Used Audi Q5 (Mk1, 2008-2016) review - What’s it like to drive?

With a wide range of powerful engines and four-wheel drive the Q5 is quick and sure-footed, although the ride is firm on versions with bigger wheels 

Underpinned by the much of the same platform as the Porsche Macan, it’s no surprise to find the Audi feels planted and poised on the road. It’s not as exciting to drive as its closely related cousin, but it’s better than most. The ride on versions with larger 19 and 20-inch wheels can be firm, but overall the Q5 is comfortable and refined. 

Engines and performance

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 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.

The earlier versions of both these engines aren’t quite as quick, but in the real world you’ll struggle to tell the difference. With 168bhp the 2.0-litre TDI claims the 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds, while the 242bhp version of the 3.0-litre V6 diesel demolishes the same test in just 6.5 seconds.

Audi also offered a smooth and punchy 2.0-litre TFSI petrol in the Q5. Initially available with 208bhp, it was joined later by a detuned 178bhp version before both were replaced by a 222bhp model 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 the 222bhp version capable of 0-62mph in 7.1 seconds. Even the lower-powered version needs just 8.5 seconds for the same benchmark, which is quicker than some hot hatchbacks.

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.

On the road

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 is standard on all models and 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, since this has a slightly softer set-up than the stiffer, sportier S line – although Audi offered the facility for the first owner to specify the softer SE suspension for no extra cost on the higher-spec model. It’s worth checking to see if the car you’re looking at has this.

Alternatively, your prospective purchase might have 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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