► Coupe version of facelifted Q5 driven
► Tested in petrol, diesel and SQ5 spec
► Pricier, less practical, rarer than standard Q5
Individuals crave something different. But in a world where keeping up with the Joneses has been weaponised by social media, people don't want to stray too far from the norm for fear of being alienated.
People want something new, yet familiar. Which brings us on nicely to this slinky-yet-practical Q5 Sportback.
It's a plush mid-size SUV from a brand with plenty of street cred. The Sportback badge on the back brings with it a new-ish and very in-vogue shape.
Yes, the shape
I don't know if Audi's executed this on purpose, but the Q5 Sportback is a bit like a mullet. Business in the front, party in the back. There is probably some symbiosis between Gen Z-ers' sporting this hairdo and Audi aiming this car at people old enough to be their parents.
Anyway it's pretty Audi-normal from the front. From the side it looks a lot lower than the Q5, despite sitting only 2mm lower. The rear reminds us a bit of the ill-fated Mini Coupe with the roof design pinched from the design director's son's baseball cap.
Is it good looking? It's a bit too complex at the rear to be pretty. But it is imposing. The tapered rear line means there's less glass on show. Bad for people inside, but better for people outside. It's just individualistic enough to cater for its clientele.
And the interior?
Unlike the A1 and A3, which have lost some of their top-notch in-car splendour in the course of the recent model changes, the Q5 interior is still very well made, tastefully furnished and properly equipped.
New Audi Q5: details and specs
Like the bigger Audis, the midsize crossover oozes quality, and it offers a bunch of intriguing extras which manifest the Vorsprung durch Technik claim. The most elaborate version of the third-generation infotainment system can be had with a head-up display and numerous new online services, the adaptive matrix LED headlights turn night into day, and the adjustable and reclining split rear bench converts a cramped economy-class seat into a business-class easy chair.
Optional OLED rear lights feature different DRL signatures depending on the drive mode: lock Drive Select in dynamic, and the illumination displays sportier graphics. Completing this round of pseudo innovations is the augmented proximity sensor which makes the car’s brake lights flare up as soon as another vehicle enters the two-metre safety zone.
If you walked into an Audi dealership (remember those) and sat in an A3 the first thing you'd clock is that the hatchback has a larger (10.1 vs 10.25-inch) and more modern-looking infotainment screen that seems built-in rather than stuck-on. It's a subtle difference but does age the Q5 in a world where a comparison is a thumb swipe away.
The wood in our test car really adds to what is a well thought out interior. A really great place to sit – high up, with loads of elbow room.
Rear space isn't greatly affected by the sloping roof. It manages to avoid feeling too dark in the back, even without a sunroof. Rear passengers are treated to climate controls and drinks holders from the middle-seat armrest.
Good news on the practicality front. The Sportback isn't all that less practical than a regular Q5. It's the same width, and around 7mm longer. The Sportback boot is 510/1480-litre versus 550/1550 boot for the regular Q5. It's enough of a difference to notice, but not enough to care.
Enough tech talk – let’s get driving
It's soft. Floaty even. It'll glide serenely and effortlessly, especially at lower speeds. Take that Facebook group admin and your five-years-past-its-sell-by-date meme about 'bone shattering' ride in modern Audis.
Admittedly our test car had the adaptive air suspension. In the UK this is only available on Vorsprung models. There are five settings and 60mm of ride-height variation.The most serious is an off-road one that raises the suspension to its maximum setting and turns off the ESC.
Comfort is where the car is happiest. It simply floats above the worst potholes and is seriously impressive on ragged rural roads.
On the other end of this spectrum is Dynamic. This makes the steering heavier, the gearchanges faster. It's still unrewarding. There's great flow with the Audi, but there's little fun to be had.
All cars come with quattro and a seven-speed DSG, except for the SQ5 TDI that comes with an eight-speed torque converter. Grip is commendable, while the gearbox is rarely flustered.
The 45 TFSI is a 2.0-litre petrol with 265bhp. The 0-62mph time is a solid 6.1 seconds. There's definitely a strong mid-rpm shove. You can stretch it right to the rev limit and it doesn't feel like it's run out of puff. There's very little need to actually do this and no aural reward.
Despite the decent turn of speed and the word sport written on the back, this is no Macan competitor. If you were in Milton Keynes on the 31 March you might have seen an Ingolstadt registered Q5 Sportback understeering gently around the 130-or-so roundabouts it has to offer.
The 40 TDI engine is thrifty, torquey enough and completely coddled in soundproofing to make you even forget it sips from the black pump.
The SQ5, meanwhile, is still relatively hampered by the post-diesel age of Audi. The brand initially implemented pronounced turbo lag, allegedly caused by a hastily reprogrammed software. Despite promises of improvement, and those promises backed up with an updated engine with 48-volt e-boost and a lighter, lower-inertia impeller wheel in the turbo, not much has changed – full-throttle take-off at a junction feels subjectively as hesitant as ever. Fact is, the single-turbo 3.0-litre engine responds to any brusque and sustained acceleration request filed below 2900rpm with an irritating, annoying and ultimately frustrating lag.
The standard 48V mild-hybrid system can regenerate up to 8kW under braking, enables the 155mph SQ5 to coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off, opens the stop-start window quite a bit earlier at 14mph and contributes to the remarkable fuel economy (40.3mpg). Unlike the four-cylinder models which are fitted with a seven-speed DCT and on-demand all-wheel drive, the V6-engined twins feature an eight-speed automatic and permanent quattro 4WD in conjunction with dynamic torque vectoring. Swing the whip, and the 2085kg Sportback will accelerate in 5.1sec from 0-62mph.
The petrol-fed SQ5 offered in the US is unfortunately not an option for Europe, and with the Q6 e-Tron round the corner, there may not be enough room for a PHEV edition inspired by the Q7 either.
Audi Q5 Sportback: verdict
A class act, mechanically and in terms of fit and finish. It rides superbly, handling is failsafe, and the engines are relatively frugal.
Best of all the Sportback is suitably different enough to the regular Q5 for its drivers to feel like they're getting a bit of added individualism. It's less practical and around £1000 more than a regular Q5. This means Sportbacks are predicted to make up 24% of Q5 sales in the UK, which will keep buyers and leasers happy.
Those looking for sporty offerings are better off with a Porsche Cayenne Coupe or Macan. The Mercedes GLC Coupe is a lot flashier. BMW's X4 sits somewhere between the lot. The Audi is the comfiest.
In some ways the Q5 Sportback is a bit like when I combine a Carhartt jacket and a pair of Reebok trainers. I've never chopped wood and I haven't played tennis since I was in secondary school. They're comfy and I like the way they look.
Read more Audi reviews here
Specs below for a Q5 Sportback S line 45 TFSI quattro