ANN ARBOR, Mich. — So-called “crossover coupes” are still a thing, and they don’t seem to be falling out of favor. People seem to like their SUVs to have a rounded-off tail, and Audi has taken notice, introducing the “Sportback” versions of its Q5. The 2021 Audi Q5 and SQ5 Sportback offer a sportier roofline at the expense of some utility.
You’re not giving up as much as you’d think, though. The standard Q5 has one of the smallest cargo areas in the compact luxury SUV segment, ranging from 25.9 to 54 cubic feet depending on whether or not you fold the rear seats. The Sportback isn’t much different, ranging from 24.7 to 51.9 cubic feet, which represents a smaller sacrifice to style than the other crossover coupes make. Thankfully, the Sportbacks also don’t sacrifice safety, with both body styles earning an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating.
While the front halves of the vehicles are pretty much identical, the Sportback does a wee bit more to distinguish it further from the full-bodied SUV from which it is derived. It gets the S Line exterior as standard, and forgoes roof rails for a more slippery-looking profile. Nineteen-inch five-double-arm wheels are the standard shoes. Inside is a standard panoramic sunroof and sport seats. Other than that, the experience is roughly the same as what you’re used to from the Q5
First up in our driveway was the Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI Quattro. Shared with the standard-body Q5, its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four was upgraded for 2021 with a mild-hybrid system that improves efficiency but provides no motive force. Its 13 extra horses instead come by way of mechanical changes to the engine, bringing output up to a competitive, if far-from-class-leading 261 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. It puts that power to all four wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Our only complaint here is the hesitation with which this little turbo mill responds to your right foot. Audi claims a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds, but the beat of waiting you must endure after planting your foot seems like an eternity as the nose of a pickup grows in your window. At least it sounds good when it finally responds, particularly in the middle few seconds. Occupants are even treated to a little turbocharger hiss-whistling from under the hood.
The five-link front and rear suspension is a solid fit for this Q, giving it a smooth and stable ride, providing comfort and confidence on various surfaces, from newly repaved highway to cratered soon-to-be construction zone and the sometimes waterlogged gravel hills that pass between fields of corn and soy. The suspension setup in the Sportback is sportier than the standard Q5 suspension, but the extra firmness didn’t cause us any problems. We appreciate that the Sportback includes this by default, as it helps back up the vehicle’s more aggressive looks with tangible, if subtly so, on-road dynamic improvement. We found the regular Q5 to be one of the most agile compact luxury SUVs and the Sportback rightfully goes above and beyond that.
The Q5 Sportback also comes standard with 19-inch wheels — an inch larger than the standard Q5 rims. Our tester came equipped with optional 20-inch wheels, still bearing all-season rubber. Again, the ride stands up even with these larger wheels.
The interior is tastefully opulent, with design that doesn’t distract or repel. The leather sport seats are firm but comfortable, providing good support underneath your legs. Both our test cars had a cooled/heated cupholder, and we appreciated being able to quench our thirst with a cold gulp of water over longer drives.
Materials appear high quality, but many of the plastics lower down in the cabin are disappointingly cheap under closer inspection. This is consistent with the regular-body Q5. We also, once again, have mixed feelings about the 2021 Q5’s updated MMI tech interface. While we like the functionality of the touchscreen, we miss having redundant infotainment controls on the center console. On the other hand, we always welcome the inclusion of physical controls for climate settings, something pricier Audis have gone away from in favor of touchscreen controls that don’t do the job as well.