We recently tested the all-new VW ID.4 EV and loved a lot about it. But there’s part of us that still loves the sound and feel of a good old gas engine. Is there a best of both world’s vehicle? Well, we just tested the Audi Q5 plug-in hybrid to find out if we can have our EV thrills and conventional engine cake all in one bite. Let’s look.
For 2021 Audi has freshened the looks of what was already a handsome SUV. Up front, you’ll see the octagonal Singleframe grille is thinner and wider, with taller side intakes. For 2021 all Q5s get standard LED headlights and taillights with dynamic turn signals. Being a Prestige Plus model, our tester also enjoyed some add chrome trim that adds a little lux to an aggressive front end.
The profile is your typical sporty 5-door SUV, made even more sporty with a new redesigned side sill. Our tester enjoyed optional 20” 5-double spoke start design wheels in a bi-color finish that really help fill out the wheel wells. It looked capable and tough.
At the rear, a new chrome trim line connects the two LED taillights, while the lower diffuser gets a little freshening as well. Our favorite part of the whole package was the gorgeous Ultra Blue Metallic paint job – it really pops and make the Q5 stand out in a sea of meh-colored SUV’s.
Pure Audi Bliss
As much as we like the Audi’s good looks, we’re always thrilled to get inside – the brand’s interiors are the gold standard for quality, design, and ease of use. Even more impressive, Audi continues to polish the gem, making the Q5 nicer than before.
Getting in, the first thing you notice is the high-quality leather seating – now with contrasting stitching – and new walnut wood inlays. Yes, real wood! We are so used to the plastic stuff, it’s a real treat to see actual tree. And there is a difference.
One of the big differences for ‘21 is the replacement of the MMI info-tainment control which had a very useful rotary knob in the center console. Instead, you now have access directly with the 10.1-inch touchscreen – it works great, and you really don’t miss the knobs. Putting everything on the screen requires navigating your way through layers of different screens, but it is common sense and you acclimate quickly, A direct contrast to the VW ID.4 we tested, which was vague and confusing with its set up.
Adding to the goodness is Wireless Apple CarPlay which is now standard on all models, and we loved the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system with 19 speakers and 705-watt, 16-channel amplifier. There’s also a cool wireless charging device for your smart phone built into the center console that slides to give access to your cupholders. Nice attention to detail!
Audi has always been one of the leaders in digital displays, and the 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit gauges still remain the best, with a super-clear presentation that looks sharp and upscale, and handy things like being able to put a full-width navigation display on-screen, plus a choice of Classic, Sport and Dynamic viewing modes.
Remember when hybrid meant slow but great economy? Well, that has changed as of late, from everything including the Toyota RAV4 Prime to some super exotics. In the Q5, the performance rewards are so great, this plug-in hybrid is the enthusiast pick of the line!
Consider the stats. The base Q5 gets a nice 13 hp bump to 261 for the ’21 model year. Impressive. Except our PHEV (plug in hybrid has the same 2.0-liter, 4 cylinder combined with and electric motor that boosts those numbers to a jaw-dropping 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. (The high performance SQ5 model features a V6 with 349 horsepower and the same torque as the PHEV.)
In the case of our tester, that means a storming 0-60 time in 5.0 seconds. (The SQ5 is a hair faster at 4.7.) But it’s how the hybrid does it that is so amazing. With the EV giving you max power off the line, it just jumps and glides away effortlessly. The 7-speed direct sequential snaps off shifts instantly to keep the flow of power going.
If you have enough charge in the battery, the E-Tron system glides you away powerfully, with a cool futuristic sound that puts a grin on your face. All those things we said about EV type vehicles – we were wrong, if they are like this, at least! Figure around 20-25 miles of EV only mode with a full charge. With a level 2 240-watt charger, 2 and a half hours is a reasonable charge up time, or do it overnight with the 120-adapter plugged in at home.
Even with the battery depleted, you drive in hybrid mode and get a combined 27 mpg – better than the 25 mpg of the base Q5.
That extra blast of battery power is addicting, too. Not only off the line, but anytime, anywhere, you need a little extra boost – it’s like kicking in silent afterburners. You can surprise a lot of high-performance vehicles. In your sensible little hybrid SUV. Love that!
Which is not to say the Q5 is some bare-knuckled sports car. The ride is smooth, the steering is typical Audi light, direct and feelsome, and the quattro all-wheel drive gives loads of grip. And when you want to zip around or tackle a twisty road, that extra power is just waiting there for you to enjoy. If there is one vehicle that can do it all, from family wagon to thrilling performer, this Q5 is it.
Should I get in the Cue for the plug-in Q5?
Yes! But like most European vehicles, you will pay for your thrills. Your most basic 2021 Q5 45 TFSI starts at $44,395. With the added power for 2021, gorgeous interior and delightful performance it could be all the premium SUV you need. And in that case, don’t drive the PHEV model – you’ll never go back. And if you’re thinking all-in with the Audi SQ5, a loaded model starts at $62,500
Our Q5 55 TFSI e quattro started at $51,900. Considering the amazing performance, a fair value. Our tester added the Premium Package for $3,900, Navigation Package for $1,500, Bang & Olufsen audio for $950, 20-inch wheels for $800 and Ultra Blue Metallic Paint for $595. Add in $1,095 for destination, and we rang the bell at a cool $60,740. One thing worth considering is Federal and State tax rebates, which may make the plug-in hybrid barely more expensive than the base model, and much, much less than the SQ5. That’s a no-brainer in our book.
There also aren’t a lot of direct competitors for the Q5. The closest might Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar but starting at $70,595 and going up from there, it is a much pricier vehicle with similar performance. The budget buyer would probably enjoy the RAV4 Prime XSE at $48,650. Significantly less, great fun. But you’re in a RAV4 and not a premium European vehicle, and you’d know it.
Brilliant and unique plug-in hybrid performance, a gorgeous interior, and excellent fuel efficiency. The 2021 Audi Q5 55 e quattro is our favorite Q5, and one of our favorite SUVs at any price!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.