The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.2
One in the eye for Land Rover and BMW, the Audi Q5 is one seriously desirable compact off-roader thanks to its build quality, performance and design inside and out.
Reasons to buy
- Strong image
- Excellent engines
- Spacious, luxurious cabin
At a glance
There’s no mistaking the Audi Q5, thanks to that huge grille and the prominent four-ringed badge. The LED daytime running lights are another giveaway, along with the crease in the flanks that runs the entire length of the car. You’ll search in vain for styling gimmicks, because Audi likes to keep its cars reasonably low-key. But that’s not to say the Q5 has a dull design, as there are plenty of great details such as the LED rear lights and neatly integrated rear spoiler. 2012 models are the first to show off the Q5’s mid-life facelift, which includes revised lights both front and back and a reshaped bonnet and front bumper, to keep the Q5 looking cutting edge. Customers also have three new alloy wheel designs to choose from in sizes ranging from 18-20 inches.
Audi makes some of the best interiors in the business, and it’s no different here. With high-quality materials throughout, some fabulous design touches and bullet-proof build quality, a Q5 cabin is a wonderful place to be. As with any sports utility vehicle, there’s a commanding driving position, and getting comfortable in the supportive seats is simplicity itself. However, on cars with a manual gearbox the clutch pedal is offset and as a result it can niggle after a while.
Any 4×4 should be eminently practical, and the Q5 doesn’t disappoint. It’s a proper off-roader, with decent ground clearance, so you can take it on unmade roads and it shouldn’t leave you stranded. The Q5 is spacious too. The cabin has ample room for five and there’s good load bay space on offer. Leave the rear seats in place for 540 litres, fold those seats and the luggage bay expands to accommodate a useful 1,560 litres. That compares well with the Land Rover Freelander which offers 405 or 1,670 litres, as well as the Volvo XC60, with its 655 and 1,455 litres.
Ride and handling
Audi tends to build cars with suspension on the firm side, and it’s no different here. Cars on 17-inch wheels are comfortable enough, but move up to the 18-inch wheels of the S line and the ride starts to get rather hard on broken surfaces. The firm suspension helps when it comes to the handling though. By stiffening things up, body roll is kept in check – something that’s essential with a 4×4 because of its relatively high kerb weight as well as its high centre of gravity. Throw in well-weighted and accurate steering, and the Q5 is good to drive as long as the road surface isn’t too harsh. The high performance range topper, the SQ5, will arrive in early 2013 and builds on the car’s dynamic abilities. It features even larger wheels at 20 or 21 inches, but thanks to the revised sports suspension, the ride hasn’t been completely compromised. It remains firm but has enough compliance to isolate the cabin from the worst undulations. The ride height has also been lowered by 30mm for improved body control.
There are no weak performers in the Q5 range, but some are stronger than others. The 268bhp 3.0-litre FSI petrol is the most potent of the standard range, but it’s the 3.0-litre TDI diesel which packs the most pulling power. The 3.0-litre FSI can do 145mph and 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, while the 3-litre TDI manages 0-62mph in just 6.5 seconds before topping out at 140mph. It’s the smaller engines that make the most sense though. There are 2-litre petrol and diesel engines, and while both are excellent units, the diesel is your best bet. Available in two forms – 141bhp or 175bhp – this smooth and refined oil burner provides strong performance. In high-powered form, there’s a 124mph top speed while 0-62mph takes 9.0 seconds. For those craving serious performance, the SQ5’s 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel engine endows the car with serious muscle. With 309bhp and a considerable 479lb/ft of pulling power on tap, it feels sports-saloon quick, feeling quicker than its 5.9 second 0-62mph suggests. As with nearly all high performance German cars, the top speed has been electronically limited to 155mph.
You don’t buy an Audi if you’re on a tight budget. Purchase costs are high, but Audis tend not to lose their value quite as rapidly as some rivals. The Q5 is so far proving especially good at retaining its value, because there still aren’t enough cars to go round. All models come with a stop and start system to boost fuel economy. As a result, even the 2-litre TFSI can average 35.8mpg while its CO2 emissions are 184g/km. However, the high-power version of the 2.0-litre TDI can manage 47.1mpg, while CO2 emissions are just 159g/km.
Audi has a reputation for building reliable cars, and that reputation is well-deserved. Despite the complexity of its cars, and especially those packed with the latest equipment, Audi customers come back for more because the ownership experience is so easy.
The Euro NCAP crash test programme has given the Q5 a maximum score of five stars thanks to the way it protects its occupants with its immensely strong structure. The raft of standard safety kit helps too of course. All Q5s get daytime running lights as standard, along with Isofix mountings front and rear, electronic stability programme, a three-point seatbelt for all five seats and hill descent assist. A warning triangle and first aid kit are also provided in the boot.
The Q5 is decently equipped with all models getting Bluetooth connectivity, climate control, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, a driver information system, electric windows and door mirrors which are electrically heated and adjustable. Move up to SE trim and the wheels become 18 inches in diameter, the stereo gets 10 speakers instead of six and the climate control becomes a three-zone system. There’s also a multi-function steering wheel, leather trim, rear parking sensors plus automatic lights and wipers. Range-topping S line comes with 19-inch alloys, sports seats, xenon lights and extra brushed alloy details. A vast array of optional equipment is also available, ranging from electronic safety aids like blind spot monitoring, to sat-nav incorporating Google Maps.
Spacious, comfortable, beautifully designed inside and out plus it has the build quality of a bank vault. With great engines too, all providing strong performance, it’s hard to think of a reason not to buy an Audi Q5.