Audi is bringing sexy back with the Q5 Sportback
Am I the only one seeing a baby Urus here?
For years now, we have observed car manufacturers race to find new niches to cover more ground, and it did not spare SUVs. This segment becoming increasingly popular during the last 20 years, these brands have relentlessly tried to create the next big thing, and it did not always go well. Some were successful like the Porsche Cayenne, which somehow bridged the gap between off-roaders and sports cars. Some others have created real oddities by proposing SUVs with convertible roofs like the VW T-Roc Cabriolet, a car that is not universally popular to say the least. Then, there is the success story of a type of car which nobody thought would ever work, the coupe SUV.
Invented by BMW in 2008 with the X6, this niche can no longer be considered one since nearly every car manufacturer has developed their own in recent years. It did not start easy though, as coupe shapes were normally seen on sports cars or two-door vehicles. After seeing the success of Mercedes-Benz's four-door coupe invention, the CLS, the Bavarian company thought they could replicate that on an SUV. It worked, and people bought them. The general consumers think SUVs are cool, and BMW had just found a way to make them look even cooler. No wonder we were soon submerged by this new kind of car.
Following closely the sales numbers of their competitors, Audi arrived late to the game, or should we say at the right time with the Q8. Launched a full 10 years after the pioneer X6, Audi's flagship SUV only launched once the market had matured. It is true that the first iterations of these jacked up coupes were not always the most beautiful cars around, so it seems that Audi waited for the perfect moment to come out with a striking design that would make heads turn. Following the success of the Q8, Audi was ready to bring the Sportback style to more affordable models like the Q3, and more recently the Q5. This is the car we got to drive.
So, what is it exactly? Well, it is basically a Q5 with a sloping roof. Nothing more, nothing less. It most certainly is targeted at people who put styling in front of practicality, but still wish to retain some of the key aspects of a SUV. The Q5 came out in 2008, and immediately became a families' favourite thanks to its practicality, space, off-road capabilities and compact size. As good as this car can be, nobody would have ever fooled me if they said they bought a Q5 because they find it sexy. Therefore, Audi took a different approach with the Sportback which is a car that emphasises on looks first.
No, the Q5 Sportback is not a revolution, but more of an alternative to the regular Q5. It will mostly attract younger buyers seeking a stylish car that can accommodate to an active lifestyle. I say that because it is typically the kind of car I would buy. If I were to buy one right now it would have to be capable on the snow, roomy, and obviously good-looking. Usually not a huge fan of coupe SUVs, I truly think that the Q5 Sportback has one of the cleanest designs in its category. The combination of its sharp-edged design and not too pronounced hunchback gives it an elegant and sporty look. I also think that the configuration of this Q5 with the District Green exterior colour, the large wheels, as wells the S-Line trim helped a lot. On the inside, we find ourselves in a typical Audi environment where everything is about high quality materials that have been well put together. Based on the second generation that was introduced in 2017, the Q5 received significant and noticeable updates this year, especially on the inside. Despite being not fully integrated into the center console like on newer models, the large 10.1 inches infotainment screen is sharp, responsive and comes with the latest software that can run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Audi being Audi there is a lot of tech in this car and still a fair amount of physical knobs (hallelujah!). I also really enjoyed the digital dashboard that you can easily configure with the information you like to get when driving. The full screen map was very cool. All in all, it really is a nice place to sit in, and the space is more than enough for four adults, or a small family. Obviously, being a coupe, some of the boot volume has been sacrificed, but there is still 510l of capacity (just about 30l less than the regular Q5). In my opinion, it's plenty, but then again I don't have a large family to drive around.
Talking about driving, I was expecting it to be as sporty as the way the Q5 Sportback looks, but it wasn't really the case. Just as the regular Q5, the Sportback is a comfortable SUV that emphasizes more on ride quality than how quick it can go round corners. In my opinion, it's totally fine since it's not the kind of car I'd like to take to the track, even though it's still pretty impressive on twisty roads. I think that Audi has found the right balance between comfort for daily use and stability for when you want to have a bit of fun. Our press car was equipped with the optional air suspension (CHF 2'600.-/£2'000) which offer increased comfort, driving dynamics as well as better stability on uneven grounds. In fact, in order to test the off-road driving modes, I drove the car on rocks and through a river (yes, the pictures are right above) and it was interesting to see how the ride height changed from one setting to the other. It's a car that will definitely be more at home on a paved roads however, I was genuinely surprised so discover how the car could easily find grip on these tricky terrains, and it proved me that the Q5 is just not your regular useless crossover. No, it's definitely a capable off roader.
The car we got to drive was a 55 TFSI e which means that it's a plug-in hybrid. Use it wisely and it will do between 2.1 and 2.4 liters per 100 km. Honestly, we were closer to 6.0 liters but then again, we didn't have much access to a plug. It's not that bad for a car that weighs just over 2 tons. The 2.0 four cylinder engine plus the battery develop together 367 horsepower, enough to go from 0 to 100 km/h in 5.3 seconds and hit a 239 km/h top speed. The driver can choose between three modes while driving. The first one being "hybrid", which distributes the electric power optimally to lower fuel consumption. It will mainly be used at low speeds, or when accelerating from a standstill. However, you can also decide to drive in full electric, which will allow you to do up to 40 km. Absolutely perfect if you live in a city. The last mode to choose from is battery hold mode, which will keep the battery level at the same level and use only the internal combustion engine. The latter mode is optimal if you wish to exclusively use the electric engine once you're in traffic or once you've arrived in a city where you usually burn more fuel. In terms of competition, the first that come to mind are the X4 and the GLC Coupe, however the Audi feels a bit in a class of its own when you compare it to an aging BMW that doesn't offer a plug-in hybrid option, and a Mercedes-Benz that has less horspower and off-road proficiencies.
All of this tech, plush interior, and elegant design comes at a hefty cost of CHF 80'300.- (£62'800), and that's just the start, because our press car was fully loaded meaning it had a price tag of CHF 106'640.- (£83'400). But again you get quite a lot of car for your money. Family car? Check! Off-roader? Check! Good-looking? Check! Economical? Check again! Despite an interior that starts to feel a tad old, the Q5 Sportback proved to be excellent where it matters for such car. It's also funny to see how this niche segment that originated with the BMW X6 has grown in recent years and you can now find many SUVs with a sloping roof line. I mean even Renault now have the Arkana, a coupe-like Captur. The Audi's Q5 Sportback may be one of the most handsome out here however, the manufacturer did not only focus on the looks, they went on to build a car that has outstanding driving dynamics, enough practicality to be used on a daily basis, and some impressive capabilities once you drive it off the beaten path.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Audi Switzerland for allowing us to experience the Q5 Sportback. Without them, this article would have never been possible, and we cannot wait to do some more articles with them in the near future.
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Audi Q5 Sportback 55 TFSI e