Mark Nichol | 13 Sept 2022
What Is It?
The Audi Q5 is one of many SUV-style cars that Audi does these days: the third biggest behind the Q8 and Q7. Or the fourth smallest behind the Q2, Q3 and Q4, if you like. Essentially it’s a quite large premium SUV built to turn your attention away from a BMW X3, Porsche Macan, Mercedes-Benz GLC or Jaguar F-Pace. In the spirit of all these things, it’s really less a ‘sport utility vehicle’, and more a big and fancy 5-seat family car; despite every version of the Q5 coming with quattro 4-wheel drive, it’s not really designed to go off-road. If that’s what you want, then you’re better off with something like a Land Rover Discovery Sport or, if you’re serious about off-roading above comfort and refinement, a Jeep Wrangler.
It's available in 12 varied paint colours with multiple interior options for you to choose from. Check out our Audi Q5 colour guide for more details on customisation.
What's Good About the Q5?
What’s best about the Audi Q5 is what’s best about all Audis, really: beautiful cabin quality and a sense that it’s been engineered to the very highest standards throughout. Every surface, right down to the lower cabin plastics around the door pockets, is made with that soft-touch heft that we’ve come to associate with the dashtops of the highest quality cars. And the refinement is outstanding. Regardless of what’s under the bonnet, and what speed you happen to be doing at any particular time, the Q5 is a quiet, relaxing thing. The engines themselves are remarkably efficient given the size and weight of the car, and there’s a plug-in hybrid version that offers theoretical 3-figure fuel economy and significant company car tax breaks. It’s a car that basically does everything very well indeed.
What Could Be Better?
This Q5 – the second-generation model – was released in 2017, which was just before Audi transformed the architecture of its higher-end cabins with the 2018 Audi A8. Since then, the interiors of bigger Audis like the Q7 and A6 have been centred around a twin-screen dashboard set-up that looks and feels significantly higher tech than the Q5’s. Some might actually prefer the more intuitive nature of the Q5’s physical dials and buttons for the climate control, though.
And for all that the Q5 is a fairly large and imposing vehicle on the road, it does suffer from a relative lack of rear leg space. Higher-spec versions come with a sliding rear bench, which is useful for extending the usable boot capacity at the expense of rear space, but even in its back-most position, taller people might want a little more knee space in a car this big.
What’s The Audi Q5 Like To Drive?
The drivetrain you select does have a tangible effect on the driving experience of a Q5, as does the trim level, but on a basic level any Q5 has the same fundamental sense of high-riding smoothness and excellent rolling refinement. It’s an extension of the whole ‘engineered to near-perfection’ vibe that the Q5 exudes. The ergonomics are fantastic, with a wide range of driving position adjustment and excellent visibility all around, and all of the engines – including the diesels – settle into near-enough silence at town speed and on the motorway. The steering is light, the pedals are progressive and easy to modulate, and the body control makes for smooth (if not quite luxurious) ride quality, while keeping the body relatively roll-free when cornering.
But because the engine range is wide, and includes a plug-in hybrid (as well as a high-performance SQ5 variant, which we’ll skip over for this review because it’s quite specialist), and the car is available in ‘sporty’ S line trim which stiffens up the suspension a little, the character of the Q5 varies slightly from model to model.
Choose the hybrid and you’ll notice a bit of extra firmness under the wheels too, the result of the extra weight of the battery and electric motor, although in recompense you’ll get the added refinement of silent electric-only running on occasion.
All Q5 models come with an automatic gearbox – as is common at this end of the market – and while Audi’s twin-clutch unit is perfectly smooth and quick-shifting the majority of the time, it also suffers from slightly laggy throttle response. That’s really the only irritation, albeit a minor one, in a driving experience that’s otherwise flawless, near enough.
Audi’s number-based badging system for its engines is a little confusing, but every Q5 has more than 200 horsepower and therefore they’re all quick. The 40 TDI is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine with 204hp and, more significantly, 400Nm of torque, so despite being the ‘base’ Q5 it feels pretty rapid – and surprisingly quiet for a 4-cylinder diesel car. The lowest-powered petrol model, badged 45 TFSI, is more refined and has less torque (370Nm) but more power (265hp) and is genuinely brisk, taking just 6.1 seconds to hit 62mph. That’s exactly the same power and 0-62mph time posted by the ‘50 TFS e’ plug-in hybrid model, capable of a claimed 188mpg; there was until recently a higher powered 55 TFSIe hybrid, with a massive 367hp, but it was discontinued.
That’s a lot of numbers, we know, but the point is that there’s a broad choice with a Q5. Someone doing mostly motorway runs and looking for maximum fuel economy will be best served with a diesel, whereas someone doing a lot of shorter journeys – and especially company car drivers – should probably pick the plug-in hybrid.
How Practical Is It?
There are actually 2 styles of Audi Q5: the standard SUV-style one and the ‘Sportback’, which flattens the tailgate for a silhouette that looks more like a coupe, in principle. The penalty for that (aside from it costing a little more) is a reduction in boot space to the tune of 40 litres, down from 550 litres in the standard car to 510. The boot in the hybrid is smaller still, down to 450 litres, and without any underfloor storage, albeit as with all Q5 models there’s a 40/20/40 split-folding rear bench as standard. There are handles in the boot wall so you can drop the rear seats without leaning into the boot, which is a good functional feature. You get a couple of netted pockets too.
Still, if it’s maximum boot space you’re after, then a couple of the Q5’s most obvious rivals offer more outright space: the Jaguar F-Pace has a 650-litre boot, and the Land Rover Discovery Sport (available with 7 seats) has a whopping 754-litre space. Both the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the BMW X3 have an identical 550-litre boot capacity to the Q5, coincidentally enough.
Cabin oddment space is excellent in the Q5, though, and was improved very slightly when the car was updated in 2020; by switching to a touchscreen infotainment system set-up and removing the scroll wheel in the Q5’s centre console, Audi liberated a small storage area in its place. Storage nets on the driver and passenger seat backs are optional, but up at the front of the cabin, the door pockets are quite deep, there are a couple of places to secure your phone, and the central storage bin is a decent size.
How Much Will It Cost Me?
Because the trim and engine range is quite wide, so too is the amount you can pay for a Q5, starting at around £45,000 for an optionless 40 TDI diesel or 45 TFSI petrol in Sport trim, and ending at about £75,000 for a top-end Q5 Sportback 50 TFSIe plug-in hybrid. It follows that lease rates are a broad spread too, although given how well equipped and high-end even a basic Q5 feels, rates that start well below £500 from Vanarama look really appealing. Check out the latest Audi Q5 Lease deals here.
The equipment, then. You’re looking at a standard Audi trim hierarchy comprising Sport, S line, Edition 1 and Vorsprung at the top, but where the base model has a kit list of genuinely impressive scope. All Q5s get 4-wheel drive, triple-zone climate control, a digital instrument panel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, wireless smartphone linking and charging, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Really, it feels like a lot of car, and we’d suggest that the more comfortable suspension set-up makes a Sport model that bit more appealing than an S line car too, albeit S line comes with ‘sportier’ body kit and interior trim. Any which way you choose a Q5 though, it’s got a lot of safety stuff befitting a car with a 5-star Euro NCAP rating, including impressive 93% and 86% scores for adult and child occupants respectively.
Fuel economy varies significantly from model to model, with the 45 TFSI petrol officially returning 33.6mpg and 191g/km CO2, the 45 TDI diesel a more reasonable 44.8mpg and 165g/km, and the 50 TFSIe plug-in hybrid rated at 166.2mpg with 39g/km. The plug-in is of course the version to choose if you want maximum efficiency and the lowest VED rating, but it does come with the usual caveat: if you’re doing shorter journeys, keeping on top of your battery charge and therefore utilising the electric motor most of the time, your fuel use will be minimal. But when the battery is flat you’re left with a heavy car powered by a 4-cylinder petrol engine, and that mpg rating will look fanciful to say the least.
Anything Else I Should Know?
When the Q5 was updated (often called a ‘facelift’) in mid-2020, Audi fitted it with groundbreaking OLED tail lights – that’s OLED as in the technology that powers modern televisions. Why, you might ask? Well, OLEDs use a single light panel rather than individual LEDs, and the panel can be split into segments which effectively gives you a customisable display. According to Audi, they use less energy than LED clusters and are significantly thinner (1mm thick as opposed to 30mm), but they also have a distinct safety feature because they’re fitted with a proximity sensor. If another car gets too close the whole panel lights up as a warning, then returns to its original, less intense, pattern when the car backs off.
For now, they’re only available on top-level Q5s, but it’s the sort of technology – much like LED daytime running lights – that could (and probably will) filter down into less expensive cars at some point.
What Alternatives Should I Look At?
More engaging to drive than the Q5, arguably more interestingly styled and with a little more rear space, but doesn’t feel quite as high quality in the cabin.
Rides with a greater sense of luxuriousness and refinement, but the Q5 has a more intuitive user interface for infotainment.
An unusual choice, perhaps, but the CX-60 has brilliant cabin quality, loads of interior space and probably the most user-friendly dashboard in the class.
The Vanarama Verdict: 8/10
If you want a genuinely lovely family-sized SUV with a premium badge on it, lots of equipment, and your kids’ legs aren’t too long, the Q5 is a superbly built and eminently sensible choice – especially if you stick to the lower end of the range.
3 Things To Remember About The Audi Q5:
- Very few cars at any price have a cabin that feels this well built.
- The plug-in hybrid will give you amazing tax breaks and, over short distances, epic fuel economy.
- Rear space and boot volume aren’t the biggest in the class, but this is still a spacious family car.