The Car Connection Audi Q5 Overview
The Audi Q5 is a five-seat crossover SUV. It was the second to join Audi's lineup of luxury vehicles; today it sits in the middle of the automaker's crossover lineup, between the compact Q3 and the new Q7.
Its rivals include vehicles such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Volvo XC60, Cadillac XT5 and Range Rover Evoque.
An all-new model has arrived for the 2018 model year, replacing a strong-selling but distinctly dated model. The latest Q5 launches first with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gas engine and standard all-wheel drive, but a more powerful SQ5 will follow later.
MORE: Read our 2018 Audi Q5 review
With the Q5, Audi doesn't stray too far from the successful luxury-crossover formula. The platform is derived from the A4, 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. It was 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. Gear changes 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 such as 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 4-cylinder, but offered as a high-output option its 272-hp supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 coupled to an 8-speed automatic, plus a new Q5 Hybrid was added to the mix. The hybrid blends the turbo-4 powertrain and 8-speed automatic with lithium-ion batteries and a 54-hp electric motor for a net of 245 hp, a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds, and a combined gas-mileage rating of 26 mpg, according to the EPA. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard with all powertrains, including the hybrid.
Audi added a TDI turbodiesel Q5 to its lineup for the 2014 model year and it earned EPA ratings of up to 27 mpg combined. In 2015, the drivetrain was among those implicated in VW's diesel scandal, in which emissions were understated and standards were intentionally violated by the automaker. A solution has yet to be reached between VW, Audi, and the EPA.
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 upgraded chassis and suspension components, although it manages just 19 mpg combined. With those additions, the available Q5 powertrains now number four, 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 five categories tested, including the notoriously difficult small overlap crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the Q5 at four out of five stars, with five stars in the side-crash category.
For 2016, Audi added some to the Q5's standard-equipment list and brought on some new package contents and options. A three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and the panoramic sunroof are now available on all Q5 models, and the adaptive damping suspension is now available as a stand-alone option on Q5 Premium Plus models. Audi connect is now available as part of the Navigation Plus package, while a new Bang & Olufsen sound system arrives in Technology package Premium Plus models.
For 2017, Audi discontinued the Q5 Hybrid and added an available appearance package to the top-of-the-line SQ5.
The all-new 2018 Q5 rides on the same architecture as the Audi A4 and it shares much of the sedan's powertrain and interior. Highlights for the new model include an all-wheel drive system that disconnects the rear differential to save fuel and then, Audi claims, it reconnects the rear wheels quicker than any rival. Inside, the Q5 gains as an option Audi's Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster that replaces conventional gauges with a high-resolution, multi-configurable digital screen.