The popular Audi Q5 mid-size SUV received a mid-life refresh earlier this year, four years into this second-generation’s life cycle. Facelifts can come in varying degrees, from extensively made-over to touch-ups so light you’d have to squint to notice much glacial evolution.
But Munich’s mid-sized SUV is an important-enough nameplate in a hot-enough segment that it was treated to a raft of changes, including design fettling inside and out, fancier infotainment, more standard kit and the incorporation of fuel-saving “mild-hybrid” technology.
That’s a decent sprinkling of fairy dust though it perhaps needs to be. Five years is a long stint in a highly competitive segment and the game moves quickly. And to a point to where the pre-lifted family hauling range was starting to feel a bit long in the grille teeth.
On test here is the base 2021 Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro, the relatively frill-free take on the appealing high-riding five-door and a fairly honest snapshot of whether the Q5 breed has maintained relevancy with too much bell and whistle distraction found further up its totem pole.
The 40 TDI – we can lose the ‘quattro’ bit because, well, it’s all-wheel drive only – comes in at $68,900 before on-road costs. It’s the most affordable of a prolific eight-variant wagon range if you include the tree-topping SQ5 performance hero, and that’s before you add in the option of the recently-arrived Sportback variations.
Want something fancier? You can upgrade to the fruity 40 TDI Sport from $74,900, or the high-spec 50 TDI S line at $89,600 that swaps in six-cylinder diesel power.
Prefer petrol? There’s a similar walk-up structure for spark-ignition versions, our test subject’s logical petrol substitute being the 45 TFSI that’s priced at a nominal $700 upcharge, or $69,600 plus on-roads.
Premium-badged diesel-powered all-wheel-driven alternatives? These include the BMW X3 xDrive20d at $74,900, the Genesis GV70 2.2D AWD at $71,676 and the Land Rover Discovery Sport D165 R-Dynamic S at $69,110. All prices exclude on-road costs.
Opt for petrol and choice expands greatly to include nameplates such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Lexus NX, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Porsche Macan, though a good many buyers will also likely cross-shop with high-spec versions of the Peugeot 3008, Volkswagen Tiguan and Volvo XC60.
Standard colours are Brilliant Black and Ibis White, with seven other metallic finishes available at a $1531 upcharge.
Added to our test car is the Assistance Package which, at $1769, adds adaptive cruise control, park assist, power-folding mirrors and 360-degree camera functionality, as well as all-speed AEB. Add the optional paintwork and our base variant’s as-tested price climbs to $72,200 before on-roads.
One of the big draw cards of the MY21 facelift has been the fulsome level of standard equipment, and the base diesel does a fair job of bundling in some tasty kit even if you’re stepping into premium SUV ownership at the ground level.
For instance, the fancy 12.3-inch ‘virtual cockpit plus’ digital instrumentation – yes, it’s standard issue in the basic Q5 locally.
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Keyless entry with push-button start
- Leather-appointed seats
- Electric front seats with four-way electric lumbar
- Three-zone climate control with rear digital display
- Ambient interior lighting
- Frameless auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- LED headlights with LED daytime running lights
- LED tail lights
- Audi virtual cockpit plus (12.3-inch)
- 10.1-inch Audi MMI touch infotainment system
- Audi connect plus online services (Google Maps, traffic updates etc.)
- Apple CarPlay (wired/wireless) and Android Auto (wired)
- Qi wireless smartphone charger
- DAB+ radio
- 4 x USB ports (2 x front, 2 x rear)
The mid-sized SUV range continues with its five-star ANCAP rating from assessment conducted by Euro NCAP back in 2017.
It scored 93 and 86 per cent respectively for adult and child occupant protection, with 73 per cent for pedestrian protection and 58 per cent for safety assist.
The entry Q5 fits ‘city’ type autonomous emergency braking, operating at up to 85km/h, though the extended all-speed AEB format and features such as turn assist can be optioned up with the Assistance Package which also includes convenience systems such as adaptive cruise control with stop/go, 360-degree cameras and automated park assist.
Further, the wagon’s safety kit includes attention assist, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, exit warning, as well as high beam assist. Nifty for an entry variant is the fitment of both forward and reversing camera units that display in the touchscreen at low speed.
All Q5s fit eight airbags throughout the cabin, including dual front, as well as side and curtain airbags for the first and second rows.
Audi is renowned for its interiors and the entry Q5 is a sort of amalgamation of the marque’s core design goodness without getting too adventurous or model-specific in its vibe. It’s neat, intuitive, generally quite pleasing within what’s a fairly conservative fit-out, save for the conspicuous big-screen fanciness.
The Virtual Cockpit digital driver’s screen and large 10.1-inch infotainment display do, in tandem, really give this base version a real upmarket ambience.
There’s nothing particularly Q5 specific about the eye candy but the driver’s screen is fully configurable to taste and the MMI navigation plus format remains one of the simpler and easier-to-use designs out there, even if it could be argued that Audi move away from old MMI Touch remote console control has been something of backwards step.
It’s crisp, quick and reboots Bluetooth connectivity swiftly – after you’ve fiddled around with various warning screens and silly user profile selection options before it gets down to business.
As always, the Google Maps navigation really adds a sense of techy occasion. The standard 100-watt eight-speaker audio system, too, is sonically rich and clear, reinforcing the sense that its maker has loaded some quite high-spec electronics into a base variant grade that usually makes do with much corner-cutting in this area (such as older A4s).
The steering wheel is excellent, the climate control array is appealingly uncomplicated, the controls are logical and bar the by-wire transmission selector – with its handy tap-for-Sport trick – it’s achingly familiar to anyone who’s spent much in the brand’s machinery for the past decade or two.
The one head-scratcher is the centre console design – the coin bin is a bit of an afterthought, as is the slot next to the USB port too small to comfortably house today’s smartphones.
Indeed, you do get an inductive charging plate under the console bin lid, though if your phone isn’t Qi compatible you need run a USB cable along the console’s length. If you’re a passenger with a second phone, there’s nowhere to conveniently stow it. Thankfully, Apple CarPlay is wirelessly accessible.
I don’t like the Q5’s seat positioning, which is generally too low and quite lacking in under-thigh support. I also don’t like this SUV’s pedal array, which sets the foot control a lot higher than the ‘dead pedal’ left foot rest making the driver’s posture slightly uncomfortable.
This plagues a lot of Audi’s models and seems quite unnecessary, though it is a matter of taste and doesn’t seem to bother a good many owners.
Rear seat room is decent by all measures and the Q5 serves quite well as comfy four-adult prospect. Kudos for the standard three-zone climate control and its dedicated second-row controls, while dual-USB power is catered for in the back to keep the kids’ devices topped up on longer trips.
Further back, the nicely square boot space offers quite decent 520-litre luggage capacity as a five-seater. Dropping the rear seat backs liberates a very handy 1520L.
The Q5 40 TDI fits a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four that includes 12-volt mild-hybrid technology. It produces 150kW in a 3800-4200rpm band with peak torque of 400Nm available from 1750rpm.
Audi calls it the ‘40 TDI’ and it’s nothing like the pricier ‘50 TDI’ grade, which is a 3.0-litre six of significantly higher outputs (210kW/620Nm) and a different 48-volt ‘MHEV’ design.
Drive is plied through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive, bringing with it a claimed performance of 7.6-second for the 0-100km/h measure, with a top speed of 222km/h if you ever find a legal venue on which to test it. Pretty handy, then, for almost 1.9 tonnes of metal, glass and rubber.
Combined fuel consumption is advertised as a frugal 5.4L/100km and certainly not when you’re exploring its maximum velocity.
Our test returned similar figures to those in reviews past for this 40 TDI combination, spending much of the assessment time in the middle to high sevens if becoming impressively economical stretching its legs on cruise control along the motorway.
For towing, the Q5 is rated at up to 2000kg braked with a ball weight of 200kg.
Much like we found reviewing the Launch Edition variant with the same engine, the base Q5 in its 40 TDI quattro drivetrain guise is, on the road, solid and dependable if largely unremarkable. No foul, really, given the sort of motoring packaging you’re buying into.
How good it is largely depends on how critical a lens you choose to view it through. As a bold-faced experience it’s quite well rounded and doesn’t do anything badly.
Under closer scrutiny – if you’re picking apart quality or execution whilst cross-shopping a Volkswagen Tiguan, for example – there are certain areas that could be improved in the perception of stepping up to ‘premium’ motoring.
The powertrain is decent. Its shining virtues are fuel economy and the lusty torque the 2.0-litre oiler plies once it’s in Sport mode, easily accessible with a flick of the transmission controller. Thus set, it’s real-world swift and, thankfully, not too highly strung to be comfortably useful around the ‘burbs, and clatter is nicely muted however you set the powertrain mode.
It is, though, less than completely polished in normal or economy modes. Response is a little tardy and delivery isn’t quite as linear as it could be. There are also too many little detailed nudges and nips from the dual-clutch transmission that do, with time, become annoying – an issue the 50 TDI six-pot doesn’t suffer because it fits a smoother operating conventional torque-converter auto.
The ride is terse and unnecessarily so. It’s not brutal, mind, but in direct comparison to a fine-riding SUV, such as the Q7 55 TFSI S line I happened to be driving just prior to my Q5 custodianship, the mid-sized wagon’s stiffly set passive suspension feels wooden and one-dimensional.
You could surmise the tune is going for a sporty feel but, given the next step up in range is called Sport, why suffer in base form? Further, there’s nothing particularly driver-focused about the powertrain character or steering system you expect might compliment the sports car-like stiffness.
The Q5 is at its best on the open road, appreciably quiet and resilient to tyre and ambient noise, the transmission much more settled. There’s more a premium vibe to it than in the cut and thrust of around town driving.
It tracks well, the chassis is surefooted and there’s a lot of grip available from the 235mm 19-inch tyres. It’s a rare set of circumstance when the ‘mild-hybrid’ system chooses to the shut the engine down on the move and there’s enough of a wobble in the normal stop-start functionality to have you constantly diving for the off button.
For our money – or a little bit more of it – the 45 TFSI petrol is a nicer proposition to live with. Thirstier, yes, though the petrol matches the oiler’s 2.0-tonne braked towing capacity and offsets its consumption with better performance and driveability.
And, while the six-powered 50 TDI brings another level of performance and refinement, its $20,000 step-up will be an unrealistic proposition for those shopping in the 40 TDI’s circa-$70k price point.
Audi backs the Q5 as well as its wider line-up with an ordinary three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty applied from the first point of registration – something to consider if you’re buying a demo that’s been on the road for little while.
It’s also a shame Audi hasn’t aligned with its Volkswagen and Skoda stablemates in offering five years of cover, when rivals like Mercedes-Benz have also moved to longer coverage.
Servicing intervals are a typical 12-month or 15,000km, whichever comes first. A five-year package wanting for a total outlay of $3160 – an average of $632 per year.
The Q5 40 TDI represents Audi’s tip-in point into fully-formed SUV family hauling, and this current iteration punches well in the feel-good stuff: big digital screens, handsome looks, pleasing cabin design, big 19-inch wheels and badge cache.
It does, though, demand ticking the optional Assistance Package to properly fit out the active safety suite and add some simple stuff such as power-folding mirrors that ought to be standard for its near-$70,000 starting price.
Much of the rest of the package is, well, fine. Some of the specifics, such as the driver ergonomics, ride and around town powertrain behaviour, don’t require any wholesale improvement but could do with a little extra polish.
If none of these areas are of any concern to your SUV ownership experience, the base Q5 could well be the right fit for you.
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