If a combination of Audi’s rich racing heritage and hardworking marketing department is doing the trick, the four interlinked rings will invoke a long line of high-performance cars tearing up gravel and tarmac and paving a way to a modern line of potent machinery you can own.
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The Q3 little SUV might not be particularly sexy in any traditional sense of the word but it was Australia’s favourite Audi last year, while its bigger sibling – the Q5 – is the company’s most successful SUV to date.
It’s therefore in Audi’s best interest to keep its popular mid-sized SUV attractive to the discerning local audience, especially given the compelling options from other manufacturers in the premium market.
Most recently, Mercedes joined the battle with its first-generation GLC, while Volvo proved what it’s capable of with a Wheels Car of the Year win in 2018.
That’s why the Q5 range has been given a light update, marking four years since the gen-two model arrived in Australia.
There’s no sizzling SQ5 in either petrol or diesel variants yet, nor a V6 in either fuel type for the rest of the range (although a V6 50 TDI will arrive later in 2021), with the updated range remaining exclusively four-cylinder powered for now.
Opening the range is the Q5 quattro in either 40 TDI diesel for $68,900 or the $69,600 45 TFSI petrol, but with a little more cash to invest, the mid-range Sport brings a few more extras included for $74,900 and $76,600 respectively.
On the exterior, its Sport credentials include 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels in place of the base 19-inch versions, a generously proportioned panoramic sunroof and LED headlights and taillights – although it’ll cost you another $2500 to get the trick new optional organic LED rear lights.
Its maker claims the OLED application is the first of its kind in production vehicles although BMW would probably argue that, having already introduced organic LED lighting for the rear light clusters in its M4 GTS and CS.
The Sport-y extras are in addition to the 2021 facelift, which is headlined by the all-new nose and a more imposing Singleframe grille with resculpted brake vents and foglights. It’s the same story at the back where the plastic-work has been redesigned leaving the metalwork untouched.
Inside, the Q5 cabin update is as subtle as the exterior makeover but there is little to complain about in the pre-update interior so that suits us fine.
The Q5’s cabin is, as always, clean, well laid out, and features the sharp design you might expect from any model in the four-ring family. The driver is treated to a driving position that’s hard to beat, although the seat support feels better suited to the, ahem, wider driver when you hit the twisty stuff.
Hop back to the second row and there’s enough room to comfortably accommodate two adults plus a smaller human and even with the standard panoramic glass roof, there’s just enough headroom for a 184cm passenger.
At the back there’s a 520-litre boot, which expands to 1520 litres if the rear seats are folded. Helpfully, they are split 40-20-40 and slide-adjustable to allow the right balance of load space and passenger accommodation.
2021 interior updates include leather sourced from cows with a better skincare regime for a finer-grain hide, a new selection of interior trim materials including aluminium rhombus finish for the Sport but the new 10.1-inch MMI screen is the centerpiece.
The imposing display is filled with the latest software allowing greater customisation through moveable tiles. It offers intuitive operation, sharp graphics and responsive touchscreen technology along with satisfying click responses to instructions.
Some owners would perhaps appreciate the fold-away option Audi offered in some earlier models for a beautifully clean dash layout when the screen is not required, but with standard smartphone mirroring it’s hard to imagine a time when the screen won’t be in use. Wireless device charging is also included and two devices can be connected via Bluetooth simultaneously.
The impressive central screen is not upstaged by Audi’s proliferating Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster which still looks fresh. For the 2021 update, the display has been updated with a three views, which effectively translates to six when you hit the ‘view’ button to switch between dominating gauges or a more prominent information screen.
If you don’t get along with touchscreens in cars or the various options in the Virtual Cockpit, perhaps you’ll like the Q5’s new ‘Hey Audi’ voice activation function that’s similar to ‘Hey Mercedes’ MBUX technology.
While our experience with the Benz interpretation is largely positive, the Audi equivalent wasn’t quite so successful – perhaps it was just our reviewer’s accent.
As always, perhaps the only treacherous element of Q5 shopping is the tempting but pricey options list. There are a couple of packages that bundle frequently ticked items including the Comfort pack and Technik pack, but roam far from the better value packs and you had better have deep pockets.
Included in the price however, is Audi’s excellent 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder which continues to deliver a commendable balance of performance and efficiency. With 183kW and 370Nm on tap the TFSI engine delivers the rev-happy power of a petrol but torque that gets close to the 2.0-litre TDI diesel.
It can’t quite manage the diesel’s efficiency which is a claimed 5.4 litres per kilometer, and while a claimed figure of 8.0L/100km might not sound particularly frugal, our test car managed an actual efficiency of 8.9L/100km during a day of largely enthusiastic driving.
Still not convinced? Well a recent similar road trip with the equivalent BMW X3 (also equipped with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol) returned a figure of 12.7L/100km.
Part of the Audi’s respectable fuel economy is thanks to the arrival of mild hybrid technology for the four-cylinder powertrains. Wait for the 50 TDI and you will have access to more beefy 48-volt muscle but the existing range uses a 12-volt system to improve efficiency.
The starter/generator unit now replaces the more conventional starter motor and the noise associated with it, the new Q5 firing up from idle stop with an eerie smoothness and silence. The same system can add a small amount of torque into the proceedings for improved performance and economy – although hard to perceive.
Off-the-mark acceleration is strong and a claimed zero to 100km/h time of 6.3 seconds is lunging into hot hatch territory. Throttle response is also excellent and there’s little perceptible turbo lag in gear, while the four-cylinder is eager to rev out to the red line.
As before, the four-cylinder is bolted to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and sends power to all four corners via Audi’s proprietary quattro all-wheel drive system. The result is a smooth power delivery, paired with the urgency of a dual-clutch gearbox when you need it.
No changes have been made to the Q5’s chassis with the update and that’s good news. Ride quality is on the firm side but the tuning aces a good balance of comfort for occupants and involvement for the driver.
The only downside is the excessively light steering which struggles to communicate much of the action from the front wheels. In foul weather there is a confidence to be found in the quattro all-wheel drive and a satisfying resistance to body roll, but it would be even more enjoyable if the beautifully ergonomic steering wheel was a little more chatty.
Out of town however, the Q5 is still a hoot to blast though some fast B-road corners even when the weather is nasty and, light steering aside, there’s a dependability to the Q5’s footing. After all, torrential downpour and an electrical storm is quattro weather isn’t it?
With a light refresh, Audi’s popular mid-sized SUV is still a great all-round performer offering a good balance of performance and efficiency, involving driver dynamics and class-leading cabin design.
It can’t quite match the driving enjoyment of the more expensive BMW X3, Volvo’s XC60 also represents a compelling alternative, and the options selection is still merciless if you dare to dive in, but the Sport variants offer perhaps the safest way to avoid ‘option shock’.
With a generous list of standard equipment, the mid-range Q5 manages to sit comfortably in the premium segment without needing to delve into the eye-watering extras realm – indeed, our test car was only optioned with metallic paint adding $1990 to the bottom line.
It’s still on the pricey side relatively speaking, but Audi’s Q5 continues to battle hard in the fickle market thanks to a blend of subtle style, sophisticated drivetrain tech and a badge with which Australians are fondly familiar.
Model Audi Q5 45 TFSI Sport
Engine 1984cc 4cyl, doch, 16v turbo
Max power 183kW @ 5000–6500 rpm
Max torque 370Nm @ 1600-4500 rpm
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto
On sale now