The 2021 Audi Q5 is, to butcher a quote from Zoolander, kind of a big deal for Audi.
Forget sedans and wagons, the mid-sized SUV battlefield is where Audi needs to make an impact in the sales race against BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
But our suspicion was that the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine in the 40 TDI isn’t the best option at the bottom of the range, and the 45 TFSI is where budget-conscious buyers should be looking.
Does that prove true in the real world?
The 2021 Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sport is priced from $76,600 before on-road costs, and our tester didn’t stray too far from that.
The only option fitted with metallic paint ($1900), lifting the as-tested price to $78,590 before on-roads.
You can actually get into a 45 TFSI for $69,600 before on-roads if you’re will to give up some equipment and forego the Sport trim, while the range kicks off at $68,900 for the Q5 40 TDI quattro.
Every 2021 Audi Q5 model has keyless entry and start, leather seats with powered adjustment and lumbar up front, tri-zone climate control, a frameless and auto-dimming interior mirror, LED head- and tail lights, and a strong range of active safety assistance features.
The 2021 update brings a 10.1-inch touchscreen mounted high on the dashboard and running the latest MMI touch software, backed by a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument binnacle.
The rotary controller is gone, but physical climate controls remain.
DAB+ radio, Apple CarPlay (wireless), Android Auto, and factory satellite navigation with Google Maps and live traffic updates are standard, along with wireless phone charging.
Moving to the Sport model gets you a healthy serving of extra kit, including 20-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats with driver memory, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, and a 10-speaker sound system.
The Audi Q5 carries over its five-star ANCAP safety rating from the pre-facelift model.
Put through its paces by Euro NCAP in 2017, the Audi Q5 scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 58 per cent for safety assist.
All versions of the Q5 in Australia come equipped with eight airbags, along with the following active safety equipment:
- Autonomous emergency braking for vehicles and pedestrians
- Driver attention monitoring
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Exit warning
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Pre-sense rear, which primes the safety systems if a rear-end collision is anticipated.
Moving to the 45 TFSI Sport adds:
- Evasive steering assist
- Front cross-traffic AEB
There’s something reassuring about the layout of the Audi Q5 inside.
With a simple, intuitive layout and (mostly) high-quality materials, there really isn’t much more you could ask for.
With that said, the grey leather trim on our tester drew mixed reviews. Black or the new tan option Audi has introduced might be better bets.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, and offer a tall driving position without crippling headroom for taller drivers with the panoramic sunroof.
Like we said in our 40 TDI launch review, the panoramic sunroof (standard in the Sport) is genuinely huge.
Audi’s more recent cars have ditched their climate control buttons for a small touchscreen, but the Q5 sticks with rotary dials and rocker switches that make a lovely click-clack when you use them.
They’re so much easier to use on the move than a screen – even a good screen with haptic feedback like the one in Audi’s latest cars.
The new 10.5-inch touchscreen sitting atop the dashboard is simple to use on the move, with crisp graphics and lightning responses.
The way the screen makes a button-like ‘click’ when you press it mightn’t sound like a big deal, but it means you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to confirm inputs.
Wireless Apple CarPlay worked flawlessly, and the sliding wireless phone charger is a good addition to the Q5.
It’s a bit annoying the pad either covers the cupholders or the space beneath the central armrest though, given needing to access the storage bin and having a coffee in the car aren’t mutually exclusive.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument binnacle is super sharp, super fast, and super customisable. It’s the best in the business, no question.
Storage spaces abound, from the spacious bin beneath the central armrest to the big door pockets. The open pockets near the gear selector are awkwardly sized though, and don’t necessarily suit a modern phone or a chunky wallet.
Rear seat space is acceptable without being standout. Headroom is good for adults without quite being BMW X3 spacious, and legroom is fine for average-sized adults behind average-sized adults.
With air vents, a standalone climate control zone, and two USB ports back there, there’s nothing for the kids to complain about.
The new Q5 has up to 520L of cargo capacity in five-seat configuration, expanding to 1520L with the rear backrests folded flat.
Power in the Q5 45 TFSI comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that will be familiar to Golf GTI drivers.
It’s mated with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It makes 183kW of power and 370Nm of torque, the latter on tap between 1600 and 4300rpm.
The 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 6.3 seconds, and claimed fuel economy is 8.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
We saw around 10.0L/100km over a week with a strong skew to city driving.
The 2.0-litre engine in the Q5 45 TFSI is a ripper, and instantly elevates the car on test here above the 40 TDI we drove at launch.
Sure, the base diesel engine offers adequate performance, but the petrol 45 TFSI is faster and more enjoyable to drive almost all the time.
Although it’s down 30Nm on the diesel, peak torque in the 2.0-litre engine on test here is available from just after idle until deep in the rev range.
If you’re feeling determined and keep your foot buried, the way it keeps pulling hard (and sounds good doing it) is very satisfying. That’s what happens when you slot a hot hatch engine into an SUV.
Overtaking at highway speeds doesn’t require the same planning as in the 40 TDI, which runs out of puff when you ask for more athleticism, and its more rev-happy character means there’s something there for parents who’ve given up the sports car but haven’t given up on fun.
The trade-off is poor fuel efficiency compared to the miserly diesel.
Although it features a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, the Q5 feels very normal to drive in town. Its start/stop system functions smoothly, and there’s no awkward jerking off the mark or on light throttle inputs.
As is often the case with Volkswagen Group engines mated with a DSG, the transmission tends to shuffle quickly to the highest possible gear for better fuel economy.
That can dull the engine’s response slightly, but it’s solved by a firmer prod of the right-hand pedal.
With light steering and decent all-round visibility, not to mention a quiet interior, the Q5 is a lovely place to spend time in the city.
The ride is well sorted, soaking up hard-edged lumps and potholes without fuss despite the 20-inch alloy wheels. Like the 40 TDI, the 45 TFSI feels Euro-taut so it doesn’t rock and roll around over crests and dips on the highway.
Although it isn’t quite as natural a highway cruiser as the diesel, the 45 TFSI has the same no-fuss demeanour on the open road.
The cabin is well insulated from the outside world, and Audi’s driver assists do a nice job making life easier without taking over entirely.
Adaptive cruise is smooth and sticks rigidly to the limit, and the lane-keeping system is nudges you gently back into line if you stray across the white line.
There’s also a bit of fun to be had in the corners. Flick into Sport and the steering gets a bit heavier, and the engine responds more sharply to throttle inputs to create the sense of a more focused, serious sports SUV.
It’s no sports car, of course, but the Q5 is well sorted when you grit your teeth and start pushing on.
There’s oodles of grip, and the car feels dead neutral when you drive it hard.
The Audi Q5 is backed by a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. It also has 24/7 roadside assistance for the same period.
It’s a shame Audi hasn’t followed in the footsteps of Mercedes-Benz in offering a five-year warranty.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km.
Audi offers five-year service packages. Paid upfront, they’ll set you back $3160 for the diesel, or $2720 for the petrol on test here.
Want an Audi Q5 but can’t stretch to the 50 TDI or SQ5 diesel? This is the one you want.
The 45 TFSI petrol engine is a gem, with more than enough power and a willing character, and the Sport trim brings lots of extra equipment over the base model for a reasonable price increase.
If you’re living life on the highway it makes sense to opt for the 40 TDI, but otherwise it’s worth taking a long, hard look at the 2021 Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sport.
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