Audi Q5 Sportback 2021 on test: Competent, but not excellent

The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback follows the now-long tradition of offering an SUV with a boxy shape, and then a similar SUV with a sloping, coupé-like roofline that BMW started back in 2008 with the X6. The jellybean shape has become more sophisticated over the years, with Audi, Volkswagen and Lamborghini taking a decidedly more angular approach.

Like many of these sleeker SUVs and crossovers, the Q5 Sportback loses surprisingly little cargo space compared to its more angular counterpart. The larger Q5 swallows 54 cubic feet of cargo with the seats folded; the Sportback comes in at 51.9 cubic feet. With the second row of seats, the difference shrinks to just over a cubic foot.

The Q5 comes standard with a panoramic sunroof, front sports seats, Lane Keep Assist and Audi Side Assist that scans for road traffic when the doors are opened. The top-of-the-line Prestige equipment tested here adds the company’s new Matrix LED headlights, ventilated front seats, a heads-up display with traffic sign recognition, navigation, and a premium sound system.

And that top trim makes the cabin look nice with unfinished wood and chrome trim and the leather seats. Unfortunately, these seats are a bit stiff for the smaller rider, although they have enough side bolsters to keep the pilot in place. There’s a greater amount of plastic in the cabin than expected for a vehicle at this price point, with the doors covered in a textured version.

2021 Audi Q5 Sportback
The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback has a more coupe-like roofline than the standard Q5.
Audi of America

The infotainment touchscreen is easy to use, with large icons for navigation, phone, radio, settings and more to aim for while driving. Redundant buttons covering the same functions on the side of the 10.1 inch display. The volume control is inconveniently located on the passenger side of the gear selector switch, but the feel is excellent. The radio can also be adjusted and tuned using buttons and dials on the steering wheel. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Automatic climate controls are set via large, easy-to-read dials, and switches help set fan speed and mode. The point of all this is to be able to make changes without taking your eyes off the road, and Audi has succeeded in doing that.

The powertrain of the SUV is not nearly as successful in its implementation. The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine does all the work (buyers will have to upgrade to the SQ5 to get the more powerful V6). It delivers 261 horsepower (hp) and 273 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque, good for a 5.7-second sprint to 60 miles per hour (mph) off the assembly line.

In practice, the combination of the smaller engine, seven-speed dual-clutch transmission (DCT) and standard all-wheel drive feels a bit sluggish. Dynamic, the most aggressive driving mode, is where this vehicle should stay. The Q5 also has Comfort, Auto, Individual and Off-Road modes (with a high ride height to match).

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The transmission is surprisingly smooth for a DCT that usually hiccups or bumps when stopping or taking off. However, the Q5 Sportback just doesn’t have the pulling power a buyer might want in a luxury vehicle without really keeping it going. For comparison: The V6 of the SQ5 delivers 349 hp and accelerates to 100 km/h in a brisk 4.7 seconds.

The downside to this is fuel efficiency, which is impressive at an EPA-estimated 28 miles per gallon (mpg) on ​​the highway and 23 mpg in the city. On a real tank of gas, the Audi Q5 delivered nearly 27mpg on mixed driving.

As far as coupe-shaped SUVs go, the 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback is better than most, but drives particularly high thanks to its off-road drive mode and capability. This also slows down his reaction a bit and looks a bit odd on the side of the road.

The sleek Q5 Sportback ($48,895) competes with other well-rounded SUVs like the BMW X4 ($51,800), Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe ($52,500), Genesis GV70 (a steal at $41,500), and Alfa Romeo Stelvio ($45,550 $). The Cadillac XT5 ($43,995), Acura RDX ($41.00) and a few others will also compete for the same compact luxury buyers and are also worth a look.

If buyers are looking for a competent and handsome crossover that won’t get excited questions from your neighbors in the driveway, the Q5 Sportback is a good place to start. The Alfa Romeo and Genesis offer more visual drama and can woo viewers. For buyers looking to integrate, the German three is the easiest route. Audi Q5 Sportback 2021 on test: Competent, but not excellent

Rick Schindler

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