The new Audi Q5 Sportback is a stylish piece of kit. But, so is the BMW X4, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé and even the Range Rover Evoque. So, the new Sportback needs to prove that it has more than meets the eye to offer any meaningful alternative to the competition.

As with most manufacturers, the Audi Q5 is fast heading towards becoming Audi’s best-selling SUV due to its crossover DNA. This platform has proven popular with consumers as it strikes the right balance between SUV practicality and relatively compact dimensions, making it ideal for daily driving. But, sometimes, consumers prefer styling over practicality, which has also seen the growing popularity of the coupé SUV form factor. And, while Mercedes and BMW were quick to trickle down this coupé design from their larger SUVs to their crossovers, Audi decided to take the bench… well until now. With the recent launch of the new Q5 Sportback, Audi has joined the SUV coupé fray, and we jumped to the task of finding out whether it stacks up to the competition. 

Coupé-like Panache

To my eyes, the new Q5 bears a remarkable resemblance to the A5 Sportback with which it shares its DNA. Fanatics will recognise the familiar front-end design, the sharp crease running along the car’s shoulder line and the coupé-like sloping roofline. The front features redesigned LED headlights with a unique DRL design, flanking a single-frame grille and massive intakes (albeit non-functional). The rear sports a different bumper design from the standard Q5, together with sleeker tail lamps which can be optioned out with a lighting package. This package comes with an industry-first OLED light technology with configurable graphics depending on the driving mode and a proximity sensor that varies the intensity of the brake lights depending on the proximity of traffic behind the car. 

Overall, the Q5 Sportback adds some overdue flavour to the Q5 range, giving customers a more stylish offering. The car comes with two trims: the sedate Advanced and the more aggressive S-Line. However, should you desire more aggression, the SQ5 Sportback with its sportier bumpers, quad tailpipes, and bigger wheels is the one to go for. 

Audi-like Style

The Q5’s interior displays the fan-favourite Audi trademark of premium build quality and a clean design. While the design may not win any awards in the overstated opulence category, it is ergonomic and well thought through. A new 10.1″ infotainment touchscreen dominates the centre stage on the dash with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. This system runs Audi’s third-generation Modular Infotainment Platform (MIB 3), which offers ten times its predecessor’s computing power and comes with voice command and access to Audi online services. Beneath the screen, you will find physical climate control buttons, a firm favourite of mine amidst the “touchscreen everything” craze that has become all the rage. Saying that, I am not entirely opposed to touch-sensitive screens, especially as presented with the optional Technology Pack in our test unit, which includes a 12.3” fully customisable TFT virtual cockpit that interfaces via the multi-function steering wheel.

I found the seats extremely comfortable, even on long drives. Rear accommodation comes with generous legroom, though it is better suited for two passengers since the high transmission tunnel poses legroom challenges for the middle seat occupant. The tapered roofline may also pose headroom challenges for tall passengers. Storage is down to 510 litres due to the roofline but remains competitive in the segment.

Three Variants

The Q5 Sportback offers three engine variants, the 40 TDI (140 kW), 45 TFSI (183 kW), and a 3.0-litre V6 for the SQ5 (260 kW). For those in a hurry, the SQ5 is the clear performance leader, accelerating from zero to 100 km/h in just 5.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 250 km/h. However, my personal favourite out of the three is the 45 TFSI, powered by the tried and tested 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine, which churns out 183 kW and 370 Nm of torque. With a trusted seven-speed wet clutch S-Tronic transmission, the car can deliver a 6.3 second zero to 100 km/h sprint and top out at 237 km/h.

That performance is delivered through Audi’s Quattro system, which for the 45 TFSI can run as a 2WD at low speeds and then engage all four wheels when you hit the throttle, which grants the car the efficiency of a front-wheel-drive and the assurance of an all-wheel setup.

Since the Q5 is a mild hybrid, it utilises a 12-volt system to improve efficiency. The car can coast on electric power alone at highway speeds and cut off the engine around 20 km/h when coming to a stop. Essentially the car glides indiscernibly to a halt, giving it a smooth stop/start experience. 

I found the Q5 quite punchy and responsive out on the road. There is good poke off the line, with enough torque to overtake with ease on the highway. The engine is well refined, barely louder than a mild background murmur. Even in the city, the car is a pleasure to drive, proving that it makes an excellent daily driver. The steering is light in city driving and proved to be confidence-inspiring on the highway.

Ride quality was excellent on my tester since it came equipped with the optional adaptive air suspension. The system ironed out road imperfections smoothly despite the car riding on the more prominent 20” alloys.

Last Word

The new Q5 Sportback introduces a stylish coupé form factor to the Q5 range, which was long overdue given that the competition from BMW and Mercedes has been around long enough to get facelifts. It proved to be an excellent family car with adequate performance, good cabin quality, and great technological amenities. With an entry price of just over R1 million, it remains to be seen whether the Q5 Sportback will prove as popular as the Q5. In the end, it depends on the depth of the pockets of those yearning for an exceptional coupé-styled SUV.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © Audi South Africa

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