Road Test Review – 2018 Audi Q5 2.0 quattro S tronic – By Carl Malek



When it comes to being a true jack of all trades, the Audi Q5 certainly has a lot going for it. With its impressive amounts of luxury, poise, and quickness, the Q5 has always been a consistent presence in Audi’s utility lineup.

While the Q8 is currently hogging the spotlight when it comes to showing off its slick infotainment technology and impressive engineering, the smaller Q5 has been quietly doing its job as Audi’s bread and butter offering, especially for buyers looking for something between the Q3 and the bigger Q7.

But is the Q5 still an excellent volume player in a crowded luxury CUV segment that is quite literally bursting at the seams with rivals? We were eager to find out

Sleek and Stealthy:

When viewed from many angles, it’s very obvious that Audi’s designers were keen on creating a unique look for the Q5 that would age well, while also allowing it to conform with Audi’s current design theme. The exterior styling was last revised back in 2018, and the basic recipe does not deviate much from this established track record for 2019, with the bold front fascia being balanced out by a discreet side profile that transitions into a tweaked rear end that now features more aggressive looking rear taillights. The look is still not as visually exciting as some of its rivals, but it does allow the Q5 to fall in line with Audi’s current design language. We also like some of the small infusions of character that Audi designers have added to the Q5 in an attempt to make it more athletic looking. The hood for example gains new detailing, while an aggressive character line runs from the headlights, alongside the car, and wraps up along the rear of the Q5. Buyers looking for more doses of machismo will have to step up to the SQ5 model which brings more performance focused hardware to the Q5’s suit of clothes.

The BMW X3 and the Mercedes GLC bring more visual flair to their respective designs, but these models tend to gravitate towards either luxury or athleticism, and lack some of the Q5’s sense of balance. The Porsche Macan does have a leg up over its corporate stablemate in the aesthetics department, but being a Porsche offering, the Macan is in a different league, especially when equipped with pricey options. Despite this, look for the Q5 to still carry a bold presence, and its upscale demeanor should still resonate nicely with many of the well heeled customers that it seeks to attract to Audi showrooms. We look forward to perhaps having the opportunity to sample an SQ5 model in the near future to see how the transfusion of performance DNA into its humble flanks affects its visual mystique.

 

Technology And Comfort Create Elegant Atmosphere:

When it comes to interior appointments, the Audi Q5 has always been known for delivering an impressive arsenal of standard equipment, while still retaining its strong value for the dollar proposition. the 2018 model continues this trend,) and it even manages to squeeze in even more standard equipment. The interior is easy to enter and exit, and we liked how comfortable the seats in our tester were especially on long road trips. Build quality is quite good with plenty of high quality materials, warm wood tones, and supple leather accents scattered through out the roomy cabin. Audi interior designers opted for a simple and clean design layout, and this is very apparent when one views the simple controls, the excellent layout of buttons and assorted switchgear, as well as adding standard power adjustability to the front seats. A minor wart we noticed was the rather odd placement for the cupholders. Unlike some of its rivals, they are in a very awkward spot, and this flaw rears its ugly head when storing certain sized drinks.

Moving up through the trim levels only enhances the elegant appointments that can be found in the Q5 with options such as full LED headlights, a heads up display system, top view 360 degree rear backup camera, Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, and so much more. Our tester came equipped with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system, and unlike our last encounter with it in the fire breathing TT-RS coupe, the control layout in the Q5 allows for easier operation, and we liked the way the map for the navigation system can be displayed in the gauge cluster, which helps decrease driver distraction, and brings the map within eye level of the driver. The second row is very roomy for its class, and the seats can even recline via a handy lever that is located right next to the lower cushion. Speaking of that lower cushion, it could use a bit more support to help enhance long distance livability for passengers. The rear cargo area is accessed via a standard power liftgate, and is a well finished space with enough room to swallow a wide range of cargo. Folding down the rear seats helps enhance space even further, and the amount on hand is roughly on par with others in its segment which should please buyers that look to push the Q5’s storage capability to the limit when embarking on family trips or long distance journeys.

 

Spirited Performance Highlights Q5’s Fun Side:

While the Q5 was designed to be a utility focused offering for luxury CUV buyers, there’s no denying that even in its lower trim levels, the Q5 shines as a respectable performance offering. V6 offerings were pitched with the 2018 updates, and all Q5 models (SQ5 excluded) are now powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, with the tune depending on what trim level you choose. The first three trims in the model family (Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige) are powered by the default 2.0 liter engine which has been reworked to produce 252 horsepower ( a 32 horsepower increase.) Our Prestige package equipped tester arrived with this particular engine, and it did an excellent job delivering confident acceleration, as well as a respectable 0 to 60 time of 5.9 seconds. There is a bit of turbo lag that does bog the engine down for a moment or two when launching from standstill, but once the turbo has a chance to fully wake up, the engine is eager to please with its solid dynamics.

A new seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission replaces the old eight speed automatic, and while it does lose a cog to the outgoing transmission, Audi claims that the seven speed aims to make up for this by not only playing a role in improving the Q5’s performance, but also enhance the smooth shift quality that Audi products have come to be known for. We believe them, based on the lighting quick shifts we experienced from the S tronic gearbox on our tester, with even the start/stop system being virtually undetectable. This strong personality allows the Q5 to be within targeting distance of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, though the Audi still can’t quite match the Stelvio in terms of handling, as well as some of the more performance oriented bits that exist within the Alfa’s platform versus the MLBevo platform that underpins the Q5.

On that note, handling in our tester was composed and secure, though the electrically powered steering rack lacks some of the feedback that we have come to expect from others in the segment. Our tester came equipped with the optional $1,000 adaptive damping air suspension, and while it did a good job mitigating body roll and floppiness. It also made the driving experience borderline flavorless, with the Q5 preferring to quietly go through the motions versus offering any form of exciting feedback to the driver. The lousy steering amplifies this, and its artificial lightness might put off more spirited drivers. It also causes the Q5 to feel slightly unsettled in freeway driving, which is a shame since our tester did a good job mitigating many of the seams and ruts that dot a lot of the freeways in Metro Detroit and helped deliver a buttery smooth ride that was well appreciated by passengers. A diamond in the rough so to speak is found in the Q5’s brakes, with the pedal delivering crisp feedback and helping the Audi deliver strong yet stable stops from a wide variety of speeds.

 

Value Quotient:

Pricing for the Audi Q5 is focused in the very heart of the segment, with the base Premium model starting at $42,950. Meanwhile the mid-range Premium Plus model starts at $49,950, but it brings more equipment to the Q5. For comparison, the BMW X3 is slightly cheaper with both the base and mid-range model starting at $41,000 and $43,000 respectively. Meanwhile, the Mercedes Benz GLC is also cheaper with prices for that model’s first two trims starting at $40,700 and $42,700 respectively.

Our tester was in the range topping Prestige trim which has a base price of $41,500. Our Q5 arrived with a healthy infusion of optional equipment with highlights including its $575 Monsoon Gray paintwork, the $9,500 Prestige itself, $1,000 adaptive damping suspension, and the $1,800 Driver Assistance package. All of this helped shoot the price up to a final figure of $57,100 which is higher than both the BMW and the Mercedes. It is important to note that all Q5 models come with all-wheel drive as standard equipment, whereas the majority of its rivals offer front wheel drive as the default setup, with all-wheel drive only available either as an optional extra, or standard issue on a pricier trim level. Naturally, for those that prefer more muscle, the SQ5 and its supercharged 395 horsepower V6 should be a solid fit for these buyers, but with pricing exceeding $62,000 when equipped in Prestige guise, it’s best to choose carefully when it comes to trim level and optional extras.

With a new set of clothes, a state of the art platform, and a renewed focus on cramming in all the luxuries one can want, the 2018 Audi Q5 certainly has the goods to be an excellent all round offering. We look forward to see how the Q5’s minimalist styling holds up against rivals that are either entering the point of being totally revamped, or their mid-cycle update. The ability to stand out amongst a crowded list of contenders will be key for the Q5, and perhaps a more dramatic suit of clothes is needed to help it retain a key place in the minds of eager luxury CUV buyers.

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