European manufacturers, particularly those in Germany, have been churning out decent-quality road-going barges for some years now.
It all started when carmakers realised you didn’t have to be a farmer to own one and that people would be quite keen to use such beasts in inner city environments. This lightbulb moment opened up a new line of business.
The Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sportback (to give it its official title) is a prime example of this ongoing attempt to appeal to those who want a nice, high-up vehicle with a bit of power. In short, a big car, with sumptuous seats and posh paraphernalia.
Audi sure knows its market, too. The Q5 Sportback does have capabilities on terrain other than tarmac, but many of those who buy one are not likely to be overly interested in any of that.
This, then, is not what Audi would call an SUV. Instead, the marketing men and women call it a CUV, which stands for crossover utility vehicle.
When you drive it, you feel like you’re in an uptown off-roader, but look like you’re in something that really doesn’t want to get its wheels dirty.
Although, as the name suggests, the vehicle has been fitted with Audi’s “go-anywhere, do-anything” quattro drive system.
The first thing you note about the Q5 Sportback is the look — some vehicles of this type look clunky, but the Audi has a properly tailored shape.
The swept-back roof does its job, giving it the appearance of a vehicle where aerodynamics — and kerb appeal — have been considered. Its non-Sportback sibling has a far more blocky appearance, more in tune with standard SUV stylings.
Driving a Q5 Sportback is … well, pleasant, for want of a more dramatic word. And that isn't damning it with faint praise. The car is quiet, comfortable, and you feel just a little elegant when you're in it. That last one is a distinct plus, because there are many more expensive vehicles on the roads, and some of them don’t achieve this to anywhere near the same extent.
Admittedly, the Q5 Sportback doesn’t have the performance figures of some of its rivals, but that might be the point — it seems more geared towards comfort than many of those others. You can get to 100 kilometres per hour from a standing start in just over six seconds, though, so there’s no danger of losing out in a drag race with a skateboarder.
It’s roomy inside, too — you might think that aforementioned swept-back roof would make for less headroom in the rear seats, but this is not the case. You get a decent amount of boot space in there as well, which also goes against expectations.
Inside, the Q5 Sportback has a three-zone climate control system, all the driver aids you’d expect in a modern, high-end vehicle, and the decor features colour-co-ordinated contrasting seating. A driver information system with colour display comes as standard, with Audi’s virtual cockpit-plus being an option. You can also upgrade to a Bang & Olufsen sound set-up.
The car is available in showrooms around the globe, looking suitably refined. Just don't expect to see it — or take it — in the desert any time soon.