Anyone who knows me knows that I’m something of a fan of off-roaders. Over my time working in the automotive editorial industry I’ve had quite a collection, including the Kia Sorento, Skoda Kodiaq, Nissan X-Trail and Kia Sportage, not to mention the cars I’ve owned including an L322 Range Rover, Nissan Pathfinder and Volkswagen Touareg. Yup, I dread to think how much I’ve spent on fuel, and Range Rover repairs.
Despite the hefty running costs there is a lot I love, namely the space, which is handy for all my filming equipment and relatively large pooch, the comfortable ride and the fact that on long journeys I get to my destination relaxed rather than taking full advantage of a sportier engine.
Our latest addition to the long-term fleet – deep breath, the Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI Quattro S-Line S-Tronic – is a mid-sized premium off-roader that lines up against the likes of the Range Rover Velar, BMW X4, Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes GLC Coupe.
It’s part of a new breed of off-roader that focuses on aesthetics rather than overall practicality. From the front there’s very little to tell it apart from a standard Q5, but when you look at the side profile its changes are evident. The sloping roofline gives it a sportier look, but the biggest offset is the limitations it offers when it comes to cabin space.
However, it’s not as bad as you might think. Up front, you won’t spot any difference when it comes to the general operation of kit or space. As you’d expect from an Audi it’s all very fuss free and relatively intuitive to use. Thankfully there’s none of the ‘one screen does all’ that we’ve seen across other Volkswagen Group products, meaning physical buttons for the climate control and a dial for the radio volume.
The 12.3in digital instrument display is one of the best in its class and features all the usual toys including Sat Nav, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plus, as you’d expect for a car with a £55k price tag, it comes well equipped, with a few extras added including headlights (£1,050), Comfort and sound pack (£1,395), 20-inch alloys (£3975) and Comfort centre arm rest in the front (£200). That said, I have been surprised that the seats move manually rather than electronically.
One feature I really love, and having jumped out of a Skoda Superb Estate IV I’m more than familiar with, is the virtual cockpit. This is a digital screen in front of the driver where the dials sit, and it gives the driver the flexibility of changing the screen depending on what they want to see. As I mentioned, there’s very little impact in the front with the Sportback model over the standard Q5, you only really start to notice any difference when you get in the back.
The sloping roofline does mean taller passengers will notice a little less space, but surprisingly it’s not majorly affected. Knee and leg room is also generous too, so four people could comfortably enjoy a long journey. There is room for three in the back, but the transmission tunnel does impact space for the middle passenger’s feet.
The boot is the biggest difference when it comes to the usability, there’s about 40 litres less space than the standard Q5 – 510 litres with the rear seats up. If you’re not carrying a lot of stuff in the boot on a regular basis then it shouldn’t prove much of an issue, but it’s going to be a good test seeing how it fares over the next few months with my demands for lugging equipment around.
You can, of course, fold down the rear seats 40:20:40 to expand things further. It’s going to be interesting to see how the Q5 copes with the demands of the video department, but so far, there’s something to be said about turning up for a shoot in a car with a premium badge.
Facts at a glance
Model as tested: Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI Quattro S Line S Tronic
Price as tested: £55,235
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol
Max speed: 149mph
0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
Emissions: 197g/km CO2