Things we like
- Interior detail
- Slick auto transmission
Not so much
- Steering feels slightly artificial
What stands out?The Q5 is about the same price and size as the Audi A4 medium luxury sedan. But it has an SUV wagon body, rides higher, and drives all four wheels, which makes it better on gravel roads and easy tracks. The Q5 also handles well on sealed roads, and has an appealingly detailed cabin. This review covers Q5s on sale prior to July 2017.
What might bug me?Stop-start traffic in a Q5 diesel. Their S-Tronic dual-clutch auto gearboxes do not provide the fluid, elastic take-up from rest that you get from a conventional automatic.
Driving after a puncture: the Q5 is fitted with a skinny space-saver spare tyre that restricts the recommended top speed to 80km/h.
What body styles are there?Five-door wagon only.
All Audi Q5s drive all four wheels. The Q5 is classed as a medium SUV, higher priced.
What features do all versions have?Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, and front and rear parking sensors.
Power-adjusted front seats. A 7.0-inch central colour screen. A reversing camera, and satellite navigation.
Alloy wheels, which are lighter and more stylish than steel wheels.
Three zones for the air-conditioning, so that each person up front and those in the rear can set different temperatures and fan speeds.
Smart key entry (which unlocks the doors if you grab a handles when the key is nearby, perhaps in a pocket or bag), and a power-opening tailgate.
Leather on at least some of the seats (some models have full leather, others mix this with fake leather).
Eight airbags: one in front of each front occupant; side airbags to protect the bodies of people in outboard seats, front and rear; and curtain airbags along each side to protect heads from side impacts.
Electronic stability control, which can help control a skid. All new cars must have this feature.
The Q5 is covered by a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.
There is also an optional service plan, which effectively gives a discount if you pre-pay for the first three services. (Services are due every 12 months or 15,000km.)
Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?On the official test, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in the Q5 2.0 TDI, used least fuel, consuming 6.1 litres/100km (urban and country combined).
In use this is a fine engine that most drivers would find satisfying, especially in country driving. However, the Q5 2.0 TDI was suspended from sale for several months in 2016 while Audi parent Volkswagen Group sought to rectify its engine control software, which was found to include a device for cheating emissions tests. (Only a software update was needed.)
Only marginally more thirsty is the 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel supplied with the much more expensive Q5 3.0 TDI. This engine uses 6.4 litres/100km on the standard test, and is much more powerful than the 2.0 litre.
A reason not to choose either diesel is that both have particulate filters, and therefore are not suited to predominantly short trips around town. The filter prevents diesel soot from getting into the air, and you need to do a 15-minute drive above 60km/h regularly to keep it clean.
A second reason not to choose either diesel is that you prefer the extra zip and friendliness that Audi’s petrol engines deliver, especially around town.
The 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine in the Q5 2.0 TFSI uses about 25 per cent more fuel than the 3.0-litre diesel. But it’s a very nice engine and works well in the Q5.
The 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine in the more costly Q5 3.0 TFSI is not much thirstier than the 2.0 petrol, consuming 8.5 litres/100km on the official test. Considering the impressive performance available, that’s quite frugal.
All petrol Q5s have a traditional eight-speed automatic gearbox. In contrast, the 2.0 TDI and 3.0 TDI diesels get a seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox, which uses computer-controlled manual-type clutches. The S-Tronic is an excellent gearbox once you are moving and it saves fuel, but it does not provide the fluid, elastic take-up from rest that you get from a traditional automatic, instead feeling snatchy sometimes on hills, and jerky occasionally in stop-start traffic. So that is a third reason you might not want a diesel.
The exception here is the SQ5. This is the quickest Q5, using a twin-turbocharged version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel that provides even more power than the 3.0 TFSI petrol. And it does so while using less fuel. The SQ5 drives through a conventional eight-speed auto gearbox like that in petrol Q5s.
What key features do I get if I spend more?Stepping past the 2.0 TDI or TFSI four-cylinder Q5s and spending more for a 3.0 TDI (diesel) or 3.0 TFSI (petrol) gets you one of the more powerful V6 engines, and full leather trim. The wheel size rises an inch to 19 inches, which is mainly a visual change.
Spend more again for an SQ5 and the wheel size is greater again at 20 inches, with tyres correspondingly lower in profile. Seats are better finished in Nappa leather. Style elements include brushed aluminium inlays on the centre console and doors.
You can order the bigger wheels on any model, and you can also order a sunroof.
Several option packages are available.
Among them is an Assistance package, available on any Q5 and the SQ5. This adds adaptive cruise control, which matches your speed to that of a slower vehicle in front. It also gives you active lane assist, which provides mild steering assistance above 60km/h to help prevent you from drifting out of your lane. There is also Audi Pre Sense Front, which can automatically apply the brakes to avoid a crash when travelling below 30km/h.
A Technology package, also available for all models, brings you a Bang & Olufsen sound system. And it includes headlamps that switch on automatically when it’s dark, and that dip the high beam automatically for oncoming drivers.
A Technik package brings satellite navigation and a reversing camera to the less costly Q5s.
Does any upgrade have a down side?The bigger tyres fitted to the SQ5 (and optional on other models) are more susceptible to damage from rocks when driving on gravel roads. They are also more expensive to replace.
The SQ5’s stiffer suspension and low profile tyres make for a firm ride.
White and black are the only standard colours, with the remaining 13 costing extra.
How comfortable is it?A blend of metallic finishes and nicely crafted plastics – as well as the elegant and clean instrument cluster – create an upmarket feel. The central MMI (multi-media interface) controller is easy to use.
There are clever ergonomic touches, such as the rollers on the steering wheel that allow quick and easy volume adjustments or rapid scrolling through the trip computer.
The standard 10-speaker audio system sounds very good.
The seats are firm in the right places but comfortable, with great support. The tall seating position allows good forward vision. The view out the back, however, is restricted by the large rear-most roof pillar and a windowline that rises towards the rear.
The Q5 rides quite firmly, which contributes to the impressively direct and responsive steering and gives the car a planted, reassuring feel through corners. The trade-off is that you notice small bumps more than you would on softer suspension, particularly at city speeds.
The 2.0-litre engines in the less costly Q5s will meet most people’s needs. The 2.0 TDI diesel Q5 is great for country touring, where it feels more relaxed than the 2.0 TFSI petrol version when climbing hills and cruising. The petrol model has more zip for suburban driving, and brisker acceleration.
The more expensive, V6 Q5s go about their business with less apparent effort. The 3.0 TDI diesel is smooth and rarely feels flustered. The supercharged 3.0 TFSI petrol sounds sportier but feels like it makes harder work of everyday driving, even though it is quicker.
The SQ5 adds lots more urge again but also brings an even firmer ride, which means you feel more of the bumps.
What about safety?The Q5 has excellent airbag protection, and parking sensors that can warn of minor bingles, helping it to a safety rating of at least Very Good. The standard reversing camera on 3.0-litre models lifts them to Excellent.
The city emergency braking that comes with the Assistance package (optional on all Q5s) operates at speeds below 30km/h, where it will initiate a full emergency stop if the system concludes that a frontal collision is imminent. Above this speed, the system will sound a warning and prepare the brakes to reduce stopping distances. It is named Audi Pre Sense Front, and relies on a radar-based sensor.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) has rated the Q5’s safety at five stars, its maximum.
I like driving - will I enjoy this car?The Q5 is a highly capable, sporty car; it is one of the best driving SUVs you can buy. If there is a shortcoming, it is that the steering feels slightly artificial: you wish for more feedback.
The 3.0 TDI diesel has loads of oomph, and is particularly good at storming up hills without shifting to a lower gear. The 3.0 TFSI supercharged petrol goes even harder.
The SQ5 doesn’t have the instant response of the 3.0 TFSI, but once it gets going there’s a seemingly endless surge of energy that is great fun.
The SQ5’s firmer suspension teams with the 20-inch tyres for excellent grip through bends. Push on though, and its two-tonne-plus weight makes itself obvious.
That SQ5 also has a deep and burbly sound that grows into a roar when you drive it hard. And its eight-speed auto works very smoothly.
The Q5 is designed only for light-duty off-road driving – think gravel tracks or snow-covered roads. It does not have the underbody protection, wheel articulation or traction systems of dedicated off-roaders. And its space-saver spare tyre is all but useless off-road.
How is life in the rear seats?There’s ample head room in the rear but it’s not matched by the leg room: big adults may find themselves calling on those up front to shift their seats forward slightly.
The rear seats can be slid fore and aft, so that you can sacrifice leg room for luggage space (when your rear passengers are children, for example). But it is not as spacious for large legs as some similar cars (for example, the Land Rover Discovery Sport).
There’s also a big transmission tunnel in the centre of the floor that intrudes on leg space for the person in the middle.
However, small adults and children won’t have an issue, especially in the outer seats.
Those in the rear get their own air-conditioning vents and temperature controls.
How is it for carrying stuff?The back seat of the Q5 splits in a 40-20-40 configuration, which helps you fit people around big cargo items. The boot itself is quite wide but not very long.
A storage net under the luggage cover is great for separating small or light items (a child’s toy or a small bag, for example) from the rest of your luggage.
All Q5s are rated to tow 2000kg, which is good for a medium SUV. The BMW X3 has an identical towing capacity, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport tows up to 2200kg.
Where is it made?All Q5s are made in Germany.
What might I miss that similar cars have?Perhaps automatic braking that can initiate an emergency stop at highway speeds, rather than just low city speeds. This is standard on the Land Rover Discovery Sport, for example, and on some versions of the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class.
A driver-assistance system that can hold your place automatically in stop-start traffic, accelerating and braking the car as required. The Mercedes GLC offers this, for example.
Other luxury medium SUVs you might consider include the BMW X3, Lexus NX and Volvo XC60.
Good alternatives that cost less include the Mazda CX-5, Kia Sportage, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson and Subaru Forester, particularly the Forester XT turbo petrol models.
I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?While the performance of the SQ5 is tempting, the Q5 2.0 TFSI makes more sense. The sweet petrol engine works well in the Q5 and has more than enough go for most people.
When did Audi replace this Q5?The Q5 went on sale in 2009 and was updated in 2014. A reversing camera and satellite navigation was added to the 2.0-litre models in November 2015. The Q5 2.0 TDI was suspended from sale in the third quarter of 2015 over the Volkswagen Group diesel emissions scandal.
The B8 Audi A4, on which this Q5 is based, was replaced about March 2016 with the all-new B9 A4. An all-new Q5 arrived in July 2017.
Things we like
- Interior detail
- Slick auto transmission
Not so much
- Steering feels slightly artificial
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