Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - Sportback
Logical tech interface, fluid steering, poised body control, effortless torque, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Gritty low-speed ride, noticeable tyre noise, rear-seat headroom, mild step-off lag
Four-ring brand’s stylish coupe-SUV to take on Bimmer’s X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe
5 Nov 2021
By MATT BROGAN
Svelte curves and a roomy interior. Gutsy performance coupled with miserly fuel consumption. Loads of technology laid out with the minimalist restraint of a stylish Scandi apartment. Yes, when it comes to the modern SUV it seems we really do want it all.
And, why not? With the high-tech manufacturing processes and intelligent computer-aided design programs available these days, car-makers are no longer architects constrained by the practical, but couturiers of appealing, attractive, and still-useful machines that reflect our individual styles and personalities.
Of course, not everyone wants a coupe-SUV. There are some who find the notion ridiculous, and frankly that’s OK. But it seems an increasing number of people do, prompting a surge in swoopy (sometimes droopy) designs from a growing number of manufacturers seizing the opportunity to squeeze a little more from those cautiously invested development dollars tipped into their mainstream models.
Indeed, the proliferation of coupe-SUVs has shown how one size need not fit all. Large, small, and medium SUVs from all manner of manufacturers have been sliced and sculpted to give us what is essentially a segment within a segment; and it’s European manufacturers like Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen that are leading the charge.
The latest edition to the coupe-SUV clan to hit these shores is the Audi Q5 Sportback. A medium-sized competitor to the likes of the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, this shapely five-seater aims to emulate the sales success of Audi’s smaller Q3 Sportback – and form a solid chunk of overall Q5 sales.
It’s priced from $77,700 – undercutting its nearest rivals by $5771 and $19,200 respectively in base form – and is available with a choice of engines, all with mild hybrid technology, grippy quattro all-wheel drive, and an equipment list so long it would take us a week to type it out.
Standard inclusions are generous across the Q5 Sportback line-up and feature Audi’s S line enhancements as standard over all three variants. A 10.0-inch touchscreen infotainment array with smartphone mirroring, wireless charging, proprietary satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay (wireless), Android Auto, and dual Bluetooth connectivity are also fitted.
Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster is standard, as are leather-appointed upholstery, tri-zone climate control, LED headlights, powered tailgate, and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Additionally, the Q5 Sportback range is available with adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, matrix LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats with Nappa leather upholstery, and 20-inch alloy wheels (21-inches on SQ5).
Standalone and option bundles are also offered, including the Comfort package (40 TDI) and Technik package (40 TDI and 45 TFSI). Audi will also offer the Q5 and SQ5 Sportback with nine exterior finishes and a variety of upholstery choices.
Safety and driver assistance technology includes a 360-degree camera system, autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto high-beam, an exit warning system, and ‘hands-on’ detection that recognises if the driver has let go of the steering wheel.
Four-cylinder engine offerings include a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making 150kW/400Nm and capable of hitting 100km/h in a claimed 7.6 seconds (40 TDI); a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol developing 183kW/370Nm Audi says it good for a 0-100km/h time of 6.3 seconds (45 TFSI); and the heavy hitter of the range, the SQ5 Sportback TDI with its brawny 251kW/700Nm 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 and 5.1 second triple-digit dash.
On test, we managed a fuel consumption number of 6.8 litres per 100km for the 40 TDI and 8.1L/100km for the SQ5 TDI.
The sales performance of the Q5 says a lot about it as a car. It’s one of those SUVs that does a lot right, and very little wrong. And since its most recent update (released in Europe mid last year), the Q5 has graduated to become even better than the model it replaces; its MLB architecture – shared with the A4 and A5 et al – gifting it with the ride refinement and driveline technology expected of the price tag.
We sampled the 40 TDI and SQ5 TDI versions of the Sportback. This diesel-powered pair respectively sit at the bottom and top of the range in terms of both performance and price, but that doesn’t mean the ‘entry’ model is a slouch. In fact, it’s the sort of car that would have been considered ridiculously quick a decade or so ago.
Brief step-off lag quickly fades to energetic acceleration, the 2.0-litre four hustling through its dual-clutch transmission’s seven forward ratios to promptly reach freeway speeds. There’s no sense of occasion about it, and very little engine noise, just a matter-of-fact swing of the needle as it passes triple digits and settles in for a steady highway run.
But it’s here the Q5 Sportback’s only significant ‘tell’ is revealed: tyre hum. What first displays as a gritty low-speed ride becomes altogether annoying at cruising speeds. The broad, low-profile Pirelli tyres rumble and drone as the 40 TDI cruises on coarse Aussie asphalt, the ‘lesser’ vehicle intriguingly noisier than the SQ5 TDI despite the latter’s larger wheel/tyre combo (255/40R21 vs 255/45R20 in the entry model).
Aside from the graininess and din of the 40 TDI – and the sportier ride of the SQ5 TDI – there is little to criticise in terms of ride comfort or dynamism. Curiously, the pair handle larger amplitude lumps and bumps with luxury-car aplomb, and even manage to calm the most pockmarked of unsealed roads.
It’s an interesting contrast that proves it is tyre selection, and not suspension, that is the 40 TDI’s Achilles heel; a point further demonstrated by the vehicle’s poised body control in off-camber corners and through sudden directional changes where the Audi keeps its chin up and eyes forward, just like a champion thoroughbred.
The effortless torque and tenacious all-wheel-drive system collaborate to encourage abiding focus from the Q5 on winding mountain roads, the sharp yet fluid steering rewarding the driver in much the same way a well-tuned hot hatch would.
In fact, the vehicle’s dynamics are so well sorted that the difference between it and the sportier SQ5 TDI are at times hard to recognise, which speaks to both the steadfast grip of the ‘lesser’ model and the suppleness available from the ‘greater’.
And really it is only when you really start pressing on that the SQ5 TDI reveals its true character. The previously docile and restrained city SUV is quick to let its hair down when you open the taps, lurching toward the horizon with neck-stretching acceleration perhaps best saved for the autobahns of its home country. If the 40 TDI is brisk, the SQ5 TDI is ballistic!
Overtaking is an effortless affair and hill climbing is a non-event. The eight-speed torque converter transmission utilises the V6’s stellar 700Nm of torque so effectively that you barely notice the engine speed increase, though the tachometer is probably not the instrument that should have your focus. The SQ5 TDI piles on speed rapidly – very rapidly – as if the engine is longing to score you a ticket; and I don’t mind adding, it sounds bloody good while doing it.
The Q5 Sportback shares its masses of easy-to-use technology, sorted driver ergonomics, extensive safety kit, and expected deluxe cabin feel with the regular variants, the only evident detraction a modest 16mm reduction in rear-seat headroom. The cargo bay too is only 10 litres smaller than the wagon version, Audi quoting 510-1470 litres.
Audi Australia says that Sportback variants of the Q5 will add a further 20 per cent to the strong-selling model’s existing sales numbers, and after spending a couple of days with the diesel duo, we think they might be selling themselves short. This is an attractive and elegant SUV with balanced proportions that is efficient, eager, and a joy to drive.
Just make sure you pack the ear plugs.
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Model release date: 5 November 2021
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