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This is going to sound weird, but after a week with the new Audi SQ5 Sportback, I'm left wishing it was a little... worse. The SQ5 Sportback is only Audi's second venture into crossover coupe territory after the larger and more distinctive Q8, and its biggest issue is that it's too close to the regular SQ5, with not enough differentiation in styling or dynamics to warrant the additional cost.
Now, I'm a big fan of coupeovers. I like the "style over substance" ethos and the idea of paying more money for a more extroverted design, even at the expense of reduced cargo space and usability. But instead of a dramatically raked roofline, the SQ5 Sportback gets a slightly more sweeping greenhouse with a pinched D-pillar that isn't all that different from the regular SQ5's. The taillight and bumper designs are slightly different, but otherwise it's nearly impossible to tell the two crossovers apart at a glance. And while the Sportback is still attractive, I think it looks disappointingly worse than the standard SQ5. I do have to give a shoutout to this SQ5's phenomenal District Green paint job, though, which is well worth the $595 upcharge.
The interior is identical to the normal SQ5's, and as a whole it's typical Audi: fairly staid in design but very nice in materials and execution. This example features an all-black color scheme with carbon-fiber inlays that doesn't help amp up the excitement level, but bright red leather is available. The dashboard and center console designs are identical to the normal SQ5, with a standard 10.1-inch touchscreen running Audi's fantastic MMI software. This infotainment tech is attractive and snappy to use, and Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are standard. I like this single-screen setup more than the dual-screen system in larger Audis, as it means the SQ5 has physical climate controls.
Cargo space is only decreased by about 1 cubic foot compared to a normal SQ5 and rear visibility isn't too impacted by the new roofline. The Sportback comes standard with a large panoramic sunroof, and compared to a regular SQ5 with the pano roof, headroom for rear-seat passengers is down by just a couple tenths of an inch. It's objectively great that the Sportback doesn't mess with the SQ5's spaciousness too badly, but again it begs the question of why it even exists.
At least the SQ5 is a pretty good baseline to start with, though it isn't outright sporty or even that fun to drive. It's got a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 producing 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet, with Audi saying the SQ5 will hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, but it doesn't feel that quick. It sounds boring, too, especially when pitted against competitors from BMW and Mercedes-AMG. The ride quality is fantastic and the cabin is nice and quiet at highway speeds, but the SQ5's steering is too numb and light for my liking. To me the SQ5 feels more like a nicer Q5 trim level that happens to have more power as opposed to an actual performance variant.
At $60,095 to start including destination the SQ5 Sportback is $3,400 more expensive than a standard SQ5, so at least the upcharge isn't too major. For that price tag you get 20-inch wheels, lane-departure warning, adaptive dampers, blind-spot monitoring and forward-collision warning. My Sportback is the Prestige trim level, an $8,400 upgrade over the base Premium trim. It adds LED matrix headlights and OLED taillights, a head-up display, navigation, parking assist and a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. The Prestige trim also includes everything you get with the midrange Premium Plus model, adding a surround-view camera system, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-keeping assist, the lovely 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster and everything from the base trim's optional convenience package (keyless entry, driver's seat memory, SiriusXM, power-folding mirrors and a heated steering wheel).
This Sportback is equipped with the $3,000 S Sport Package, which adds an adaptive air suspension, red brake calipers and a limited-slip rear differential, as well as the $1,150 dynamic variable-ratio steering. It also has the $1,000 Fine Nappa leather package that has nice diamond contrast stitching, but it locks you out of getting to have ventilated seats. All in, my test car comes to $74,240.
That's a whole lot of money for a crossover that just doesn't feel special or different enough to justify its existence. With a starting price of $50,995 I think the regular Q5 Sportback makes a slightly better case for itself, but it still has the same issues as its more powerful sibling. There's a new Audi coupeover on the horizon that I'm excited about, though: the electric Q4 E-Tron Sportback. It looks the part and has aerodynamic advantages to boot, and it's only a little pricier than the gas-fed Q5.