Car Reviews

2018 Audi Q5 Review – Preview Drive

Paul Horrell’s 2018 Audi Q5 Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshellAudi cautiously evolves every aspect of its global smash-hit mid-size crossover.

2017 Audi Q6

PRICE From $65,900+ORC WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km ENGINE 2.0L turbo petrol 4cyl, 2.0L turbo diesel 4cyl  POWER 185kW at 5000-6000rpm (petrol), 140kW at 3800-4200rpm (diesel) TORQUE 370Nm at 1600-4500rpm (petrol), 400Nm at 1750-3000rpm (diesel) TRANSMISSION 7-speed DSG (both) DRIVE  all-wheel drive DIMENSIONS 4663 (L), 1893mm (W EXC MIRRORS), 1659mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE N/A TOWING WEIGHT 750kg (UNBRAKED), 2400kg (BRAKED) KERB WEIGHT 1795kg (Petrol), 1845 (diesel)  SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 70 litres (petrol) 65 litres (diesel) SPARE space saver THIRST 7.3 L/100km (petrol), 5.3 L/100KM (petrol) combined cycle FUEL petrol, diesel

AUDI’S FIRST Q5 was launched on the wave of the mid-size crossover boom, just at the time when millions of buyers worldwide decided they wanted something taller than a car, but not so clunky as a true SUV.

For this new one, the looks have changed only very subtly, but this is an almost all-new Q5. It’s quieter, more high-tech, better-riding, safer, more economical, yadda yadda. But hardly changed at all in role or character. Which means it’s compact enough for the city but roomy enough for a family and useful enough for mild adventuring. All done with Audi’s habitual civilised manners.

The new one is based on the same platform as the A4 and A5 series. It uses a quantity of aluminium in the body shell, plus steels with a better strength-to-weight ratio, and is 90kg lighter than before. This helps performance, economy and agility.

That same platform is related to the Q7’s which means some very high-end electronic assistance features, which we’ve covered in the safety section below.

Audi Australia is so keen to get punters into this new Audi Q5 that it has flown a handful of cars Down Under and secreted them at dealerships around the place for test drives. Because they’re in such high demand here, we’ve sourced this review out of the UK – it will launch here properly in June.

Pricing for the new Audi Q5:

Q5 design 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic140kW$65,900
Q5 sport 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic140kW$70,700
Q5 sport 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic185kW$73,500

WHAT’S THE INTERIOR LIKE?

I got out of an Audi S5 cabriolet and straight into a Q5. One a fast glamourpuss convertible, the other a family crossover. And yet, apart from the fact I was sitting higher and had a hard roof over my head, almost nothing had changed. (OK, if you look closely, the Q5 dash does show some extra height, by running a horizontal trim strip between the glovebox and heater control area and the vents above. The A5 and A4 don’t have this.) So Audi has striven to make it crossover cabin thoroughly car-like, and the same applies to the drive experience. If you want your posh 4×4’s interior style to be different from a car’s then you need to see your Land Rover dealer about an Evoque.

It’s damnably hard to find fault with this cabin. It’s boring to say it over again, but Audi really is at the front of the pack with its fit and finish.

The driving position drapes you naturally in front of the wheel and pedals. The controls are logical, and meet your fingers with precise snickety-snick actions. The infotainment is based on a screen that stands erect from the centre dash above the vents. It’s quite a way from you, but you don’t have to squint because the graphics are clear, and you don’t have to stretch because it’s not a touchscreen. You control it via a logical ops centre in front of the transmission lever. In fact, the lever itself is shaped to act as a wrist rest while you do so.

Even the base model in Oz, called Design, gets the same hi-res monitor as the upper Sport trim, and similar mapping. But the system is 4G connected in the Sport versions, giving you Google satellite mapping (pointless while you drive) and live traffic from sunatraffic.com.au (handy). The upper system also includes a touch pad so you can ‘handwrite’ destinations into the system, and a 10Gb music store.

Anyway, whichever you get, it’s a logical infotaiment system that’s easy to find your way around. With one exception: phone mirroring (Apple CarPlay and Android) is included, and they work well enough, but there’s no menu shortcut to switch rapidly between, say, the car-native system and the phone-mirroring system. So if you want to check what track your phone has just shuffled to, then go back to the car’s own navigation display, you face an intricate dance of knob-twiddling and button-jabbing.

Two USBs, an aux-in, Bluetooth streaming and the optional 10Gb storage mean you can take care of your music in plenty of other way than mirroring. Optionally a QI wireless pad will charge your phone too. The Sport level gets Audi’s virtual instrument display. It’s a real wow factor, being able to change the size of the speedo and put on a huge map. But the more I drive cars fitted with this system, the less I use its options. I just leave it in its clearest, simplest design, which apes real clocks. Go figure.

Much preferable is the head-up display, which comes in a Technik package with active LED headlamps and a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo. Some of Audi’s earlier B&O systems didn’t really perform, but this one is a sweet-sounding belter.

Both front seats have power adjustment including in-out-up-down lumbar pads. They’re trimmed partly in real leather, partly in fake stuff.

The back seat has a vividly contoured cushion that suggests there’s space for two grown-ups with a plus-one child between. The kid is also less likely than an adult to grumble about the bulk of the transmission tunnel. Legroom and foot space are fine for the outer pair. Optionally the rear can be had with a slide and recline function. Back-seat life is improved by a local control for temperature, and map lights. For storage, second-row folks get seat-back nets, bottle holders in the doors and cupholders in the centre armrest.

The boot is deep. A 40:20:40 backrest split adds flexibility. On its walls are small nets, an elastic strap and a couple of hooks to keep small stuff from bouncing around. There’s a bigger stretch net on the floor too. An optional system of rails, sliding barriers and straps will secure heavier stuff.

WHAT’S IT LIKE ON THE ROAD?

If I were talking about a BMW, I’d always recommend a 3-series Touring wagon over an X3 crossover. With Mercedes I’d point you at a C-class Estate over a GLC. That’s because the cars are more engaging to drive than the crossovers.

Not so at Audi. The A4 Avant is all about refinement and insulation over driver engagement, so you might as well have this Q5. In any case it’s a dynamically impressive crossover – more supple than an X3, more agile than a GLC.

I drove the car with the 2.0TFSi petrol engine. It’s satisfyingly perky and very quiet. There’s decent punch in the middle rev ranges, and a keen smooth pull right out to the red-line at 6800. You’re looking at a 6.3-second to 100km/h time. But the Q5 doesn’t always feel quite as fast as that, because the standing-start time is flattered by Quattro traction and the instant shifts of the twin-clutch transmission.

That’s Audi’s seven-speed box, and it acts quickly to commands from the paddles. Driven in auto mode, as most people will, it reads the road and your thoughts well. Its shift strategy is determined by the Audi Drive Select switch, Audi’s name for a configurable eco-comfort-sport selector. It will declutch and let the Q5 freewheel when you’re gently decelerating or going downhill, saving fuel and dropping the noise further. Also for saving fuel, the rear axle drive is completely disengaged when there’s no call for rear traction. You don’t notice this, which is entirely the point. When you need some rear torque for slippery roads, quick getaways or hard cornering, it’ll turn up without your having to call for it.

The test car had optional air suspension. It brings a decently supple ride. The dampers control body movements well, so there’s no sense of excess roll in corners or heave on undulating roads.

Into and through bends, the steering is calm but progressive. It’s an easy car to thread accurately through bends, or maintain a highway lane. It won’t have you thinking about steering feedback or throttle-adjustability. It’s not that sort of car.

The main impression on the move in the Q5 is quiet orderliness. It’s brisk and well-controlled, but comfy. And above all else, remarkably quiet. Watch the speedo – you could be going quicker than you estimated. The air suspension option comes with an off-road mode for the Audi drive Select, which raises the clearance a little and re-configures the traction systems. There was no chance to try it on the route Audi suggested… make of that what you will.

WHAT ABOUT THE SAFETY FEATURES?

The Euro NCAP test was pretty praiseworthy, and in fact Australian spec vehicles get more airbags than the base European spec. The set supplied in Australia includes both side and curtain bags for front and rear. Crash performance in the test was strong, protecting adults and children well. A five-star result.

Pedestrian protection is OK, helped by an active bonnet if the car hits someone. Far more significant, the Q5 tries to avoid hitting anyone, thanks to an effective auto-brake collision mitigation system that detects people on foot, cars and cyclists.

Australian-spec cars also get as standard adaptive cruise control, which is useful to save fatigue on long trips and avoid speeding. Strangely, there’s no lane-keeping support.

The blind-spot warning kit is standard here – a good package that doesn’t just warn of cars in the blind-spot, or that are crossing behind when you reverse out of a drive. It also warns you not to open the door if you’re parked at the side of the road and a vehicle is passing. And if you turn right across the path of another vehicle at a junction, it sounds a warning.

Your eyes are also supported in other ways: Audi’s excellent LED matrix headlights are on the options menu, and a reversing camera is standard.

WHY WOULD YOU BUY ONE?

The Q5 is a conservative, risk-free crossover. It’s expensive, but beautifully made. Your neighbours will be a little jealous, if that’s what matters to you. But they won’t actually hate you like they would if you bought a bigger bullying SUV. Only in one way does it lose out to a rival – a Porsche Macan 2.0 is a bit more fun to steer.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety features?
PRACTICAL MOTORING SAYS: Audi had a huge success with the old Q5 and understandably it's taking no risks here. It looks much the same and feels the same. But that doesn't mean it isn't a deep-rooted and diligent overhaul. Everything has progressed in the right direction. Some bits are sharper – the looks, the performance, the technology. Some things are softened off – refinement, ride.


Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.