Go ahead and stare. It’s OK.
I could’t help but stare when I first got a glimpse of the 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback. I had to wait a beat and take a breath. It’s that gorgeous.
I’m not the dream-and-drool type when it comes to cars. I have a more pragmatic point of view: I love them all for what they are and what they do. I appreciate the shapes that may not be everyone’s cup of tea and try to understand the features that may leave some people cheering and others scratching their heads.
But it’s rare that a huge hunk of metal is sculpted and detailed in a way that you just don’t want to look away. The 2021 Audi Q5 Sportback, with a starting price of $47,800 and about $56,000 for our test model, is one of those.
Like It’s Been to Barre Class: Tight, Toned, and Sculpted Capability
SUV love is real. The higher ground clearance, the ability to get through snow without slipping, and the flexible interior space have made them the number one type of vehicle sold in the US. But do we need to send a message about muscle and muddy adventures every time we step foot in the car? Do we always need to feel like we’re about to head out for a hike? Can an SUV look as at home at the Four Seasons valet as it does at the trail head? Not all can, but the Audi Q5 Sportback is one of the exceptions.
Audi’s designers know how to craft a beautiful car.
Some sportback SUVs look more like a sedan on steroids than an SUV that’s had its boxy lines softened. The Audi Q5 Sportback, however, sculpts the frame of the Q5 SUV, giving it a more muscular, toned look and feel. The distinguishing factor is the roof line and sleeker rear end that give this car a truly sporty ambiance.
The Audi Q5 Sportback is a riff on the Q5 SUV: Less boxy, more aerodynamic, a bit smaller on the inside. The tradeoff leaves us with everything we love about a two-row SUV and a sporty hatchback combined, but in a super elegant, stylish form.
It also leaves us with a bit lower visibility through the rear windows and a bit less headroom and cargo space, though the panoramic sun roof helps to add a light and airy feel. If you are comfortable being more reliant on blind spot monitors and the rear view camera, and if you don’t have a huge need for rear seat passenger space, you’ll be fine with this. If having a large, comfy space for lanky teens is important, you may want to look at the larger Q5 or Q7 SUV.
Interior Details Dress Up This Beauty
I could go on all day about how beautiful the exterior of the Audi Q5 Sportback is, I liked it that much. But really, staring at the outside is simply a bit of fun. The really important thing is, how does this car feel and perform on the inside?
As spectacular as the Audi Q5 Sportback is on the outside, the interior may be described as demure. The interior skips over-the-top details like quilted leather and high contrast woods and metals, opting for a subtle feel with materials like leatherette, muted metals, and soft plastics. This simply sets the stage for the experience, both tech and tactile.
Our test model added upgraded technology features that have become Audi’s hallmark: Virtual cockpit, Audi MMI, and Phone Box. Here’s why people love these features and why they may be worth the added $4,700:
Audi Virtual Cockpit:
The driver’s information screen is an editable digital screen that allows the driver many customization options. The pinnacle here is the satellite image map that can be set to extend across the entire screen. It’s not only really cool looking, but it gives you great contextual feel for where you are and where you’re going. This satellite image can also be set up on the navigation screen on the MMI.
Audi’s multi-media interface, the system has been upgraded to add a voice assistant: Say “hey Audi,” and the nice lady asks how she can help you. You can set navigation directions, tune to a radio station, and more. I found it not to be as sophisticated as some other systems (when I asked to set the cabin temperature she said she could not, for instance) but expect this to improve. Voice activated assistance is growing rapidly and becoming very sophisticated.
This is one of my favorite Audi features: it wirelessly charges the phone when placed on the charge pad, which is on a moving panel in the center console; it boosts your phone’s signal by connecting it to the exterior antenna; and it connects your phone’s Apple CarPlay wirelessly (sorry Android users, you’ll still need to use a USB cord to access your phone on the infotainment screen). Wireless Apple CarPlay works like this: when you plug in your phone the first time you’ll see an option to connect to Apple CarPlay wirelessly; if you select that option, your phone will connect every time you get in the car. Very nice.
All the Feels Behind the Wheel
This is one of the reasons we love Audi: the drive experience. Remember, this is the company that builds Porsche and Lamborghini, and they know something about engines and performance. Balancing fuel economy and price are important too, so the Audi Q5 Sportback carries a 4-cylinder turbo (TFSI in Audi-speak) engine with all wheel drive (which Audi calls quattro) that generates 261 horsepower.
It’s plenty of power for an SUV this size. Compare it to the BMW X4 x30i with 248 horsepower and a base price of about $51,600, or the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 Coupé with 255 horsepower and a base price of about $51,650.
But if you want more power, pop it into Dynamic (sport), and the system will front load all that power so you get it immediately when you tap the accelerator (and you’ll hear the engine more prominently, too). Overall, the Q5 Sportback’s engine gives you confidence but isn’t what I would think of as a true sports SUV, even though it does have paddle shifters.
Sportback Sexiness with SUV Magic: Tow Capacity
The Audi Q5 Sportback’s all wheel drive and 4-cylinder turbo allows for up to 4,400 lbs of tow capacity, enough to tow a mid-sized RV, mid-size boat or a trailer for dirt bikes or jet skis. You might even tow a smaller horse trailer or a U-Haul.
Who This Car is For
- SUV fans who want a chic, sporty experience
- Singles, couples, small families or dog families
- Buyers who love the look of their car as much as the experience of it
- Luxury car buyers
- Drivers who value a more zen interior over more lavish interiors
- Audi fans who want a distinct look to their ride
What This Car Costs
- Audi Q5 Sportback Premium base model, with a 4-cylinder turbo engine generating 261 HP and 273 torque, quattro (all wheel drive), 24.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, panoramic sun roof, and leather sport seats, $47,800
- Audi Q5 Sportback Premium Plus edition adds Virtual Cockpit, heated steering wheel with hands-on detection, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic jam assist (which manages your speed in stop and go traffic), and top-view 360-degree view camera, $51,000
- Audi Q5 Sportback Prestige edition adds LED headlights with washers, vented front seats, rear door window shades, head up display with traffic sign recognition, navigation, Bang & Olufsen 3D premium sound, $56,500
- Our test model, the Premium Plus edition, added navigation ($1,500), Sport package with aluminum rhombus inlays, sport suspension and 21” wheels ($1,400) and the B&O Premium sound system ($950)
- With destination, the price of our test model came to $56,540
What We Loved
- The exterior design. It’s simply gorgeous
- All the Audi tech: Phone Box, MMI, and Virtual Cockpit—all worth the added cost
- Audi’s driver assist and safety features
- Leather seats are standard, as they should be in a luxury car
- The panoramic sun roof, which is standard
- A nice edit of features keeps the price of this car reasonable but still offers all of Audi’s best
- Super easy and fun to drive; I really enjoyed my time in it
What You Need to Know
- Seats 5 but more comfortable for 4
- Sloping roof line reduces rear visibility
- 4 USB ports: 3 are standard and one, in the center console, is USB-C; there are 4 12V cigarette adapter style power ports
- Uses regular fuel
- EPA fuel economy estimates are 23 city/28 highway
- 4 year/50,000 mile warranty with 4 years of roadside assistance
- Some of the best tech features are extra
- Buy a new Audi and get a one-week Silvercar By Audi car rental for free
Even Weeks Later, the Audi Q5 Sportback is Still With Me
And that’s a feat. I have the great luck to drive a lot of fun and beautiful cars. But looking back at the photos and video (which will be published soon!) I still feel that pang of desire; this was a fun car to drive and beautiful to look at. The tech in this car — the Virtual Cockpit, MMI, and Phone Box — are really great features and stand apart from the subdued interior design. The slightly lower price and slightly more power versus its competitors makes for a compelling story. That’s if simply having a car that you love to look at isn’t enough.
What We Listened to in the Audi Q5 Sportback
Because, B&O, but that’s just the start.
Disclosure: Audi provided the Q5 Sportback for this review. All opinions are my own.