5 Sportback delivers an exceptionally balanced driving experience. That’s not to call it soft, but it seems to have less of a sporty edge than some of its competitors, but that’s also it’s real advantage.
There’s ample power on tap for the rush hour grand prix, or for plodding down pokey suburban parkways. The Q5 Sportback’s admirable stability is evident whether tackling corners or during sudden avoidance maneuvers. Its personality remains composed, displaying a smooth, refined demeanor. When the road turns rough, the Q5 Sportback ably absorbs it with aplomb. The steering is quick and accurate, if devoid in feel. But its ease and athleticism are never at odds with each other, it’s remarkably balanced and poised. However, if you’re a true driving enthusiast, you’ll prefer the SQ5 Sportback.
2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 Premium Quattro
|Dimension||L: 184.6 inches/W: 74.5 inches/H: 65.4 inches/Wheelbase: 111 inches|
|Powertrain||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||23 mpg city/28 mpg highway/25 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $47,800; As tested: $59,340, including $1,095 destination and delivery charge|
If you can live the limitations its slick styling induces, the Q5 Sportback will provide a pleasurable luxury driving experience that’s poised, athletic, comfortable and controlled. But so is a Q5, which will provide greater utility. It’s worth test-driving both. When you do, bring along a big suitcase or three to load in the back. Then, you can decide whether the $4,500 styling premium is worth it.
How much is the Audi Q5 Sportback?
Aud Q5 Sportback prices start at $48,895 including destination charge, but excluding options. That’s a $4,500 premium compared to the Q5. The more powerful SQ5 Sportback starts at $57,195 including destination charge, but excluding options.
Is the Audi Q5 Sportback big enough for a family of four?
Yes, it can comfortably seat four, and has 24.7 cubic feet of cargo space, although the sloping rear glass limits what can be placed in the cargo hold.
Does the Audi Q5 Sportback have heated seats?
Yes. Upper trim levels such as our Prestige trim level test car come with heated rear seats as well.