New & Used Audi Q5: In Depth
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The Audi Q5 is one of the German automaker's best sellers against competitors such as Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and Range Rover Evoque. Despite being on the market for seven model years, it remains a popular choice due to excellent interior space and refinement, good handling, and a pair of green drivetrain options. It was recently joined in the U.S. by the smaller Q3 crossover and sits below the three-row Q7 in Audi's utility range.
Expect an update to the five-passenger crossover soon after the Audi A4 sedan gets refreshed probably sometime within the next year.
MORE: Read our 2015 Audi Q5 review for more information, including fuel economy ratings and pricing with options
With the Q5, Audi doesn't stray too far from the successful luxury-crossover formula. The platform is derived from the A4's, but the Q5 has better ground clearance and now comes standard with Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive system for great all-weather traction.
The Q5 arrived in U.S. showrooms in late 2009 as a 2009 model, and was left virtually unchanged for the 2010 model year, offered in a single configuration: with a V-6 engine, an automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. This initial Q5 had a smart mix of luxury and performance off the bat. The heart of the performance package was a 3.2-liter, 270-horsepower V-6, teamed up with a six-speed automatic with manual gear selection and all-wheel drive. It was powerful but created a little more volume and vibration than expected from an otherwise refined German offering. Gearchanges were smooth enough, and Audi claimed a 0–60 mph time of 6.7 seconds.
The Q5's chief dynamic liability is its fairly stiff ride, and Audi's adjustable Drive Select suspension and steering are some of our least favorite applications of chassis electronics. The Q5 will tow 4,400 pounds and has nearly 8 inches of ground clearance, so mild off-roading isn't entirely out of the question. Most versions come with luxury features like leather, Bluetooth, and satellite radio; a panoramic sunroof is a great addition to the options list.
In the 2011 model year, Audi added a new drivetrain option to the Q5 mix--a version of the VW/Audi corporate turbocharged four-cylinder making 211 horsepower. Mated to a six-speed automatic and front-wheel drive in base form, this is the Q5 we recommended unanimously at the time. It felt lighter on its feet, produced much better fuel-economy numbers than the V-6 (20/27 mpg versus 18/23 mpg), and had a lower sticker price. That said, it's still rare to find a Q5 priced below $40,000 with popular features.
For the 2013 model year, the Audi Q5 carried over its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but offered as a high-output option its 272-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 coupled to an eight-speed automatic, plus a new Q5 Hybrid was added to the mix. The hybrid blends the turbo four powertrain and eight-speed automatic with lithium-ion batteries and a 54-hp electric motor for a net of 245 hp, a 0–60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, and a combined gas-mileage rating of 26 mpg. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard with the hybrid, as it is now with the other powertrains.
Audi added a TDI turbodiesel Q5 to its lineup for the 2014 model year; it earns EPA ratings of up to 27 mpg combined. On the other end of the spectrum, an SQ5 was added as the high-performance version of the Q5. It uses a 354-hp version of the corporate supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and also gets upgrades to chassis and suspension components; it manages just 19 mpg combined. With those additions, the available Q5 powertrains now number five, easily the most variety for any crossover in its class.
The updated Q5 also offers as optional equipment Audi Connect 3G wireless Internet service, Google Earth mapping, adaptive cruise control with full braking at speeds of up to 19 mph, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The Q5 has a long list of safety equipment, including front, side, and curtain airbags; stability and traction control; parking sensors; and a rearview camera. It has received strong crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with top 'good' ratings in all four categories tested. The NHTSA rates the Q5 at four out of five stars, with five stars in the side-crash category.
The Q5 is due for an update soon, likely sometime after the the arrival of a new version of the A4 sedan with which it shares underpinnings. The next Q5 is likely to debut sometime in 2015 or 2016. Given changes to other Audi models, it may receive a plug-in hybrid variant as its efficiency leader.