Audi Q5 review
The Audi Q5 is a premium crossover that rivals the BMW X3 and sits below the larger Q7 in the range
Launched in 2009 and facelifted in 2012, the Q5 features impeccable build quality, an upmarket interior and decent driving dynamics. All models feature Audi’s trademark quattro four-wheel drive system as standard, but the Q5 feels more at home on the road than scrabbling around on muddy tracks.
There’s a choice of three engines – two diesel and one petrol – but each is available in tow states of tune. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel can be had with 148bhp or 175bhp, while there are 178bhp and 222bhp versions of the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol. At the top of the range is a 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel that gets 241bhp in standard guise or 309bhp in the twin turbo SQ5.
All versions of the Q5 are composed and capable on the road, with strong grip, decent body control and well-weighted steering. The permanent four-wheel drive transmission also provides confidence-inspiring grip, even in slippery conditions. S line models suffer from a firm ride, but the stiff suspension set-up can be changed for the softer SE setting at no extra cost. Refinement is good, too.
As with all Audi models, the Q5 benefits from a classy and upmarket interior. The design of the dashboard is beginning to look a little dated, but the interior is packed full of upmarket materials and the fit and finish is second to none.
The interior is reasonably practical, too, with space for five adults and large boot, which can be extended by folding the rear bench flat.
There are three trim levels to choose from: SE, S Line, S Line Plus and SQ5. All models are well equipped, with alloy wheels, climate control, leather seat trim, Bluetooth connection and a dab radio featuring on all models.
Our choice: Q5 2.0 TDI 177 SE
Engines, performance and drive
One thing you'll notice with the Audi Q5 is that the ride is a little bit firm, but well-judged damping does ensure that it handles bumps without major problems.
The 2.0-litre and 3.0-litre TDI engines both offer great performance, and the latter benefits from Audi's seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission as standard – it’s an optional extra on the 2.0-litre in place of the standard six-speed unit.
For most buyers, the 2.0-litre TDI engines will offer the best blend of performance and economy. The entry-level 148bhp unit feels muscular enough, but the 175bhp version feels even more effortless
There's also a smooth and punchy 2.0-litre TFSI petrol that’s available with either 178bhp or 222bhp. It can’t match the diesel versions for fuel economy, but it’s more frugal than you’d think, plus the higher powered model can be ordered with the excellent eight-speed gearbox.
This transmission is standard fit on the SQ5 flagship, which features a thunderous twin turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel that packs 309bhp and a thumping 650Nm of torque. As a result, the high-riding Audi demolishes the 0-62mph sprint in a claimed 5.1 seconds.
However, while the SQ5 is fast, it lacks finesse. It grips hard on smooth surfaces, but the crushingly firm suspension causes the car skip of line if it hits a mid-corner bump. The SQ5 also suffers from an extremely uncomfortable ride.
Less powerful models deliver a more balanced driving experience. The handling is surprisingly poised and agile for such a high-riding machine, while the firm low speed ride softens the faster you go. Sporty S line models suffer from a stiffer ride, but you can specify the softer SE set-up for no extra cost. Alternatively, you can splash out £680 on adaptive dampers. As you’d expect, refinement is excellent on all models, with low levels of wind noise.
The Audi Q5 isn't really suitable for extreme off-road adventures, but it'll be fine for some light off-roading, thanks to features such as hill descent control and traction control for slippery conditions. However, all versions get the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive transmission as standard, so you can be assured of tenacious traction in all weathers.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
We'd definitely opt for a 2.0-litre TDI diesel model as they're powerful enough and the cheapest Audi Q5s to buy and run. The entry-level 148bhp version returns 47.9mpg in fuel economy and emits 154g/km of CO2. Surprisingly, the figures for the more powerful 175bhp version are exactly the same. The 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine, meanwhile, manages 44.1mpg and emits 169g/km of CO2.
Despite its towering performance potential, the SQ5 is nearly as efficient as the 3.0-litre TDI. Audi claim it will return 41.5mpg at the pumps and it emits 179g/km of CO2.
In terms of other costs, Audi offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, which should help to keep bills to a minimum. As with most of Audi’s model line-up, the Q5 benefits from strong residuals, with our experts predicting it will retain at least 50 percent of its new value after three years.
Interior, design and technology
The Audi Q5 does look a bit like a scaled-down version of the Q7. It's characterised by a big grille flanked with glitzy daytime running lights surrounding the headlamp units (these are optional on all but top-spec S line models).
Entry-level Audi Q5 SE models get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, while S line and S line Plus come with even larger alloy wheels and more aggressive bumpers and arches. The flagship SQ5 is identified by its 20-inch wheels, aluminium effect door mirror housings and its distinctive quad exit exhaust.
Interior build quality of the Audi Q5 is great, with plenty of high-quality materials and a sleek, stylish design.
It's still not as stylish as the latest Audi A6, but the 2012 facelift did bring in new gloss dash inserts, chrome trim plus tweaks to the steering wheel stalks and instruments. Still, the low set dashboard and previous generation infotainment screen betray the Q5’s advancing years.
Still, there are unlikely to be any complaints about the amount of standard kit, with all models getting three-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone connection, a DAB radio and leather seat trim. S Line models add a racy bodykit, 18-inch alloys and xenon headlamps, while the S Line Plus features sat-nav, parking sensors and a powered tailgate.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Audi Q5 offers 540 litres of boot space, which expands to 1,560 litres with the rear seats folded. This is more than you'd get with the Volvo XC60 but just behind the BMW X3. It's a massive shame that the sharp angle of the rear windscreen means loading bulky items can be a bit of a pain.
There is the option of a sliding rear bench, though, which further boosts practicality by moving back and forth 100mm each way. In the front, there are plenty of storage areas and cubby holes, and for a bit more cash you can even opt for a cup holder that chills cold drinks and heats up hot ones.
Reliability and Safety
Audi is renowned for excellent build quality and this was reflected in our 2014 customer satisfaction survey, where the brand finished in 12th place overall. And while the Q5 took a slightly disappointing 44th place finish in the same poll, owners rated it top for build quality. The Audi also scored strongly for its practicality and in car technology.
The Audi Q5 received the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It received a score of 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and 84 per cent for child protection partly thanks to stability control and six airbags fitted as standard. Also included are a driver fatigue monitor and automatic lights and wipers.
There's also a selection of three, four, or five-year warranties to give you further peace of mind. You can also add blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.