Audi decides it's time its second-generation Q5 SUV had the same Sportback treatment the company has already dished out to its smaller Q3 offering. The resulting creation is exactly what you expect of an Audi: it's quietly assured and cultured in operation, beautifully built and possessing bags of showroom appeal. Accept the few, small compromises the Sportback body foists upon you and this might be the new Q5 of choice.
In the metal
The Audi Q5 Sportback follows a familiar formula for these kinds of things - take an existing SUV, in this case the Q5, and replace its more upright rear windscreen plus longer roof with a more rakish hatch at the back, plus a top that slopes more jauntily towards the floor from the B-pillars onwards. In the case of this new Q5 Sportback, the aesthetic outcome is one of the most handsome coupe-SUVs we've yet seen from any manufacturer. Audi seems to have a real handle on these things, in not making them look awkward and gawky, or - worse still - bulky and hefty down in the flanks.
Physically speaking, the Sportback model is precisely the same in all dimensions (width, height, wheelbase) as the regular Q5, only it's marginally longer to the tune of 7mm. Likely to be available in the same luxury-focused SE and sportier S line trims as the regular Q5 here in Ireland, you'd be hard-pressed to call the Sportback ugly in appearance.
Inside, it's more of what you'd expect, but that doesn't make it any the less excellent than it is. Perhaps the most notable change here is that the rotary controller for the MMI infotainment has been deleted, replaced by a storage compartment and tidied transmission tunnel, meaning you have to rely on spoken commands or actually touching the screen of the 10.1-inch freestanding display to operate the navigation and audio systems, among more.
Those of you growling about how cars are relying far too much on touchscreen interfaces for functions these days should note that the Mk2 Audi Q5 has been around since 2017 and therefore its dash layout retains physical switchgear for the climate control, plus the excellent 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit cluster - all of which works intuitively and easily. Factor in the usual superb build quality, including lovely, open-pore wood trim running around the beltline of our test car's cabin, and seemingly no real impediment to rearwards visibility brought about by the sloping roof, and the Q5 Sportback is ticking lots of boxes before we've driven so much as a yard in it.
Ah, you cry, but there must be sacrifices to be made for rear headroom and boot space? And indeed there are, but they're in no way terminal to the Q5 Sportback's cause. Rear passenger legroom is as generous as in the regular SUV and the Sportback is classed as a five-seater, although a shorter centre squab and large transmission tunnel in the footwell means we wouldn't want to sit in the middle of the rear row for very long.
However, it is more than comfortable enough for four adults and the trade-off for the sportier exterior styling is 17mm less headroom in the back, as well as a boot reduced by 40 litres in capacity to a still-most-useful 510 litres here. There are 40:20:40 split-folding backs to the bench to maximise practicality, too, and if you fold all the seats down then you get 1,480 litres of cargo capacity.
Another facet of a coupe-SUV is that, along with its (hopefully) stylish design, it's somehow a bit sharper, a bit sportier to drive than the model upon which it is based. And Audi is claiming the same things with the Q5 Sportback - albeit there's no lower centre-of-gravity, huge aerodynamic benefit nor significant weight gain to talk about that might validate this coupe-SUV being more talented in the corners. Weirdly, though, we did feel that driving the Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI was more enjoyable than the last standard Q5 we piloted, although that might be much to do with this 265hp drivetrain.
Only two generations of Audi A3 ago, that was enough brawn to merit the S3 badge, so it's no surprise that Audi is claiming a 6.1-second 0-100km/h time for the Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI, despite its chunky 1,775kg kerb weight. This big machine always feels fast and responsive, and the engine/gearbox combination is smooth enough too - the 2.0-litre sounds a tad raspy and harsh as it spools past 4,500rpm, but in general it's another polished Volkswagen Group drivetrain.
The chassis is decent as well, with the steering pleasant to use across the various modes; there's none of that heavy, glitchy artificiality to it in the Dynamic setting, which is not something we can say of every Audi we've tried in recent years. Granted, on the other hand the set-up is not exactly brimming with feel, either, but as SUVs go the helm is crisp enough, responsive enough and faithful enough that you can soon built a rapport with the Sportback. It ensures you've got an understanding of front-end grip and weight transfer, while the body control is up there too - however, we must admit that this example had the adjustable dampers, so we're not sure what a Q5 Sportback on standard shock absorbers will feel like.
Across some gnarled back roads and interesting main roads, the Audi felt good to drive. Not stunning, or transcendental, but certainly capable enough that we'd be keen to try an SQ5 Sportback sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, the reason you're going to buy a Q5 in the first place is not for its ability to hurl you down a remote country road at breakneck speeds, but for how it conducts itself in town driving and when simply cruising along major roads.
In this regard, the Q5 Sportback is supreme. It never shudders, jostles nor thumps through larger imperfections in the road's surface, and the way it can easily soak up and eradicate modest ripples in the asphalt is quite remarkable. Even more so when you realise that this 45 TFSI S line was sitting on colossal 20-inch wheels. It's not only the comfort levels of the ride that impress, but also the quietness of the cabin at a 110km/h cruise. It's not as if the Q5 Sportback is the sleekest of automotive shapes ever to have made production, but you'll hear precious little of the wind flowing around the glasshouse on the motorway. We were driving it on a very blustery day, too, and into a nagging headwind, and yet the cabin was never anything less than admirably hushed.
Not only that, but after 260km of driving on all manner of roads, not many of them conducive to the best fuel economy and with some bouts of more, um, adventurous speeds involved on quieter routes, the Audi returned 27.2mpg overall (10.4 litres/100km), with a cruising figure of around 40mpg (7.1 litres/100km) easily attainable. That's decent economy for something big, prestigious and weighty with this sort of power and performance from a petrol engine.
What you get for your money
Starting at €60,292, the Q5 Sportback will command a premium of between €3,000 and nearly €5,000 against its equivalent Q5 model. Audi says it will have exactly the same specs grade-for-grade, with SE and S line trims carried over, so you can look to the regular Q5 for an idea of what the Sportback will come with as you climb through its range hierarchy.
Powertrains for the Sportback internationally are the 35 TDI, 40 TDI, the 45 TFSI tested here, both 50 and 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrids, and also a high-performance SQ5 TDI Sportback. We're getting the regular diesels to start with and presumably the plug-in hybrids in time, but this 45 TFSI could be deemed surplus to requirements here in Ireland; there are no pure-petrol models of the regular Q5 as things stand, for instance.
If the Audi Q5 Sportback does drive in a marginally more enjoyable, involving fashion than the standard SUV, it's not by a large enough degree for us to tell you this is the default choice in Audi's high-riding line-up. Therefore, what it boils down to is what it ever has with these things: if you think it looks better than a regular Q5 and you're not bothered about losing a tiny trace of rear headroom and some boot space for a moderately increased purchase fee, then this is clearly the car for you. For everyone else, it's yet another highly polished and suitably amenable SUV from one of the world's more desirable everyday car marques.