June Neary on Audi’s Q5 mid-range SUV
Will It Suit Me?
If you’ve driven or even sat inside any of Audi’s current models, you’ll have a good idea of where this manufacturer is coming from. Even if you’ve observed one from afar, you may have an inkling. Audi products are largely variations on the key themes. The exteriors share much the same distinctive front end with its oversize grille and the interiors are studies in cool Teutonic efficiency. The engines and gearboxes are interchangeable in models from across the range, the clever control interface crops up time and time again and there are similarities in the driving experiences. Audi are by no means unique in this but with the benefit of this background knowledge, it’s possible to form a fairly accurate picture of what Audi’s Q5 mid-sized SUV will be like. Of course, the Q5 might have confounded any such expectations. Audi may have taken the decision to ditch all that build quality and understated sportiness stuff in favour of day-glow colour schemes, wooden fascias and engines that run on baked beans. They might of, but they didn’t. The second generation Q5 SUV model I tried recently was much as expected, obviously an Audi and clearly pretty good.
The Q5’s styling remains fairly low key compared to some. It looks like you’d imagine an Audi compact 4×4 would without the tough off-road addenda with which some of its rival adorn themselves. It’s more of a jacked-up hatchback, which is exactly what many buyers are looking for at the premium end of the mid-sized SUV market. This car might not be as bold or brash externally as we’ve come to expect in the SUV sector but inside, it aims to replicate the interior versatility of its most sizable rivals. Audi’s cabin design and build quality remains tough to fault and the Q5 also includes some clever features that make the whole thing more practical to use on a daily basis. The rear seat backs can be reclined to increase comfort and the whole of the back bench can be folded into the floor at a stroke by means of a lever in the boot. Luggage space is 550-litres but once those seats are stowed, 1,550-litres is opened up.
Behind the Wheel
The driving experience is also very un-SUV-like. Audi has engineered the Q5 to excel on the road and largely, it does. Were it not for the higher driving position, you could almost be piloting an A3 or A4, such is the Q5’s resistance to body roll and smooth ride. It’s not the most exciting experience you’ll have at the wheel of a mid-sized SUV but the Q5 smacks of utter competence and composure through a range of driving conditions. Engine-wise, most will choose one of the four cylinder variants – probably the efficient 190PS 2.0 TDI diesel I tried, which manages 56.5mpg on the combined cycle and 132g/km of CO2. It transmits torque to the tarmac via a standard 7-speed S tronic auto gearbox mated to an ‘on-demand’ ‘quattro ultra’ 4WD set-up, as does the alternative four cylinder model, a 252PS 2.0 TFSI petrol variant. The prodigious power of the V6 derivatives requires a different approach. For these, Audi has stuck with the previous permanent quattro system and paired it with a beefier 8-speed tiptronic auto gearbox. Here, there are two 3.0-litre options, a 286PS 3.0 TDI diesel or a 354PS 3.0 TFSI petrol unit, the latter powerplant reserved for the potent flagship SQ5 model.
Audi’s second generation Q5 is a premium mid-sized SUV that’s ready to build upon the solid sales foundation established by its successful predecessor. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at what’s on offer.
Ten Second Review
Audi’s understated Q5 continues its subtle conquest of the premium compact SUV sector. This second generation model gets a range of more efficient engines and even more car-like driving dynamics that are great on tarmac and are even pretty effective for light off road use. There’s loads of advanced technology and a beautifully practical interior crafted in Audi’s own inimitable style. In short, if you can afford it, you’d like one.
The second generation version of Audi’s Q5 premium compact SUV might not appear to be much different from its predecessor but take it from us: almost everything that could have been improved on this car has been. There’s sharper looks, extra technology and more efficient engines that have reduced running costs. Audi, you see, doesn’t do things by halves. Some things haven’t changed though. As before, this is the kind of compact SUV you buy if, rather unreasonably, you want something with mastery of the mud as well as the motorway. Something that’ll look great in the driveway, keep you mobile in a snowy snap and shrink around you when a twisting road opens up ahead. It’s a demanding brief that nearly half a million global owners felt was achieved by the original version of this car. But is this latest generation version good enough to take on tougher rivals that promise much the same thing? That’s what we’re going to find out.
Most Q5 customers will want the 190PS 2.0 TDI diesel engine, but low mileage owners shouldn’t discount the much improved 252PS 2.0 TFSI petrol unit. You can also talk to your Audi Centre about a 286PS 3.0 TDI six cylinder diesel too. And at the top of the range, the sporting SQ5 variant now switches to petrol power, offering a potent 354PS 3.0 V6 TFSI unit. The drivetrain of the second generation Q5 has been redeveloped from the ground up – take the revised six-speed manual transmission and the more efficient seven-speed S tronic auto ‘box for example. The standard quattro 4WD system is improved too, using Audi’s ‘ultra’ technology to always disengage the rear-axle drive whenever it isn’t needed: if necessary, the system can then proactively re-engage it. The most poweeful variants can be ordered with an optional sport differential at the rear axle which distributes torque between the wheels for sharper handling. And all models get Torque vectoring for extra cornering precision. Dynamically, Audi has tried to make this Q5 feel sporty yet extremely comfortable. Creating the basis for this are the newly developed five-link suspension set-ups and also the new electromechanical power steering system. Choose a model with adaptive damping and you’ll be able to tailor the ride quality via the various settings of the standard ‘Audi drive select’ vehicle dynamics system. You can do the same thing with the even more sophisticated adaptive air suspension package that’s available as an option. Those venturing ‘off piste’ will be interested in the two new settings added to the ‘drive select’ set-up – ‘lift/offroad’ and ‘allroad’.
Design and Build
Compared to the previous model, this second generation Q5 has grown in nearly all of its dimensions and takes a defined and taut stance on the road. A sculpturally flared Singleframe grille with a solid frame dominates its aerodynamically flat front end. This feature is flanked by headlights that use either xenon or full-LED technology – or buyers can order Audi’s advanced adaptable Matrix LED system as an option. A distinctively curved and strongly undercut shoulder line gives structure to the side view. The strongly emphasised wheel arches are a reference to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, and the low greenhouse tapers back down early. Just as at the front, horizontal lines at the rear aim to convey an image of width and presence. The tailgate wraps around the C-pillars – a typical feature of Audi Q models. At the wheel, a three-dimensional trim strip runs across the entire width of the instrument panel and here’s a re-designed three-spoke multifunction steering wheel. This remains a five-seat model and the rear seat is split into three segments. Longitudinal and seat back angle adjustment are optional. Depending on the rear seat position, the basic volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 550 to 610-litres, 10-litres more than in the previous Q5. When the rear bench is folded down, this volume grows to 1,550-litres.
Market and Model
The price positioning of this second generation Q5 hasn’t changed very much, so most mainstream models will continue to sell in the £37,000 to £41,000 bracket. There’s the usual choice of ‘SE’, ‘Sport’ and ‘S line’ trim levels. This time round, the key option is the ‘Audi Virtual Cockpit’ a 12.3-inch screen that completely replaces the dials in the instrument binnacle. The MMI terminal in the centre console acts as the main control element. In the top infotainment system, the optional MMI navigation plus with MMI touch and an 8.3-inch display, a touchpad is integrated into the rotary pushbutton. Many Q5 owners will want to order the upgraded ‘multi-fuction steering wheel plus’ and some may also want the optional Head-up display. The Audi navigation system will also be popular, the latest set-up able to ‘learn’ your regular routes and suggest optimised planning for your next trip. As ever with an Audi, media connectivity will be key to many customers. ‘MMI navigation plus’ uses the ‘Audi connect’ module to integrate a LTE module and a Wi-Fi hotspot. And a free ‘Audi MMI connect app’ allows you to monitor your car from your ‘phone. You can connect in your handset via the ‘Apple CarPlay’ or ‘Android Auto’ systems – and boost its reception via the optional ‘Audi phone box’ feature. Kids will like the ‘Audi tablet’ system which provides for rear seat entertainment.
Cost of Ownership
This second generation Q5 has taken a big step forward in terms of efficiency, thanks to a 90kg weight saving over its predecessor. This comes mainly courtesy of the fact that steels with maximum tensile strength and aluminium form an intelligent material mix in the body. It also helps in this regard that the MK2 model Q5 stands at the top of its class in its aerodynamics. The four-cylinder versions attain a cd figure of 0.30 with the aerodynamically optimised roof. As a result, even the petrol engines return surprising good running cost figures. The freshly re-developed 2.0 TFSI unit, for example, manages up to 41.5mpg combined, which equates to 154 grams CO2 per km. And residuals? Well, trying to buy a used Q5 is quite a depressing experience as they cling onto their value with some tenacity. This is great news for the new buyer and part of a trend certain to continue with this MK2 model. After the usual three year / 60,000 mile ownership period, expect it still to be worth around 45% of what you originally paid for it.
Whether your destination is Sainsburys or the annual family skiing trip to Crans Montana, you’ll feel better about doing it in an Audi Q5. In between, in contrast to larger, plusher and thirstier 4x4s, you won’t get that nagging feeling of using a sledgehammer to crash a nut when it comes to meeting your real motoring needs. Nor, when you’re alone on a twisty B road, should you need to wish you’d bought something sportier. Of course, this second generation model now faces much tougher competition, but the well considered package of changes made to this smarter, better equipped and higher-tech mid-sized premium SUV should keep it very competitive with cars like Mercedes’ GLC and BMW’s X3 in the chasing pack. Certainly it’s not cheap – but then neither is anything else in this segment and at least you’ll get a decent part of your money back at resale time. True, it doesn’t have the showiness of a Range Rover Evoque or the ultimate handling feedback of a BMW X3, but many will still find this Audi a perfect balance between these two extremes. Resolutely hi-tech and resolutely real world, the Q5 remains resolutely right.