Audi Q3 Sportback Review: Stylish, but Lacking Dynamics

Audi Q3 40 TFSI Sportback
Audi’s Q3 Sportback is a Fastback Sports Utility that Celebrates its Style Better than its Dynamic Heritage

This turtle on stilts thing is getting out of hand. Seems every man and his dog sells all sorts of sleek ‘coupé-SUVs’ these days. This Audi Q3 Sportback 40 TFSI S Line is another recent arrival worthy of a look-see. So here we go.

First and foremost, a coupé and an SUV all in one? No, they just don’t go! Sure, it’s sleek and sexy. But a coupé has two doors. Not five. Here’s another genre looking for a name — I prefer fastback SUV. So Sportback is actually a pretty dope name for it after all.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand — the Audi Q3 Sportback 40TFSI quattro S line. This is a European spec car – there’s no gas-burning Q3 Sportback in the US, just the e-tron. The all-electric one. Which may be a bit of an acquired taste. The closest US model is the next step up 228 hp 258 lb-ft Q5 45 TFSI S Line wagon.

Said to shake off the booming SUV stereotype in many more ways than one, this is a sleek new version of the good old Q3 wagon we’ve come to know over time. Our baby blue fastback SUV here certainly brings a wedge of style to old faithful. We say its way better looking than its wagon sibling. Never mind one of the cooler looking of all SUVs out there right now. Agree?

Everything from that honeycomb grille to its aggressive bumpers, shiny 19-inch alloys, chunky side skirts, and even chunkier haunches, looks the part. Hell, Audi’s come a long way from its bold move to the Mickey Mouse schnoz way back when! Practically, it’s on the large side for a small SUV. It’s still about an inch lower, two-thirds of an inch longer and half a hair narrower than its wagon kin. All thanks to its coupé aspirations.

Q3 Sportback

It’s Properly Audi Cool Inside

Step aboard and it’s just as Audi-cool. It’s also basically, identical to the wagon inside. That’s all good, because the Q3 sets the segment standard anyway. With Audi’s splendid 10.1-inch voice-controlled haptic touchscreen MMI multimedia center stage on the soft-touch plastic dash’s metallic fascia. And that brilliant multi-faced 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster nestled behind the chunky and racy flat-bottomed paddle-shifter multifunction steering wheel.

The Infotainment packs Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Bluetooth; real-time traffic satellite navigation, and 180W 10-speaker digital radio sound. We really enjoyed the haptic touch which eases our loathing of touch screen system systems. But it but does not eliminate it. Like the touchscreen, the gloss-black air-vent surrounds are easily also fingerprinted and scratched too.

Audi has however happily resisted the temptation to integrate the dual-zone climate controls into this one’s multimedia system in favor of user-friendly knobs. The Sportback gets leather upholstered heated lumbar power sports seats and unique Steel Grey Alcantara dashboard and armrest inserts. There are SD and SIM card readers in the glove box, USB-A and C ports at the center console, two USB-C ports in the rear, and two 12-volt outlets too.

Audi Q3 Sportback

Option-Packed Luxury

This car packed in keyless entry and start, adaptive dusk-sensing LED headlights, rain-sensing wipers, power, heated auto-dimming folding wing mirrors, a hands-free power tailgate, a space-saver spare wheel, and rear privacy glass too.

Safety is also high on the Q3 Sportback agenda. An impressive array of advanced driver-assist systems extends to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, and blind-spot monitoring. Add rear cross-traffic alert, stop-and-go adaptive cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, hill-descent, and hill-start assist, driver attention and high-beam assistants, surround-view cameras, and front and rear parking sensors.

There are six front, side, and curtain airbags, electronic stability and traction controls, ABS anti-skid brakes with brake assist, and electronic brake-force distribution, among others.

Forget Dieselgate, Audi’s A5 TDI is Efficient, Luxurious, and Sporty

Audi A5 40 TDI quattro

Exorcising Myths — Splendid Turbodiesel is Surely the Pick of Audi’s A5 Bunch (Sorry, US buyers.)

Before we dive into the Audi A5 TDI, let’s talk about good ole Dieselgate. That scandal back when VW cheated emissions on its four-cylinder and V6 turbodiesels in most VWs, Porsches, and Audis an effort to dodge carbon tax breaks.

(They say in racing, that you’re only a cheat if you are caught cheating. Well guess what?)

The VW Group ultimately coughed up $15 billion in fines, among other penalties for its carbon sins. And it’s been doing triple backward somersaults ever since in its efforts to atone. VW promises an all-electric future, has exited combustion motorsports and changed its famous VW logo in deference to its guilt-adopted clean persona. Hell, the US branch even cocked up its April fool’s joke when it released that Voltswagen clanger a few days too soon!

But VW Group Diesel Cars are Back

Audi A5 40 TDI quattro

It’s in the context of an all-electric future when this splendid sky turquoise Audi A5 cropped up for test. Strolling around the back, we were astonished to discover that it’s a 40 TDI version. The diesel may not be on the Audi US A5 range, but it certainly is relevant. Set apart by a ‘tauter, more powerful’ look, the latest A5 is highlighted by a broader, flatter chrome-framed titanium black single Audi trademark grill. And this chunkier S-Line has cool optional 19-inch S contrast wheels.

And it got better. Within a few minutes of taking the wheel, we were mesmerized. Agile yet comfortable, this is a very nice car to drive. It doesn’t feel like a diesel engine. And its diesel torque is beneficial to every aspect of its envelope, making it so very easy to drive, too. It’s great on the open road, where that torquey demeanor would make you almost swear that you’re pedaling a S5.

Audi’s A5 TDI is a Specialist Driving Scalpel

A5 40 TDI

Braking is secure, it turns in beautifully, follows though marvelously, with an aplomb that enhances more confidence at every turn. A little hard on the road in regular driving, that’s all very quickly forgotten. This engine, Audi quattro drive, and a fine chassis conspire to deliver a specialist driving scalpel. There’s no diesel clatter — the engine note is great and the cabin silent. Best of all was a 500-mile range with a few fuel gauge segments already accounted for.

All that happens in a sumptuous, luxurious, and efficient style. Audi’s A5 has typically great cabin that makes a few good haptic touch MMI infotainment improvements to enhance ease of use. The highly connected system has smartphone logic and feel and cleaner graphics via an MIB 3 Communication box with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, free-text input search and natural-language voice control.

Live and integrated Google Earth navigation includes traffic information, destination trading hours, parking availability, and even weather updates. Although certain rivals still offer a little greater versatility in operation, you’d need to try those out and fully understand them to actually know.

Audi A5 TDI Has a Brilliant Virtual Cockpit

A5 40 TDI

Most of that is also controllable via the A5’s chunky multifunction steering wheel, which also selects the brilliant full-HD display Audi virtual cockpit’s three instrumentation views complimented by a head-up display. Our A5 also packed an optional Audi phone box and splendid Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound.

Audi connect including roadside and emergency assistance is however standard. This crucial piece of fresh motoring technology likely saved the life of a friend. He was unfortunate enough to recently suffer a violent crash. Dazed and hurt, he was shocked to hear someone asking whether he was OK, within seconds of impact. It was the response center communicating via the stricken car’s audio system. His cry for help and the urgent response to that call probably saved his life.

But the most amazing aspect of this particular A5, is how brilliantly it merges a fine Audi quattro grand tourer with a brilliant turbodiesel engine. Not surprisingly considering my introduction above, besides appearing in the price list, Audi’s A5 press release late last year made scant mention of this model. Which is a pity.

Because after driving it, I think it’s the pick of the bunch.

A Hiatus of Development

A5 40 TDI

Worst of all, is that while this 188 hp 295 lb.-ft. engine has now made huge strides since the embarrassment its predecessor caused. When its makers cheated its carbon credentials. So future diesel development is stymied by the rush to electrify and satisfy the wan of a misguided green front. Which I believe misses the point completely.

One day, when all is said and done, I’m convinced that the world will come to rue turbodiesel technology’s hiatus of development. Its engine may very well have been the seed of much that carbon activism in the first place. But if this little secret is anything to go by, the car industry and its carbon controllers have clearly missed a trick.

This 40 TDI is the pick of the Audi A5 bunch. The irony just in that, is palpably embarrassing…

Audi A5 coupe 40TDI quattro S line Test Results

  • Engine: 188 hp 295 lb.-ft. 2-litre turbodiesel I4
  • Drive:7-speed automatic AWD


  • 0-40 mph: 2.85 sec
  • 0-60 mph: 6.52 sec
  • 0-75 mph: 9.61 sec
  • 0-100 mph: 17.45 sec
  • 1/4-mile: 14.8 sec @ 93 mph
  • 50-75 mph: 5.10 sec
  • 75-100 mph: 7.96 sec


  • VMax: 140 mph
  • Fuel: 39.2 mpg
  • CO2: 158 g/km

Images: Michele Lupini

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