The middle child in Audi’s SUV line-up has, as the market evolved, become one of their most popular offerings, straddling that line between a small SUV and a rather large one. It’s the model that fits the bill for most people - small enough for towns but practical enough for ferrying the occasional crowd.
No accident of course, as this mid-size premium SUV is the tentpole has enabled the Ingolstadt automaker to spin out even more new compact SUV models in the smaller Q3 and Q2. Now in its second generation, the all-new Q5 may have retained a familiar shape but is in fact quite a different beast underneath.
Audi has clearly thought long and hard about how to further capitalise on the Q5, offering it every edge possible to ensure it’s a class leader right out of the gate. Based on the new MLB Evo platform shared with the A4 and A5 (as well as the Bentley Bentayga and Porsche Cayenne), it’s now slightly larger and markedly lighter than the version it replaces.
But even with a clearer vision and more resources involved in its development, the competition has also been busy making sure their own assault on this corner of the market has a similar set of advantages, and as a result the landscape is more cut-throat now than ever - no shocker, really, as it occupies one of the fastest-growing vehicle types of this day, be it aimed at the the mass market or premium end of the scale.
BMW’s X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX, and Jaguar F-Pace all make convincing arguments to be chosen over the Audi. And depending on your own automotive leanings, maintaining objectivity can be a tough task. With that in mind, what does the Q5 have or does better than the rest?
“Ingolstadt’s top brass will be hoping that by playing it stylistically safe it will have another sales hit on its hands; don’t forget it shifted 1.6million examples of its predecessor.” - Car Magazine
Audi may make some ambitious claims about their second-generation Q5, but the exterior is probably not one that they can be absolutely effusive about. As an object, it’s handsome, sophisticated, even effortlessly expensive looking, but like a lot cars to wear the four-ring badge today, the Q5’s design can be described as a little too restrained.
There’s nothing objectionable about how the Q5 looks, but unless you spring for the larger and more expensive wheels as well as the S-Line cosmetic upgrades, there’s not all that much that makes the car stand out on the road. If you're looking for something inconspicuous but has an unmistakably distinguished aesthetic, the Audi portfolio right now has exactly you in mind.
Over the model it replaces, it gains an overall sharper and more angular design which becomes immediately apparent from the bold single frame hexagonal front grille. There are some character lines that run across the body that help soften the sharper cues, though most would agree that Audi’s inclusion of a pair of faux exhaust ports onto a rear skid plate that mimics a diffuser isn’t the most tasteful of choices.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The AWD system is set up more for icy road surfaces (the kind you might find in Europe) rather than a true, low-range 4WD unit…” - CarsGuide
Two engines are offered with the all-new Q5, and Audi has smartly chosen to carry over their turbocharged 2.0-litre mills from both the TDI diesel range as well as the TFSI petrol. Interestingly, it’s the oil burners that have given the edge here, occupying two-thirds of the range.
All Q5s all come with Audi’s acclaimed quattro system, and a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic. The turbodiesel, naturally, leads the way in terms of peak torque with 400Nm, but the TFSI petrol is impressively punchy as well with 370Nm. Power stands at 140kW for the TDI and 185kW for the TFSI petrol, making the latter an identical tune to that found in the A4, yielding a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.3 seconds for the petrol and a fine 7.9 seconds for the diesel.
These pair of Audi engines are among the best in their class for smoothness, delivery, and efficiency (start/stop is a standard feature), attributes that should only be amplified by the quick-shifting S tronic transmission.
“High specification levels extend throughout the Q5 and leather is your only choice for seat upholstery, however the functional, clean lines of the cabin and console do serve to make the interior feel a little clinical and sparse.” - Motoring.com.au
This is another area that Audi is known to excel in, and as with the newest A4 (B9), they have taken a large step forward on all fronts. It’s the new yardstick. Over its predecessor, the new Q5’s cabin looks leaps more modern and well thought out but it’s also plain that it has been built with an obvious improvement in material and construction method sophistication. However, like the exterior, there’s not all that much to say in terms of flair. Here, function rules above all.
Comfortable though it is, especially with the optional air suspension that endows it with near limousine like composure, the echoes of solidity linger in the awareness after stepping away from the car - testament to Audi’s continued mastery at perceived quality.
In more practical terms, though, the Q5’s expanded dimensions give it a correspondingly larger cabin. It’s very SUV-like in this regard but curiously the seating position is made especially to feel like you’re in a car. There is a good amount of ground clearance but you sit lower to the floor than you may be expecting.
Second row passengers should be plenty comfortable with ample amounts of head and leg room and dedicated rear zone climate control.
Behind The Wheel
“The steering has a small amount of play around the straight ahead but is generally precise enough for you to rely on it. There is precious little feedback to speak of, though. Again, the overall impression is of a clinical but accomplished driving experience, not a really entertaining one.” - Auto Express
Among its closest rivals, the Q5 acquits itself from the somewhat bland exterior by being dynamically surprising - in a good way, of course. Naturally, the Jaguar F-Pace was designed to be most rewarding SUV to drive and is far ahead of the Audi in most respects except ride quality and sheer refinement, that, even with the larger wheels, is assuredly top notch.
But even against the BMW and Mercedes-Benz, the Q5 remains particularly composed as well as agile with with good body control. Understandably, the bar is set at a more conservative level for this type of vehicle, so while a similarly sized but lower-riding A4 is ranked as inferior to the 3 Series, the Q5’s rearranged priorities mean that, overall, it’s superior to the somewhat too-sporty X3. In fact, with the adaptive air suspension specified, which it borrows from the larger Q7, the Q5’s ride is rather sublime.
As was previously mentioned, the sensation of having a higher ground clearance is tempered by the lack of verticality of the seat relative to the floor. This results in an SUV that you’ll feel to be quite car-like, and therefore more confident in negotiating around tight spaces and/or corners, aided by the precise and well weighted steering as well as the quattro all-wheel drive system in more challenging conditions.
Both the petrol and diesel pull cleanly and have more than enough torque to easily overtake. There is extra zest to how the TFSI delivers its performance when pushed, but in normal driving you’ll likely never be taxing either of them too much. This can translate to something of a muted, clinical relationship where you know something is pushing the car forward, but it is slightly murky as to what or how.
Safety and Technology
“The Euro NCAP test was pretty praiseworthy, and in fact Australian spec vehicles get more airbags than the base European spec.” - Practical Motoring
ANCAP Euro NCAP award it a shared 5-star rating. The Australian-spec Q5 comes with 8 airbags and an impressive list of safety features, including standard automatic emergency braking and rear collision prevention. There’s also front and rear view cameras, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
Audi’s of this generation have an inordinate amount of impressive technology on offer. The interior, first of all, already looks properly futuristic, but with the Virtual Cockpit (not available in the base model) and MMI infotainment combination, which includes a 12.3-inch high-resolution screen in place of an analogue gauge cluster, the more traditional instrumentation of its rivals starts to look immediately dated.
It’s not all flash and little substance, though, as Audi has evidently put plenty of love into how the system is designed and interfaces with the driver. There’s a slight learning curve but lots of added functionality and convenience to be had once acclimatised.
With extensive use of aluminium, the weight of the Q5 has been reduced so significantly that, in terms of just numbers, the fuel economy deficit between the turbodiesel and ostensibly thirstier petrol isn’t even much of an issue here.
In fact, when weighing against the older first-generation model, the scales have clocked this newer (and larger) Q7 at roughly 400kg lighter. That’s a third of the weight from a car with dimensions that are more substantial, violating logical norms. The Lotus philosophy applies here, wherein to make the vehicle better on nearly all fronts, merely add one magic ingredient: lightness.
That translates to improved fuel economy in addition to the list of strengths this Q5 brings to table. A high quality cabin that’s put together exceptionally well, strong engines, a comfortable ride, impressive tech, and most of all, above average dynamics aided by that same fastidious management of weight.
Edmunds - “The 2017 Audi Q5 is a compact luxury SUV that makes you feel special with its handsome styling, elegant cabin and thrilling engines that won't cost you that much at the pump. It's small in size but big on luxury, and it should make you swell with pride when seeing it in your driveway.”
Auto Express - 4/5 - The new Q5 is strong enough in lots of key areas to be an even stronger contender in the hotly contested premium SUV class. It’s still not as involving as an X3 or an F-Pace, but it is an accomplished cruiser with a nicely finished cabin, and practical enough for most needs.
CarsGuide - 7.9/10 - “Bigger, better and more tech-savvy than ever before, fans of the outgoing Q5 will find lots to like about this new model. The diesel engine is smooth, the cabin is refined and the ride is comfortable, which are three fairly sizeable ticks in the mid-size SUV world. We'd prefer a touch more power under our right foot, and look forward to sampling a quicker variant.”
Motoring.com.au - 81/100 - “The Q5 has been extensively updated with a bold new exterior design, more space and a new fuel-saving quattro drivetrain, which switches from all-wheel drive to front wheel drive to deliver improved efficiency.”
Car Magazine - 4/5 - “You’ll feel suitably smug pootling around in one, particularly drinking in the most premium of cabins in the mid-sized SUV sector, and getting to grips with the enhanced MMI infotainment package. Rivals’ systems feel clunkier as a result.”
Practical Motoring - 4.5/5 - “Audi had a huge success with the old Q5 and understandably it's taking no risks here. It looks much the same and feels the same. But that doesn't mean it isn't a deep-rooted and diligent overhaul. Everything has progressed in the right direction. Some bits are sharper – the looks, the performance, the technology. Some things are softened off – refinement, ride.”