Audi Q5 review - Engines, performance and drive
Excellent cruising refinement, but despite a composed chassis and comfortable suspension, it's not the most involving drive
The Q5 focuses on being safe, composed and comfortable to drive, and it makes a good fist of it, too. We’ve tried cars fitted with the most expensive chassis set-up (adaptive dampers with air suspension) – but despite the cost, the ride felt unsettled on British roads. On large wheels, potholes tend to thud into the cabin, and the car doesn't feel settled at speed. Although it's not uncomfortable, it can't match the Mercedes GLC for ride quality. It’s predictable, easy to drive quickly and happy enough to change direction if you’re throwing the Q5 between corners.
What it is not, however, is overly thrilling. That’s because the steering in particular is short on feedback; it’s easy enough to trust, and accurate enough for you to place the Q5 into a corner with confidence. But it doesn’t really give you much of a sensation of what the front wheels are doing and how they’re interacting with the road surface below.
The roughest surfaces encountered by the average Q5 are likely to be a particularly dusty corner of a Waitrose car park, but should the driver get desperately lost and end up on a gravel track, they can have confidence in the car’s ability. It’s not exactly a Land Rover Discovery Sport in terms of off-road prowess, but it’s capable enough for the majority of situations. This is particularly true if the air suspension is specified, because it can lift the car up to maximise its ride height over rocks and mud.
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Used car tests
As with lots of Audis, the Q5 has a wide variety of dynamic settings available through its ‘Drive Select’ button. This allows you to select different modes that affect everything from the throttle response and traction control systems to the gearbox mapping and steering weight. The two settings you’ll flick between on roads are ‘Comfort’ and ‘Dynamic’ - although there is a further option, ‘Efficiency’, which stymies the throttle response further in a bid to eke out better fuel economy.
It is also possible to mix your favourite settings from key elements of the car - ‘Dynamic’ steering but ‘Comfort’ suspension, for example - and store these under an ‘Individual’ setting that’s just as easy to select as the manufacturer presets.
The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is excellent, with rapid, smooth shifts and software that does a decent job of kicking down when necessary. You can always override the system, too, by flicking paddles behind the steering wheel to shift manually.
The entry-level unit is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol producing 242bhp and a surprisingly hefty 370Nm, between 1,600rpm and 4,500rpm. The biggest seller in the UK is likely to be another four-cylinder unit – the 2.0-litre diesel, which produces 187bhp and 400Nm. This is our pick of the range, as it's punchy, efficient and reasonably refined.
On the road, the 2.0-litre 45 TFSI can feel a little overawed by the Q5’s size. Even with the 90kg saving over its predecessor, the Q5 is not a small car. While the TFSI’s broad spread of torque does help its cause, you do find yourself having to whip it along if you’re trying to make decent progress across all but the flattest terrain.
Once you’re up to speed the TFSI becomes happier about life and fades nicely into the background (at 80mph it’s pulling around 2,250rpm). And even if you are working it particularly hard, it spins up pretty smoothly, only approaching a thrashy tone at really high revs - more than likely when you’ve taken control of the gearshifts yourself.
Company car users – and private owners looking for plug-in hybrid flexibility – will be best served by the TFSI e models. There’s plenty of performance on tap regardless of whether you choose the 50 or 55 TFSI e model, while real-world economy will be respectable if you keep the batteries topped up. Select Hybrid mode and the Q5 does a great job of juggling between conventional and electric power more or less imperceptibly.
In this review
- 1VerdictThe Audi Q5 is refined and comfortable, but other SUV rivals offer a bit more involvement and agility
- 2Engines, performance and drive - currently readingExcellent cruising refinement, but despite a composed chassis and comfortable suspension, it's not the most involving drive
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsLighter construction, part-time quattro four-wheel drive and revised engines should deliver good efficiency
- 4Interior, design and technologyFamiliar design cues from the likes of the Audi A4, but the Q5's cabin is smart, functional and beautifully finished
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceCapable enough, with flexible rear seat configuration as an option - but no better than the class average
- 6Reliability and SafetyNew engines and chassis should bring improved reliability. Plenty of safety kit and a strong NCAP rating provide peace of mind
- 7Long term reviewFinal report: plug-in hybrid Audi Q5 rocked our man’s world for five months