The Q5 has done the numbers for Audi ever since it came out in 2008, selling in vast quantities pretty much everywhere it’s available. In fact, the old one was, says the company, the “world’s best-selling premium midsize” SUV for some six years, ahead of the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC/GLK, and the related Porsche Macan.
The current second-generation Q5 went on sale in 2017, meaning it’s due a facelift any day now. Based on the same ‘MLB’ platform as the recently updated A4, A5, and so on, in Audi’s range, it sits above the smaller Q3 but under the seven-seat Q7. Key improvements over the old Q5 are in the areas you’d expect—less weight (up to 90kg) thanks to much aluminum, better economy, and more tech, among others.
Competitors? You might consider a BMW X3 or a Mercedes GLC, both of which are around the same size and price. Then there’s the Jaguar F-Pace, Volvo XC60, or possibly either the Range Rover Evoque or Velar. Audi doesn’t do a coupe version of the five-seat Q5, as BMW does the X3 and Mercedes the GLC (in the form of the BMW X4 and the Mercedes GLC Coupe), but it’s only a matter of time.
As for engines, with the normal Q5, you’ve got the choice of a 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline or a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel. Then you’ve got the Q5 TFSI e, which pairs said gaoline engine with a battery and e-motor for low CO2 (and thus tax) and a few kilometers of electric-only range, and the six-cylinder diesel SQ5. All get automatic gearboxes and Quattro all-wheel drive as standard.
Prices start at around £40,000 (P2.52 million), rising to £55,000 (P3.47 million) or so for the SQ5.
On the road
More on those engines. Most Q5s come with a 2.0-liter engine of some description, fueled by either gasoline or diesel. We’ve had a go in the diesel. Badged ‘40 TDI,’ it makes 187hp and 400Nm, and is good for up to 16.7km/L and 144g/km of CO2. Nil to 100kph takes under 8sec—the Q5 doesn’t feel that quick because of its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which is reluctant to kick down even if you’ve got a load of throttle on, but it’s got all the performance you need in a car like this. Very refined, too, though you can’t totally escape the agricultural rattle inherent in four-cylinder diesel engines.
We’ve only tried the gasoline in tandem with the 14.1kWh battery and electric motor of the Q5 plug-in hybrid, which Audi calls the Q5 TFSI e. It’s available in two power outputs: the 295hp ‘50’ or the 362hp ‘55.’ Low CO2 emissions of just 49g/km mean it’s the Q5 you’ll want if you run a company car because it’ll save you a bundle in tax.
Happily, it’s also quite good, with a smooth, incredibly clever powertrain and impressive turn of speed (the 55 takes only 5.3sec to hit 62mph). Audi claims 26 miles of electric range, with a top speed in EV mode of a handy 84mph. But the usual PHEV caveats apply—make sure it suits your commute/lifestyle (through or into a town, and can you do it all on electricity?) and have a think about where/when you can charge. If you can’t plug in a PHEV, there’s really no point.
The PHEV is 290kg heavier than the equivalent gasoline Q5, and while it remains a comfortable car, you can feel the suspension working hard to contain that extra mass. In general, the Q5 drives well enough—like the A4 on which it’s based, it doesn’t really involve you in the process (look at the Macan or F-Pace if that’s your thing), but majors instead on rolling refinement and safe, predictable handling. The ride is a bit on the firm side, so look toward the smaller alloy wheel options to stop it from becoming a problem.
On the inside
Audi does interiors better than most. The Q5’s is well-laid-out and solidly constructed, with an appealing design, lots of light, and some good tech. Not the latest tech, though. The A4 and the A5 have both been facelifted quite recently, so they have Audi’s latest-gen infotainment system, while the Q5 has to make do with the same setup it had at launch in 2017.
It might not look quite as polished, have as many features or as big a screen, but it’s much easier to use on the move because it still has a physical control knob down on the center console, while the new system is touchscreen only. Still gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, too.
As for space, it’s pretty good. The 550-liter cargo area is exactly the same size as the Merc GLC’s and the BMW X3’s, if a bit smaller than the Jaguar I-Pace’s. Worth bearing in mind that the PHEV’s batteries liver under the Q5’s rear cargo floor, so TFSI e models get 155 liters less loading space than normal Q5s. Not ideal—that’s really quite small for an SUV of this size. The rear seats are still spacious enough for a couple of adults to sit in relative comfort, though.
The Q5 isn’t a remarkable car in any one way, but it’s quite good in a few ways, which makes it a worthy, well-rounded thing. Worth thinking about if you’re in the market for this kind of car. While it isn’t as good to drive as an X3, a Macan, or an F-Pace, it’s very quiet, comfortable, and practical, if a little dull.
There will be a facelift before long, which will bring with it improvements across the board, so it might be worth hanging fire for a bit to see what happens. If you must have one now, don’t feel as though you need to spend lots of money to get a good one. Go easy on the options.
The PHEV? It’s an impressive bit of tech, but the usual caveats apply. If you’re a company-car driver, then by all means—it’ll save you a bundle in tax. But if you’re buying for you, think very carefully about the kind of driving you do before committing.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.