Audi Q5 Sportback SUV review
"The extra kerb appeal and exclusivity of the Audi Q5 Sportback comes with surprisingly few compromises"
- Attractive interior
- PHEV cuts running costs
- Lack of infotainment control wheel
- Sliding bench absent on lower trims
- High CO2 emissions for petrol and diesel
The Audi Q5 Sportback is a continuation of the brand’s move to introduce sporty, coupe-roofed versions of models in its standard SUV lineup. Competing with the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe, the Q5 Sportback occupies a spot in Audi's range between the Audi Q3 Sportback and expensive Audi Q8.
The styling changes compared with the standard Q5 aren’t dramatic but anyone following the Q5 Sportback will notice the raked rear windscreen, boot spoiler and a striking metallic bar that connects the rear lights. Choose the top Vorsprung version, and these lights use OLED technology, giving them a more intricate design and impressive 'welcome' graphics when you unlock the car.
Inside, there's almost no change from the regular Q5 up front, so there's plenty of space, attractive seats and two large screens. The 10.1-inch central display is now a touchscreen, which is handy for tapping in addresses while stationary, but we wish it still had a control wheel to make it easier to use on the move. The 12.3-inch instrument display is among the best available, with clear and customisable graphics. The quality of finishes and materials is great too.
Making the roof more curvaceous hasn't compromised boot space; there's still 510 litres behind the rear seats, and all but the tallest adults should have adequate headroom, despite a small reduction. The Q5 Sportback is still more spacious than most family hatchbacks or saloons. We wish Audi would make the sliding rear bench more widely available, as it's a handy feature that shouldn't be limited to the top-spec Vorsprung and Edition 1 trim grades. It’s optional on the S Line but you have to pay for Nappa leather upholstery to get it.
Engines available include a 2.0-litre petrol and diesel, badged 45 TFSI and 40 TDI and producing 265bhp and 201bhp respectively with quattro four-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 6.1 seconds for the petrol and 7.6 seconds for the diesel. A pair of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) options combine electric motors with the 2.0-lite petrol engine to offer 295bhp in the 50 TFSI e and 362bhp in the 55 TFSI e. They can get from 0-62mph in 6.1 or 5.3 respectively. Audi also offers a Sportback version of the SQ5 with a 336bhp diesel engine for buyers who don’t want a plug-in hybrid.
Whichever model you go for, you’re likely to find the Q5 Sportback quick enough and confidence-inspiring to drive, if not particularly involving. It feels capable of everything from the school run to a long road trip without breaking sweat, but if you want a more involving drive, the BMW X4 feels a little more agile. The Q5 rides more softly over bumps than the BMW though, even with standard suspension fitted to S line grade cars. The air suspension fitted to more expensive models makes the ride even smoother.
Fuel economy of just over 30mpg for the petrol and around 40mpg for the diesel isn't anything too clever, despite 12-volt mild-hybrid hardware, so company-car drivers may prefer the plug-in hybrids for reduced Benefit-in-Kind tax rates. These deliver a pure electric range of up to 38 miles, cutting CO2 emissions to below 50g/km and potentially also making them much more affordable to drive - especially for daily commutes that are less than 20 miles each way.
There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about the Q5 Sportback but if you're already considering a Q5, or another upmarket SUV like the Range Rover Evoque, its extra kerb appeal and exclusivity comes with surprisingly few compromises.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The most popular engine options are both 2.0-litres in size but one is petrol, while the other is a diesel with 48-volt mild hybrid assistance to help improve efficiency. Badged 40 TDI, the diesel can return up to 44.8mpg with CO2 emissions from 166g/km of CO2, making it a good choice for anyone expecting to make longer journeys on a regular basis.
The petrol 45 TFSI is thirstier, with a lower maximum economy figure of 33.6mpg and emissions from 192g/km. Both therefore sit in the top band for Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) liability, which is unlikely to win over company-car drivers.
The plug-in hybrid 50 TFSI e and 55 TFSI e models, which use a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor with a fairly large battery, have the potential to reduce running costs considerably. They have an electric range of up to 38 miles, drastically bringing down the official CO2 figure to just over 40g/km. This makes BiK far more affordable, while VED (tax) is reduced from the standard rate by £10 a year. Insurance is another cost to consider because insurance groups for Audi SUVs tend to be rather high. The regular 2.0-litre petrol Q5 sits in group 35 out of 50.
Engines, drive & performance
The 45 TFSI might only have a 2.0-litre engine but it has 261bhp, so performance is strong. Aided by the traction of quattro four-wheel drive, it can get from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, which makes it quick enough to surprise some hot hatches away from the lights. It has a top speed of 149mph. It's quick but some may prefer the extra low-down pulling power found in the diesel.
Speaking of which, the 40 TDI has 201bhp, so it still gets from 0-62mph in a brisk 7.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 137mph. It also has Audi's famed quattro system and both cars feature a seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission.
The PHEV models both offer rapid acceleration, with the top-spec 55 TFSI e taking barely more than five seconds to complete the 0-62mph sprint. Of course, using all the power will substantially reduce efficiency but company drivers selecting a PHEV primarily for the low company-car tax rates may not be worried.
Once on the move, the Q5 Sportback exhibits the usual Audi traits of precise steering and reassuring handling but not loads in the way of fun; it simply goes where you ask it to. That might sound pretty good for an SUV but it's worth noting, if you enjoy feeling more connected to the road, that the BMW X4 is more involving to drive.
The mild-hybrid technology is a 12-volt setup, rather than the more powerful 48-volt version in some Audi models, but it still harvests energy as the car decelerates, storing it in a small battery. This can be used to power the car with the engine off while coasting, and allow the stop and start system to work more effectively in traffic.
Interior & comfort
It's no surprise that the interior is almost identical to the Q5, which is to say it's logically laid out and the materials and build quality are top notch. We think the lack of a physical control dial for the 10.1-inch central touchscreen is a step backwards, however, because it's hard to press accurately once on the move.
Trim levels are Sport, S line, Edition One and Vorsprung for petrol and diesel models but if you opt for one of the PHEVs there are also the Competition and Competition Vorsprung grades. Because buyers get LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, all-round parking sensors and rear-view camera as standard, we think the best value is at the start of the range. S line is likely to be very popular and may be the sweet spot, thanks to its sporty looks, 19-inch wheels and matrix LED headlights for around £2,500 extra. We also expect Sport and S line versions will see the lowest depreciation when it comes to trading the car in.
Edition One brings bigger wheels, black exterior trim, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, Nappa leather upholstery and extended ambient lighting. The range-topping Vorsprung trim adds some luxuries like a panoramic sunroof, black exterior trim, OLED rear lights, extra driver aids and 21-inch alloy wheels, which are likely to have a negative effect on ride quality.
The Competition and Competition Vorsprung trim levels add sporty styling touches and big wheels to mimic the appearance of the high performance SQ5.
Practicality & boot space
How does the Sportback's tapered roof line affect practicality? There's now 17mm less headroom above the back seats but it was already quite abundant, so only the tallest passengers may notice the reduction. Room up front, meanwhile, is unaffected next to the normal Audi Q5.
An optional sliding rear seat is available but unfortunately this is only fitted as standard on the Vorsprung, which costs almost £18,000 more than the standard Sport trim. It's a real shame, as this feature is useful for families who are likely to stick with a lower trim. Even slid as far forwards as possible, there's enough rear legroom for kids and boot space is increased by 60 litres. With the bench all the way back, rear legroom is up there with the best in class.
Boot space drops by 40 litres for the Sportback compared to the regular Q5 but it still stands at 510 litres and, as much of the reduction in volume is higher up in the boot, it's unlikely to be an issue day-to-day. There's also a powered boot and the opening itself is very wide, making it easy to load bulky items.
Reliability & safety
Buyers of Audi SUVs expect a really solid product, including safety. There's nothing to disappoint here, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP safety score for the Audi Q5, which should also apply directly to the Sportback as they are identical from the windscreen forwards.
Safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, designed to automatically warn the driver and apply the brakes if they fail to take action before a collision occurs. Buyers can also add the optional City Assist Pack (£500), which adds features like blind-spot warnings, exit warnings (for occupants about to get out of the car) and a system to warn of traffic as you reverse.
Audi's reliability record is more patchy and in our 2020 Driver Power survey, the brand came 21st out of 30 manufacturers. This could partly be due to higher expectations of a luxury marque, as Skoda came fifth, despite the manufacturers using many of the same components. The Audi Q5 itself came 46th out of the top 75 models, with 24% of owners reporting one or more issues.