Evidently once a smooth operator, always a smooth operator.
Audi’s new Q5 compact luxury crossover/sport-ute carries on its tradition of smooth, sporty performance with luxury ladled on for good measure. It’s a bit larger than its predecessor and slightly more fuel efficient too. This is an all-around winner. No wonder the Q5 is Audi’s best-selling vehicle.
For 2018 the wheelbase is increased slightly, less than an inch, and interior space grows a bit. In addition, there is no turbo-diesel engine available anymore. We all know of Volkswagen’s diesel woes, and Audi is VW’s luxury brand.
The Q5 comes in three trim levels, Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. This was the Prestige, but that comes as a package and takes the Premium from its attractive $42,475 starting price up to $51,775, including delivery fee. This added a few more options to top out at $56,100. So it’s loaded with goodies.
But let’s start at the basics where even with the entry-level Premium model you get the same silky, yet powerful, 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that produces 252 horsepower, but more sportingly this engine boasts 273 lb.-ft. of torque. The Q5 darn near literally jumps away from stoplights. Jumps is probably a bit misleading as the Audi is more thoroughbred race horse than kangaroo.
The Audi engineers deliver a smooth running, driving and riding luxury ute. The engine mating well with a 7-speed S Tronic automatic suspension that shifts mostly imperceptibly. That creates a smooth, luxurious drive and is slightly more efficient than earlier models. The EPA rates this at 23 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. I got 22.8 mpg in about an even mix, with plenty of slush and snow underfoot. The one downside, the Q5 prefers to drink premium unleaded.
You might cut into that mileage if you use the drive select modes to their fullest. This includes an off-road setting, plus automatic, individual, comfort and dynamic. The latter is the sporty setting to boost acceleration. But comfort is the best overall mode for around town,
Still, the Q5’s rack and pinion steering is sporty and velvety smooth and precise. Steering effort is moderate and cornering feels like you’re in a well performing luxury sport sedan, no body lean.
Audi has found the perfect mix of sport, luxury and precision, not only in handling, but in ride. Multi-link suspensions front and rear along with 20-inch all-season tires give the ute a superb, well-controlled ride. Also included is Audi’s quattro system that provides the ute good grip in the wet. Traction and stability control are standard and braking comes via four large discs.
Naturally you’d expect a luxurious interior and all the safety doodads that are imaginable to be on board. They are, plus the interior in the dark “Moonlight Blue Metallic” was as quiet as any vehicle I’ve driven in the past year.
Seats were gray leather and the dash a black Leatherette with gloss gray fake wood and satin chrome trim. Audi’s seats are supple and comfortable with good contouring for the back and hips. Both front seats are powered and the driver gets a four-way power lumbar and two memory settings. Oddly the steering wheel is a manual tilt/telescope number, not powered, which would seem more in tune with the luxury level here.
While even the entry-level Q5 starts with leather seats, a tri-zone climate control system, HomeLink, power front seats and rear-view camera, the Prestige package supplements that with nearly everything else you’d want.
For instance, it includes a navigation system (thought those came with everything now!), awesome Bang & Olufsen audio system, top-view camera, head-up display, parking sensors, fancy 20-inch wheels and a larger 8.3-inch center-mounted screen. It also provides what Audi calls its virtual cockpit, which allows you to toggle between a couple main gauge pod on-screen displays. The cost is $9,300 for the package.
Even going with the mid-level Premium Plus model will net a blind-spot warning system, power hands-free hatch, LED lights and a panoramic sunroof. It is huge. Moving from Premium to Premium plus adds $4 grand to the price tag.
The test crossover also added cooled front seats, manual rear side window sun shades and that 4-way driver’s lumbar support for $1,450, plus a cold-weather package with heated rear seats and heated steering wheel for $500.
The end result is a fully loaded compact luxury ute that does everything well. Hard to beat that, although there are many trying in this segment, including the likes of Jaguar’s F-Pace, Cadillac’s XT5, Acura’s RDX, Infiniti’s QX50 and Mercedes’ GLC.
While delightful to drive, the Q5 has a few drawbacks beyond those mentioned already. The power hatch is extremely tall and me being just 5-5 I found it hard to reach the button in the tailgate to press and lower it. Tall folks would have no problem.
I also became a bit perturbed with the lane correction feature, which I could not figure how to turn off. It was overly sensitive and would push the car back toward the center of the lane whenever I got remotely close to a center line. When you’re driving a sport-minded vehicle it would seem natural that you’d want to turn in close to a turn’s apex, so overcorrecting becomes a hassle.
I’m also no fan of the push-button for Park that is located on the gear shift knob. It’s awkward as is the cruise stalk under and behind the steering wheel. That’s hard to see.
Yet there are a few more pluses too, including fold-away mirrors, sun visors that slide, roller controls on the steering wheel hub to adjust radio volume or trip computer modes, Android Auto and Apple Carplay as standard equipment, and an emergency braking system. Audi calls this pre sense safety and it anticipates you approaching another vehicle or pedestrian too quickly and brakes for you to avoid or minimize an accident.
We’ll note here too that Audi also makes the SQ5, a sportier version of the Q5. It packs a 354 horsepower V6 coupled to an 8-speed automatic transmission. So you get 102 more horsepower, but much lower fuel economy at 19 mpg city and 23 mpg highway. The SQ5 starts at about $55,300.
Seeing as the Q5 is plenty fast, extremely luxurious and is loaded (or can be) with all the safety equipment now available on premium high-tech vehicles, I’d stick with it.
FAST STATS: 2018 Audi Q5 2.0T Quattro w/Prestige
Hits: Quiet, luxurious, powerful compact ute with smooth ride and responsive handling, plus AWD. Loaded with safety equipment, heated front and rear seats, cooled front seats, heated wheel, panoramic sunroof, power hatch, drive select system.
Made in: San Jose Chiapa, Mexico
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, 252 hp
Transmission: 7-speed automatic S tronic
Weight: 4,354 lbs.
Length: 183.6 in.
Wheelbase: 111.0 in.
MPG: 23/27 (EPA)
MPG: 22.8 (tested)
Cargo: 60.4 cu.ft. (rear seats down)
Base Price: $42,475 (includes delivery)
Invoice: $39,571 (includes delivery); $48,221 (w/Prestige pkg.)
Midnight blue metallic paint, $575
Prestige package (20-in. 5-spoke wheels, 255/45 all-season tires, Leatherette console/doors, head-up display, dual-pane acoustic glass front side windows, interior lighting upgrade, Audi advanced key, full LED headlights, Audi connect Care/Prime & Plus/Nav./virtual cockpit, stainless steel trunk and door sills, side assist w/pre sense rear, panoramic sunroof, heated power folding side mirrors, high gloss window surrounds, parking system plus, heated front seats w/driver memory, Sirius XM, Bang & Olufsen sound system, top-view camera), $9,300
Driver assistance package, $1,800
Warm weather package (front sport seats w/power lumbar, ventilated front seats, manual rear side shades), $1,450
Cold weather package (heated rear seats, heated steering wheel), $500
Test vehicle: $56,100
Photos: Mark Savage