A safe choice in a polarizing segment.
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback is late to the crossover coupe party, following in the footsteps of the BMW X4, the Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, and in some respects, the Porsche Macan before it. But even as a newcomer, Audi's sporty-ish Sportback arrives with all the right pieces to compete – it looks good, it's nice to drive, and it doesn't lose all that much in terms of passenger and cargo space compared to the standard variant.
The Q5 Sportback is also one of the most affordable options in the class with a starting price of $47,800. And upgrading to premium features doesn't cost all that much, with the next-up Premium Plus model starting at $51,000 and the range-topping Prestige model tested here asking $56,500 before options. Our tester, with $800 wheels and $595 paint, asks a still-reasonable $59,340.
That said, the Q5 Sportback doesn't stand out visually compared to the alternative Bimmer or Benz. Sure, the Sportback looks nice and the cabin is clean, but the styling could be a bit more compelling and the touchscreen could be a few inches bigger. And while there's an abundance of active safety systems on tap, some of them felt too invasive.
Comfortable Driving Character
Under the hood of the Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI tested here is a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet. This is a great little four-cylinder that's smooth and direct, and it doesn't feel like it needs more oomph. When paired with the standard seven-speed dual-clutch transmission – which is anonymous most of the time – it makes for an exceptional powertrain combo around town.
Even with the optional 20-inch wheels on this version (an $800 option) and relatively thin all-season tires, the Q5 Sportback still has a very nice ride. The suspension setup is firmer – done purposely to make the Sportback feel more aggressive – but still more comfortable than what you’ll find in a competitive X4. The steering is great, too; it's light but very direct, meaning you can fling the Q5 Sportback around energetically without having to do too much work.
The standard Audi Q5 is one of the sharper crossovers in the class. It has a clean six-sided grille, slim LED headlights, and additional sharp detailing on the side profile and rear bumper to give it its unique look. But the Sportback model notches up that already pretty styling even further.
The Sportback's signature piece is its sloped rear end that folds into a restyled bumper with extra chrome detailing. From the side profile especially, it's easy to see the sleek new shape compared to the traditional profile of its Q5 sibling. And the optional Ultra Blue metallic paint ($595) and five-spoke 20-inch wheels make the sporty styling look that much better.
By and large, the design of the Q5 Sportback is far less fussy than the competitive X4 or GLC. We quite like the subtle approach Audi took in styling its new crossover coupe.
Clean And Comfortable Cabin
There's virtually no distinction between the inside of the traditional Q5 and the new Sportback's cabin. But that's okay since Audi consistently has one of the nicest, most concise setups in the business. The Q5 Sportback has a 10.1-inch central touchscreen, a clean button bank just below it, and the Prestige model tested here offers standard sport seats and four no-cost leather options (our car wears Atlas Beige). Plus the Premium Plus and Prestige models offer a standard Virtual Cockpit with a 12.3-inch digital cluster.
While the Sportback does lose some headroom compared to the traditional Q5 (down to 37.5 inches from 39.3 inches), the second row doesn’t feel cramped at all. Your 6-foot-tall author was more than comfortable in the rear bench, with plenty of headroom and legroom. Although the GLC has more headroom (38.3 inches) and the X4 matches the Q5, Audi’s clever packaging makes the Sportback feel airier by comparison. And hey, the Sportback doesn’t even sacrifice that much cargo space compared to the normal Q5, only dropping from 25.1 cubic feet to 24.7 behind the second row.
Not Different Enough
Although the Q5 Sportback is one of the better-looking options in the class, in our opinion, it still looks too much like the traditional Q5. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since the standard crossover still looks nice, but additional detailing on the front and rear fascias (and maybe even in the cabin) might have given the Sportback a more unique personality. Compared to alternatives like the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe, which seemingly stand out on their own, the Sportback isn’t all that different from its base counterpart.
Aggressive Lane-Centering Tech
Audi’s Active Lane Assist feature is great for long-distance driving. Working in conjunction with adaptive cruise control that brakes all the way down to zero, Active Lane Assist keeps the car perfectly centered, and it’s even able to navigate curvier roads with minimal driver interference. But the setup was frequently too invasive, either shoving the Q5 aggressively back to center or taking too much control of the wheel. Thankfully, a quick press of a button on the end of the turn signal lever turns the system on or off.
Smallest Standard Touchscreen
Even on the range-topping Prestige model tested here, the Q5 Sportback has the smallest standard touchscreen in the segment at just 10.1 inches. It’s loaded with features like Wi-Fi, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it’s pretty diminutive by comparison. The GLC Coupe has a slightly bigger 10.3-inch screen, the Macan has a 10.9-inch screen, and the X4 comes standard with a huge 12.3-inch screen.
That said, this particular Q5 Sportback (and the Premium Plus before it) has a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a head-up display as part of the included Virtual Cockpit. Mercedes-Benz and BMW match that with their own 12.3-inch digital clusters, but the Macan isn’t going digital until 2022.
Gallery: 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback: Pros And Cons
2021 Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI Prestige