Audi Q5 review
The Audi Q5 is a premium crossover that sits below the Q7 in the range and rivals the BMW X3
The Audi Q5 is the German brand's entrant into the compact SUV segment, rivalling models like the BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque and Porsche Macan. It benefits from a smart, well-built interior and features the brand's trademark quattro four-wheel-drive system as standard. Despite this, though, the Q5 feels more at home on the road than scrabbling around on muddy tracks.
Launched in 2009, the Q5 is starting to show its age now. That said, a new version is due for reveal towards the end of 2016, and should up the game in terms of efficient engines and upmarket interiors. That's not to say the current car is off the pace, it just feels a little outdated by more modern rivals.
Under the bonnet is a selection of Audi's well-proven 2.0 and 3.0-litre TDI diesel engines, as well as a single 2.0-litre TFSI petrol. There’s also a high-performance SQ5 flagship model, which uses a 322bhp version of the 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine, while in 2016 a SQ5 Plus was added with an extra 13bhp.
Launched in 2009 and facelifted in 2012, the Audi Q5 is a mid-sized SUV that competes with the likes of the BMW X3, Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque. It sits between the Q3 small SUV and the seven-seater Q7 in the Audi range.
Despite feeling its age, the Q5 has the premium feel and impeccable build quality we’ve come to expect from an Audi inside, while the company’s trademark quattro four-wheel-drive system is standard with all models. As a result, the Q5 will cope better off-road and in slippery conditions on the road than your average front-wheel-drive car, but it’s been conceived as more of an SUV for use on the tarmac than as a hardcore 4x4.
There’s a choice of three engines – two diesel and one petrol. The 2.0-litre TDI diesel can be had with either 148bhp or 187bhp, while there is a single 222bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol. At the top of the Q5 range is a 255bhp 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel, but there’s also a high-performance SQ5 flagship model, which uses the same 3.0-litre V6 TDI to deliver a potent 322bhp. The SQ5 Plus launched in 2016 with an extra 13bhp – taking the most powerful Q5 to 335bhp.
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A six-speed manual transmission is standard with entry-level models, although seven-speed S tronic and eight-speed tiptronic automatics are available further up the range.
Buyers have three trim levels to choose from: SE, S line and S line Plus. The SQ5 is pretty much a model in its own right. S line versions suffer from a firm ride, but the stiff suspension can be changed for the softer SE set-up at no extra cost when you order. All Q5s are well equipped, with alloy wheels, climate control, leather seat trim, Bluetooth connection and a DAB radio standard across the range.
As with every Audi, the Q5 benefits from a classy and upmarket interior. The design of the dashboard is beginning to look a little dated, but upmarket materials are used throughout and the fit and finish is second to none.
Engines, performance and drive
All versions of the Q5 are composed and capable on the road, regardless of whether you’re in town or on the motorway, with good body control and well weighted steering. The quattro four-wheel-drive system gives the Q5 plenty of grip, even in slippery conditions, and the brakes are strong – even more so on the higher-powered versions.
The standard six-speed manual transmission is easy to use, while the seven-speed S tronic automatic (standard on the 3.0-litre diesels; optional on the 2.0-litre TDIs) is that bit smoother. The eight-speed automatic reserved for top-end models is even more polished and luxurious.
One thing you'll notice with the Audi Q5 is that the ride is a little bit firm, but the suspension does handle bumps without major problems. The handling is surprisingly agile for a car with a tall ride height, while the firm low-speed ride softens the faster you go. If comfort is a priority then it’s best to choose the SE trim level, as this has a slightly softer set-up than the stiffer, sportier S line – although you can specify the softer SE suspension for no extra cost on the higher-spec model.
Alternatively, you can splash out around £700 on adaptive dampers, which react to the road surface and automatically adjust their set-up. As you’d expect, refinement is excellent on all models, with little in the way of wind and road noise.
The high-performance flagship SQ5 and SQ5 Plus models are extremely fast and grip hard on smooth surfaces. Originally available with 309bhp, Audi upped this to 322bhp later in the car's life. The Plus variant gets another 13bhp, for even more in-gear grunt. It's no Porsche Macan, but it handles well and is fast enough to keep up with some sports cars given the 5.1-second 0-62mph time.
The Audi Q5 isn't really suitable for extreme off-road adventures. However, thanks to features such as hill descent control and traction control for slippery conditions, it'll be fine for some light off-roading.
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For most buyers, the 2.0-litre TDI diesels will offer the best blend of performance and economy. The entry-level 148bhp engine has plenty of mid-range pull and is good for 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds, but the 187bhp version delivers quite a bit more clout – it’ll take the Q5 from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds.
There’s hardly any difference in the economy and emissions figures, and less than £1,000 between these models, so the higher-powered 2.0-litre TDI is definitely the best all-rounder. While the 255bhp 3.0-litre TDI diesel is more expensive, it’s really quite fast for an SUV, claiming 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds.
Audi also offers a smooth and punchy 2.0-litre TFSI petrol Q5 with 222bhp. It can’t match the diesel versions for fuel economy, but it’s more frugal than you’d think and a fair bit quicker off the mark than the 2.0-litre diesels, with 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds.
The flagship SQ5 model comes with a thunderous twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine that packs 322bhp and heaps of pulling power. It will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds. The SQ5 Plus gets another 13bhp, but is no faster in a straight line.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
We'd definitely opt for a 2.0-litre TDI diesel model as they're powerful enough and also the cheapest Audi Q5s to buy and run. The entry-level 148bhp version is the more frugal choice, claiming 50.4mpg fuel economy, while CO2 emissions of 147g/km put it in road tax band F. That means owners will pay £145 a year in VED.
However, there’s a difference of less than 1mpg and only 1g/km between the entry-level 148bhp 2.0 TDI and the more powerful 187bhp version of the same engine. The latter claims 49.6mpg and 148g/km, so there’s no change in the tax bands and you won’t notice the difference in fuel economy in the real world. There’s also less than £1,000 between them, so unless you’re absolutely pushed for budget, you have very little reason not to go for the more powerful model.
The 3.0-litre TDI diesel engine, meanwhile, manages 47.1mpg and emits 158g/km of CO2, which leaves it in tax band G (only one band higher than the 2.0-litre diesels). So owners will still pay only £180 a year in VED – and that’s not bad given how quick it is.
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Despite its towering performance potential, the SQ5 is nearly as efficient as the 3.0-litre TDI. It’s good for 42.8mpg and emits 174g/km of CO2, so it falls into band H for tax.
It’s hard to recommend the 2.0-litre TFSI for running costs when you consider how good the diesels are at mixing economy and performance. The petrol engine returns 37.2mpg, while its 173g/km CO2 emissions mean road tax band H (£205 a year) – the same as the top-end SQ5.
Don’t expect low insurance costs from the Q5: it’s an SUV with a premium badge and powerful engines. The 2.0-litre TDI models start at group 22, and you’re looking at group 28 for the petrols. The 3.0-litre diesels fall into group 31, while the high-performance SQ5 sits in group 42. The SQ5 Plus is slightly more expensive to insure – sitting in group 44.
Yet while these insurance groups look quite high in isolation, premiums for the Audi are likely to work out quite a bit cheaper than for its chief rival, the BMW X3. This ranges from group 30 for a basic 2.0-litre diesel to group 43 for the top-spec xDrive35d M Sport model, so equivalent versions of the Q5 are consistently in lower insurance groups.
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 per cent of its new value after three years. There’s a lot of demand for SUVs with premium badges, and rivals perform similarly well in this respect, so it shouldn’t be difficult to sell second-hand versions of the Q5 and its competitors.
Interior, design and technology
The Q5 looks like a smaller version of the previous-generation Q7 SUV. It's characterised by a big grille flanked by LED daytime running lights surrounding the headlamp units.
Entry-level SE versions get 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, while the S line and S line Plus come with even larger wheels and more aggressive bumpers and wheelarches. The flagship SQ5 is identified by its 20-inch wheels, aluminium-look door mirror housings and distinctive quad exhaust tailpipes, while the SQ5 Plus gets 21-inch wheels and gloss black details.
Interior build quality of the Q5 is impeccable – not surprisingly for an Audi – with plenty of high-grade materials and a sleek, stylish design.
It's still not quite as stylish as the latest Audi A6, but a facelift in 2012 introduced a number of tweaks around the cabin, including new gloss dash inserts and bits of chrome trim, plus tweaks to the steering wheel stalks. These helped to freshen the Q5 up inside, although it still looks a little older than some of Audi’s more up-to-date models.
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Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
There are unlikely to be any complaints about the amount of standard kit that comes with the Q5. All models get three-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone connectivity and a DAB digital radio. Leather seats also feature, as do an auto-dimming rear view mirror, cruise control and automatic lights and wipers.
Mid-level S line models are more of a styling upgrade than anything else, although they do benefit from more powerful xenon headlights. You have to go for the top-spec S line Plus if you want sat-nav – and it also adds metallic paint, a music interface, parking sensors and a powered tailgate.
Every Q5 features Audi’s 6.5-inch MMI touchscreen infotainment system, but this is the previous-generation version. While there’s nothing wrong with it and it’s simple enough to use, it isn’t as advanced and doesn’t look quite as sharp as the set-ups in more recent models from the brand.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
There are plenty of storage areas and cubbyholes in the front, and for a bit more cash you can even opt for a cup-holder that chills cold drinks and keeps hot ones warm.
The Audi is slightly shorter and more compact than some of its main rivals, at 4,629mm long, 1,898mm wide and 1,655mm high. The BMW X3 is 30mm longer, at 4,657mm, but it’s a little slimmer (1,881mm) and taller (1,678mm). It’s the same for the Porsche Macan, which measures 4,681mm long, 1,923mm wide and 1,624mm tall.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The Audi’s cabin has been well thought out and there’s a lot of space for front and rear passengers. Those sitting in the back have a generous amount of legroom as standard, plus the rear seat usefully slides back and forth by up to 100mm to provide even more legroom or boost luggage space as required. Audi also offers the option of a folding front passenger seat for extra practicality.
The Audi Q5 has one of the biggest boots in its class, with a capacity of 540 litres when the rear seats are in place. This is 55 litres more than you get in the Volvo XC60 and 50 litres more than the Porsche Macan offers. But it’s just behind the BMW X3, which serves up 550 litres.
Fold the rear seats, and the Q5 provides a maximum luggage space of 1,560 litres. It's just a shame that the rear windscreen has such a sharp angle; this means loading bulky items can be a bit of a pain. Audi claims that the car was designed with sharp looks in mind, rather than practicality.
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Reliability and Safety
In the Auto Express Driver Power 2016 satisfaction survey, the Q5 finished just above the middle of the table, ranking 87th out of 200 cars – only slightly behind the newer A6. Meanwhile, Audi came a disappointing 21st in the manufacturer rankings, which is not only a drop from 13th in 2015 but also behind rivals BMW and Mercedes.
The Q5 was awarded the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests. It achieved scores of 92 per cent for adult occupant protection and 84 per cent for child protection, which is partly because stability control and six airbags come fitted as standard on all models. Rear parking sensors and a driver fatigue monitor are also included, as is an off-road setting for the stability control, which can help to stabilise the car in slippery conditions.
Audi supplies the Q5 with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty. That’s fairly standard these days, although models from rival premium manufacturers like BMW, Land Rover, Porsche and Jaguar have the edge in terms of mileage cover – their three-year packages cover the cars over an unlimited mileage. In fact, Volvo (which builds the rival XC60) is the only premium competitor to offer an identical three-year/60,000-mile warranty. That’s fine if you stay inside the limit, but if you plan to rack up the miles then the Q5’s rivals offer greater peace of mind.
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Service intervals are variable on the Audi Q5, so there’s no fixed time period for booking the car in for regular maintenance.
The company recommends what it calls fixed inspection services, with oil changes every 9,000 miles or annually for cars covering less than 10,000 miles a year that are driven primarily around town or used heavily for duties such as towing. Audi also has a flexible service schedule for higher-mileage drivers and those who put less strain on their cars, for which it recommends oil changes at up to a maximum of 19,000 miles or two years.
Maintenance costs for new cars vary from dealer to dealer, but fixed-price interim servicing for cars over three years old starts at £159 for Q5s with 2.0-litre engines. A major service costs £309. That rises to £199 and £399 respectively for models with bigger engines.