If you’re in the market for a luxury mid-size SUV you can’t go wrong with either of these models, but there are a few key differences that may sway your purchasing decision closer towards one or the other.
Standard vs Sportback
Feature-wise, the new Q5 siblings are chock-full providing three-zone climate control, cruise control, all-round LED lights, a digital instrument cluster, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a leather/leatherette upholstery as standard.
The units on test were also equipped with electric front seats with heating, keyless entry and start, live navigation, Matrix LED headlights, and the S Line interior package that sees stylish sports seats with microfibre coverings, gloss black accents, stainless steel pedals, and aluminium inserts.
These extensive options, while lovely to have, pushed up the price of both Audis by more than R150,000 which put them in competition with the range-topping SQ5, so it’s best to practice modesty when going through the extras list of this SUV if you want to stay within a prescribed budget.
The biggest difference between the standard Q5 and Q5 Sportback is then the athletic body style of the latter, which brings a different shell alongside redesigned taillights, a sportier rear diffuser, and model-specific graphics on the digital driver’s display.
The Sportback’s 2mm-lower roofline also sacrifices 10 litres of cargo space in the boot, but this was barely noticeable during everyday use and there’s still a cavernous 510 litres to fill up. There were no complaints about head or leg room, either.
However, it wasn’t all perfect and I did have a few gripes with these Q5s, one of which being the cruise control stalk mounted at the 8 o’clock position on the steering column.
This awkward positioning meant there were multiple times I accidentally activated cruise control because the stalk was in the way of my knee.
The S Line seats, too, were a tad tight for my liking.
I have always been a fan of sporty seats and while the backrests were superbly supportive, the base was too narrow and the side bolsters dug into my hips as a result.
They might age to caress the curves of their owner’s body after years of use, but each of these Q5s were still near-new when I had them and the seats were therefore tightly padded and unworn, which led to a lot of repositioning while driving.
On the other hand, subtle additions that elevated the premium feeling of these Audis were the seatbelts that tighten themselves upon pulling away; the exterior door handles that go out and up instead of just out, making them feel unexpectedly great to use; and the ambient lighting that changes colour as you adjust drive modes or airconditioning temperatures.
The loud warning that lets you know if there’s a phone on the wireless charging pad before getting out of the car was surprisingly helpful, too, and the navigation system that marks the off-road paths you followed with a red line ensures that you never get lost when bundu-bashing in this luxury German SUV.
The normal Q5 also had the optional blind-spot monitors installed which deserve mentioning, as these sizeable warning lights on the wing mirrors caught my eye far better than the monitors from every other brand, and there was almost no need to turn my head to know if another car was in my blind spot.
Additionally, the Matrix LED headlights cast what seemed to be a blanket of light on the road and made it exceptionally difficult to miss any flaws.
40TDI vs 45TFSI
The two engines in these Audi SUVs offer on-road personalities that are worlds apart.
Both consist of 2.0-litre, turbocharged units paired to a seven-speed automatic transmission driving all four wheels, the 40TDI being a diesel with 140kW and 400Nm on tap and the 45TFSI being a petrol with 183kW and 370Nm.
The 45TFSI is aimed at buyers who are after an exciting drive as it takes 6.3 seconds to go from 0-100km/h and is generally much more responsive – so much so that it starts up perceptibly faster and sometimes when you near a red light the start/stop system will cut off the engine before you have even come to a complete standstill.
It reacts quickly at low and high speeds, too, and there’s even a hint of enjoyable engine noise when getting into the upper rev ranges.
The 40TDI, on the other hand, sounds burly and the torque is excellent for towing and loading, but the motor is reluctant to respond at lower revs and while 100km/h is claimed to be attainable in 8.1 seconds, it stood closer to 9 seconds and over in the real world.
Engine speeds must stay above roughly 2,100rpm to feel a semblance of responsiveness as opposed to the petrol which provides boost much earlier. Although these are the usual traits the different engines exhibit, they are quite accentuated in these siblings.
Diesel still performs better than petrol when it comes to sipping fuel, though, and after five days in each, the Audis returned the following consumptions:
- Q5 40TDI – 8.1l/100km over 447km
- Q5 45TFSI – 9.7l/100km over 339km
The official ratings for these vehicles are 6.2l/100km and 8.0l/100km for the diesel and petrol, respectively, but the figures I got are acceptable considering the segment the SUVs compete in.
More good news is that both body styles can be had with either powertrain, so you don’t need to go for the Sportback if you still want an athletic Q5.
In addition, the ride and handling are sublime in either model and while I can’t speak to the performance of the standard dampers, the optional air suspension fitted to the test cars was excellent for providing an accommodating yet firm drive with almost zero body sway.
The air dampers’ “electronic shock absorption control” also served to make these Q5s among the most comfortable vehicles I’ve driven over speedbumps and road imperfections, soaking up all the impact so that you only have to endure a slight up and down.
I didn’t expect this would happen, but I ended up enjoying the Q5 Sportback slightly more than the normal Q5 for a variety of reasons, the blue paint being one of them.
However, the Coupe SUV is more attractive in the metal than in photos and the sculpted lines of the body and shapely rear diffuser, paired with the lower roofline and longer tailgate, lend the Sportback an overall more unique and dynamic design that I personally favoured.
Standard features and cabin space, while not exemplary, were satisfactory in both – and although the Sportback didn’t have the optional camera system, autonomous parking, panoramic sunroof, blind-spot monitors, Bang & Olufsen sound system, adaptive cruise control, or steering assists installed which the standard one did, they were not missed.
If your wallet can handle the increased fuel consumption, the 45TFSI powertrain is also a sure-fire choice for adding a bit of sportiness to your Audi Sports Utility Vehicle, as the 40TDI only comes alive at higher revs and tends to hang on pull aways.