The Audi Q5 is old and therefore not as technologically advanced as some newer competitors while missing a few of their top-tier features. Despite the current generation going into its seventh year of production with only minor updates, it’s still by far the most popular compact luxury SUV on the market, and while we won’t see a completely redesigned Q5 until sometime next year, I don’t expect buyer demand to decrease one iota as it continues to offer good value.
The field is loaded with strong contenders, mind you. The Acura RDX is a solid runner-up, the BMW X3 has just passed the new Lexus NX for third, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC is gaining traction in fifth. Rounding out the top 10 are the refreshed and lengthened Infiniti QX50, the Lincoln MKC, the all-new Land Rover Discovery Sport, the pricier and sportier Porsche Macan, and the Volvo XC60. Let’s not forget the brand new Jaguar F-PACE and Chinese-made Buick Envision (don’t knock it ‘til you try it).
Visual appeal that lasts
The Audi Q5’s subtle 2012 update introduced new lighting elements, refreshed fascias, revised mechanicals with increased output and efficiency, enhanced infotainment systems, and a few interior trim modifications, but the overall visual change was subtle at best. Nevertheless, most will agree it remains a thoroughly attractive crossover.
Its bold single-frame grille design is still a stunning piece of vertically slatted brightwork, while the headlamps, albeit simpler than more recent Audi shapes, are up to date due to character LEDs. The edgy, LED-enhanced taillights are as fresh as anything in the quad-ring fleet, and I particularly like the classy, spindle-thin spokes on my Technik tester’s 19” rims. They’re circled by 235/55 rubber, ideal for balancing comfort with more than adequate performance, while Audi finishes off this example with plenty of tasteful polished aluminum and chromed bits that included stylish yet beefy aluminum roof rack crossmembers clamped onto the standard roof rails.
Refined powertrain and ride
For 2017, all Audi Q5 models come standard with the brand’s legendary quattro all-wheel drive system, so getting to your destination isn’t an issue, even in inclement weather. My tester was fitted with the direct-injected and turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder TFSI engine that produces a healthy 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque while achieving superb efficiency. It’s smooth and quiet, too, at least partially due to how well Audi isolates the cabin, which also limits wind and road noise effectively. Moreover, the 8-speed automatic transmission is perfectly configured to the Q5’s personality, smoothly delivering quick and responsive shifts whether actuated via the Tiptronic shift lever or left to its own devices.
I can’t think of another compact SUV that provides the Q5’s level of driving refinement whether around town or cruising the highway. The ride is easily one of, if not the best in the class. I imagine this is one of its most popular attributes, because most buyers aren’t looking for ultimate handling around the Nürburgring Nordschleife, although the top-line SQ5 should do well on any track.
Truly, the Audi Q5 is a dream to pilot. Its fully independent, 5-link front and trapezoidal-link rear suspension is as capable of slaying apexes as its more firmly sprung competitors, and thanks to a stiff body structure and good wheel travel, even more so if those corners are littered with uneven pavement including potholes and frost heaves.
To that end, the German brand’s adept engineers allow you to personally dial in all the comfort or performance you want via the standard Audi Drive Select system that features Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual settings. My personal favourite is Dynamic as it delivers sportier tautness without noticeably compromising ride quality.
All of this performance comes with excellent fuel economy. The 2.0L TFSI claims a 10.2L/100km combined rating, aided by standard kinetic brake-energy recovery and optional auto start/stop. As most will already know, Audi’s 3.0L TDI is temporarily off the market due to Dieselgate, but cancellation of the Q5 Hybrid might be news to some (a plug-in “e-tron” version is expected with the next generation). Finally, the gasoline-powered 3.0L TFSI V6 is wonderfully quick (0-100 km/h in only 6.2 seconds compared to 7.1 for the base Q5) with 272 horsepower on tap. If that’s more your cup of tea, I won’t bother you with its fuel consumption rating.
Interior sophistication prevails
As brilliantly as the aforementioned powertrains and suspension setups perform, I’ll bet the Audi Q5’s many admirers are equally enamoured by its interior. As with all Audis, it’s nicely finished, with most surfaces that aren’t treated to leather, high-end hardwood, aluminum or metallic trim covered in soft-touch pliable plastics. The only areas devoid of such upscale surfacing are the lower door panels, centre console sides, lower dash, and glove box lid. I can overlook this luxury miss because of how well everything fits together.
I also loved the striking detail of the textured aluminum inlays, the cabin’s mostly high-quality switchgear, and the smaller but still very good graphic displays that include a fair-sized infotainment screen. Audi’s excellent, user-friendly Multi Media Interface (MMI) is controlled by a particularly handy lower console-mounted rotating dial surrounded by ample shortcut buttons.
Additional features that come standard in Technik trim (starting at $48,200) include adaptive cornering headlamps, a garage door opener, heated front and rear seats appointed in leather, Audi’s side assist lane change safety system, auto start/stop, privacy glass, and more. These goodies get added to a bevy of equipment pulled up from lesser trims such as headlight washers, metal accents on the outside, aluminum interior inlays, proximity access with push-button ignition, power-folding side mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors inside and out, 3-zone automatic climate control, driver’s seat memory, rear parking sensors, a panoramic glass roof, auto on/off HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped, multifunction steering wheel, and a 10-speaker stereo.
Practicality is enhanced by a power liftgate, a removable cargo floor, a gorgeous stainless steel trunk sill plate, and totally flexible 40/20/40-split rear seats that slide, recline and fold. The latter even incorporate a centre pass-through that’s ideal for hauling ski gear down the middle. Incidentally, the Audi Q5’s max cargo volume is a sizeable 824 litres with the rear seatbacks upright and 1,560 litres when laid flat.
Additionally, my tester was fitted with a $2,800 Navigation package that adds navigation with mapping, a rear-view camera (that really should be standard), a front parking sonar, a DVD player, and voice recognition. The fabulous-sounding, 705W, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio upgrade was a steal at only $1,000. You can also get rear-seat entertainment for $2,000, adaptive cruise control for $1,700, and rear side-impact airbags for $500, not to mention S Line Sport and S Line Competition packages.
Sorry, that’s a longer list of highlights than I planned to include, but there’s just so much to like. As tested, the 2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro Technik offers an ideal mix of performance and comfort with no shortage of features. The Q5 also earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, and should prove highly dependable due to the Audi brand ranking in the top 5 in Consumer Reports’ latest Annual Brand Reliability Survey.
Look for the Audi Q5 to remain No. 1 in sales for some time to come.