2021 Audi Q5

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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Aaron Cole Aaron Cole Managing Editor
March 3, 2021

Buying tip

We can’t complain about a 2021 Q5 Premium Plus at all. Just pick a good color, please.

features & specs

Premium 45 TFSI quattro
Premium 55 TFSI e quattro
Premium Plus 45 TFSI quattro
23 city / 28 hwy
Coming Soon
23 city / 28 hwy

The 2021 Audi Q5 crossover puts a new face on a best-selling formula that doesn’t show signs of getting old.

A new face and improved tech are just the start for the 2021 Audi Q5. As the automaker’s ‘tweener crossover between the smaller (but still big) Q3 and bigger (and even bigger) three-row Q7, the Q5 is a segue to electrification-curious shoppers, and even some performance-leaning shoppers.

Blunter: The 2021 Q5 needs to do a lot. It’s a 6.7 before all its safety data is factored in, so this score may rise. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The news this year is an update to its front and rear bumpers, along with a 10.1-inch touchscreen with faster hardware behind it on all models. It’s still available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels for $44,295 to start and can reach past $63,000. The Q5 is available with a turbo-4 engine that serves as the base (and it’s our pick for relative value and comfort), or as a plug-in hybrid with a turbo-4, electric motors, and a lithium-ion battery pack. The top is still a 349-horsepower turbo-6 SQ5 that falls short of gaudy performance numbers posted by other competitors but keeps pace for comfort and usable performance. All Q5s are equipped with all-wheel drive, and the Q5 (plug-in hybrid or not) uses a 7-speed automatic transmission while the SQ5 adds one more forward cog for good measure.

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The reworked front bumper will be noticeable to current Q5 owners, but not many more people. The grille is smaller and lower in the nose, but still handsome.

Under the hood of most Q5s, its base turbo-4 gets a little more pep to 261 hp, up from 248 hp last year. It’s our pick for affordability and overall comfort.

That’s because the optional plug-in hybrid pairs a turbo-4 with a 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery that can power the Q5 for about 25 miles on electricity alone, but it also costs around $8,000 more. For that much, Audi delivers 362 hp—more than the performance-leaning SQ5—but it fizzles a little there. The batteries are too heavy and the turbo-4 isn’t as refined as we like.

For speed, the SQ5 churns 349 hp and 4.7-second 0-60 times. It’s fun to drive and that’s high praise for a crossover.

Why? The Q5 still seats up to five, with room in the back for about 27 cubic feet of gear. Every Q5 gets soft leather upholstery and a high-quality finish.

The 2021 Q5 hasn’t yet been crash-tested, but every crossover gets automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. On Premium Plus and higher models, active lane control and adaptive cruise control come standard.

That complements a 10.1-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, at least 18-inch wheels (up to 21-inchers are on the menu) and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is available, and we like it.


2021 Audi Q5


The Q5 is sharper this year, but still a conservative pick.

The 2021 Audi Q5 is slightly updated, but compared to last year although you’d be hard-pressed to spot the differences. We’ve circled the changes like a Highlights magazine photo contest and, well, there aren’t that many circles.

Starting from an average score, we give the Q5 a 6 for style. The exterior is still good, we just wish the interior got a little more love this time around.

The Q5 doesn’t improve much on the crossover’s formula for looks. It still looks more conservative compared to the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class and BMW X3—especially the swoopier “coupes” that both sell. The Q5’s shape is a little rounder, but more hewn this year. The changes to the front bumper and grille are the most dramatic. The grille is both lower in the nose and smaller, with more upright intakes flanking both sides. There’s more color in the bumper, at least to our eyes, and a little more sculpting than last time around.

Along the body sides, the same window line is underscored by deeply creased sheet metal. The wheel arches are starched and pressed a little more this time around, which helps frame the big, available 21-inch wheels.

A new Sportback offers slopes the rear end, but doesn't otherwise change the Q5 very much.

Around back, the 2021 Q5 is largely identical to last year’s version aside from OLED taillights on some models that offer a choreographed light sequence that’s not quite fountains at Bellagio, but better than Fisher-Price. Your mileage may vary.

Inside, the Q5 is heavy on tech but light on personality. A newly standard 10.1-inch touchscreen is perched on the dash like a tablet, which isn’t our favorite look (integrated touchscreens are a little more elegant like the Q8’s) but it lowers the cowl for better outward vision. The same high-quality surfaces reappear, but in black on black on blacker, the Q5 can feel a little cramped and dour inside.

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2021 Audi Q5


Audi’s base turbo-4 and uptown turbo-6 are the most compelling Q5 powertrains.

Good power, all-wheel-drive traction, and a competent ride give the 2021 Q5 plenty of mainstream appeal. The compact Audi crossover doesn’t have the fire-breathing top end of Mercedes’ AMG GLC Class or the BMW X3 M, but it hits the fattest chunk under the bell curve with all three available powertrains. The Q5’s 7 here reflects good feels for the base turbo-4 and its competent ride. The SQ5 would score higher if rated separately.

This year, the Q5’s base engine gets a small bump up to 261 hp, from 248 hp last year. The Q5 is also fitted with a more powerful battery that can keep the accessories running for longer at stoplights. We haven’t yet driven this 2021 Q5, but its minimal change from last year means we can confidently predict its performance. We’ll update this space if that changes.

Like last year, the base engine is paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Audi claims the combo will propel the crossover from 0 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, which is brisk enough to shift a heavy lunch.

The Q5 plug-in hybrid (Q5 55 TFSI e quattro, in Audi parlance) pairs a 2.0-liter turbo-4 to a 14.1-kwh lithium-ion battery and electric motor. The combo produces 362 hp and is paired to the same 7-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Audi quotes a 5.0-second sprint up to 60 mph, but more importantly, about 20 miles of all-electric range and 2-hour charging time on a Level 2 plug. The Q5 plug-in hybrid’s heft and the relatively unrefined gas engine makes this version a paper tiger for performance; our limited experience with it left us feeling a little underwhelmed on its gusto and drivability. It may be a segue to all-electric Audis for some nervous shoppers, but it’s not quite the SQ5 alternative that the tale of the tape might suggest.

For the top of the performance heap, the SQ5 returns for 2021 with the same powertrain as last year: 249-hp 3.0-liter turbo-6, an 8-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive. The SQ5 rides about an inch lower than its counterparts and is equipped with a standard air suspension. Performance goodies like a variable-ratio steering rack and a rear limited-slip differential are available and help the SQ5 feel even more athletic. Its meaty steering and quick feet give us the same good feels from the S4 performance sedan; that’s high praise for a crossover.

Bigger wheels equal a choppier ride, but an air suspension that’s standard on some models (optional on others) can help smooth that out. We haven’t yet driven the 21-inch wheels, but we’re inclined to believe that the painted-on thin tires probably don’t have much sidewall give.

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2021 Audi Q5

Comfort & Quality

Comfortable for up to five, the Q5 impresses inside too.

A new face for the 2021 Q5 doesn’t spoil what’s inside. The Q5 crossover is just as lovely as it’s always been: swathed in leather, bathed in interior light from a big touchscreen, gently hugged by good and supportive seats.

Starting from an average score, the Q5 gets points for its good accommodations front and back and spacious cargo hold. It’s an 8.

Base Q5s get ample, heated front seats that are dressy and leather-clad. Premium Plus and Prestige versions upgrade to sport buckets that we’d snuggle up to any day of the week; they’re more adjustable and offer in-seat coolers that are key on sweltering days.

The rear seats are just as comfy, although we’d stop short of asking three average-size adults to ride back there for long distances. The rear-seat riders get more than 38 inches of leg room, which is plenty for long legs, big bodies, or a combination of both.

Behind the second row is about 27 cubic feet of cargo room—just enough for big grocery runs. With the rear seats folded, that space grows to about 60 cubes, but the second row never folds flat—it’s a good excuse to get out of helping friends move if you need one.

Every Q5 is finished in top-shelf materials with excellent build quality. We wish we could say the same about ourselves.

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2021 Audi Q5


The Q5 bristles with high-tech safety gear.

The 2021 Audi Q5 earns a five-star NHTSA rating, but the IIHS hasn't tested its headlights—which means it can't earn a Top Safety Pick award, though it sailed through all its crash-tests.

The 2021 Q5 is equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors. Mid trim Q5 Premium Plus versions include active lane control and adaptive cruise control as standard. In other cars, Audi’s driver-assistance features are confident and controlled and can help reduce fatigue on long drives.

With its features, options, and NHTSA ratings, the Q5's an 8 here.

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2021 Audi Q5


A new touchscreen dominates attention and hoards our fingerprints.

Audi’s overhauled the 2021 Q5’s infotainment system this year, just as much as its looks. Much like the new bumpers and grille, the differences may be hard to spot; little things can make a big difference, though.

The 2021 Q5 gets a 7 for features based on its big touchscreen and good standard equipment on all models. Top trims get even better, but for a price.

Like last year, the Q5 is available in Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige trim levels across all three powertrain variants: Q5, Q5 plug-in hybrid, and SQ5. The base Q5 Premium costs $44,295, including destination, and the top SQ5 Prestige runs the score up to more than $63,000.

The base Q5 gets good standard equipment including 18-inch wheels, leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, wood trim inside, active safety features (covered above), and a 10.1-inch touchscreen for infotainment with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. We’d step up one more trim level to the Q5 Premium Plus, which adds active lane control, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system, and more available options such as Audi’s 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster that we like. Those versions cost just shy of $50,000, although that price grows with optional gear.

The Q5 plug-in hybrid costs between $7,700 and $8,600 more than comparably equipped gas-only Q5s and offers mostly the same equipment. It’s hardly a value play—it may take many years for the more efficient powertrain to pay for itself in fuel costs—but the plug-in hybrid could be a sleeper performance pick with 362 hp—more than 100 hp more powerful than the base version. A newly optional sport package for the Q5 hybrid adds 20-inch wheels, adaptive air suspension, summer tires, sport seats—and nearly the same performance as the SQ5.

The high-performance SQ5 is $800 to $1,500 more than a comparably equipped Q5 hybrid and includes standard air suspension, 20-inch wheels, and upgraded rear taillights. Bigger 21-inch wheels and a louder exhaust are two of our picks for the quick crossover, but you do you.

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2021 Audi Q5

Fuel Economy

The Q5’s most efficient in plug-in hybrid form, but the base model isn’t bad either.

The EPA has rated the 2021 Q5 at 23 mpg city, 28 highway, 25 combined. That’s a 4 on our scale.

The spend-up plug-in hybrid rates higher. The EPA says it can travel 19 miles on electricity alone, and when operating as a traditional hybrid it returns 27 mpg combined.

The SQ5 is rated at 18/24/20 mpg, which reflects the thirst of its bigger turbo-6.

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The Car Connection Consumer Review

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MSRP based on Premium 45 TFSI quattro
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Styling 6
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 8
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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