A staple of the Audi fleet, the Q5 has always had a loyal following. Just the right size, great design and great driveability. It would seem hard to improve on the model. For 2021, Audi has taken a softly-softly approach with a few nicely executed design tweaks and other inoffensive changes.

But is that enough? There’s a lot of juicy, luxury mid-sized SUVs out there, so something in this market segment needs to be a bit special to nail sales.

We took a mid-spec Q5 for a week’s test to see if it meets the standards needed to retain Audi buyers, and perhaps drag some across from Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Lexus.

After a week, Rob Clubley took the Q5 for another week to see what he thought of it.

The Range

There’s 4 models of Q5 to pick from, interestingly one petrol powered, and the rest diesel, and all all-wheel drive. The base model of the range is the 40 TDI quattro Advanced, at $92,900. This is powered by a 2-litre turbo-diesel putting out 150kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Next up is the $100,900 40 TDI quattro S Line, with the same running gear. There’s the 45 TFSI model next at $106,900 and powered by a 2-litre turbo-petrol engine, managing 183kW of power and 370Nm of torque. These three models have the same 7-speed S Stronic automatic transmission.

Top of the tree is the SQ5 with a V6 turbo-diesel, this one putting out a decent 251kW of power and an awesome (for the size of this car) 700Nm of torque. This is priced at $134,900 and has an 8-speed tiptronic transmission. The two lower diesel models will get you to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, the TFSI is 6.3 seconds and the SQ5 an excellent 5.1 seconds.

With prices starting at near-on $100K, standard equipment levels are very good. Base equipment includes the City Assistance Package (rear view camera, front and rear sonar, Lane Change Warning, Audi Pre-Sense Rear, Rear Cross Traffic Assist, and Exit Warning), Collision Avoidance Assist, Audi Pre-Sense City, Audi Active Lane Assist, cruise control with limiter, 18” alloy wheels, tyre pressure monitoring system, heated exterior mirrors, DRLs, LED headlights and taillights, an electric tailgate, electric and heated front seats, SatNav with Google Earth, Audi Drive Select, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone AC, wireless phone charging, auto-dimming interior mirror, LED interior lighting, and a leather steering wheel with shift paddles.

The 40 TDI quattro S Line ups the ante, adding adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, sports suspension, electric folding exterior mirrors with folding, 19” alloys, Audi Virtual Cockpit, and keyless entry.

Other than the different powertrain, the 45 TFSI also has front and rear side airbags, a 360-degree camera, Park Assist (automatic parking), automatic high beams, 20” alloys, sports front seats, three-zone AC, a black headliner (instead of grey), and privacy glass.

The SQ5 has everything, including Matrix headlights, air suspension with electronic shock absorption control,  21” alloy wheels, sequential indicators all round, red brake callipers, an ambient lighting package, heads-up display, and electric steering wheel adjustment.

Because Audi, there’s a HUGE list of options you can add, with 17 alloy wheel options, 3 different rear OLED light cluster options, and a host of other goodies to pick from. 

Our test car was fitted with a variety of options; District Green paint (NC), ‘Black’ (interior) at no charge, aluminum roof rails (NC), the Black Optic Package at $1,500, OLED rear lamp cluster at $3,300, 21” alloy wheels at $3,100, and lastly Matrix LED headlamps and headlamp washer system at $2,900. This brought our test car’s price up to $117,700.

The pricing of the new Q5 is certainly up in the range, and you can see by our comparison chart below that it is at the high-end of the competition.

You can read more about the Q5 on Audi New Zealand’s website.

First Impressions

In one week, I only found one person who didn’t like the District Green that our test car was finished in, and the rest loved it. Sure, it feels like it’s named after The Hunger Games, but my God, it looks brilliant. I was so happy to finally get a non-grey or silver Audi, I’m sure that helped my perspective, but others said the same; that shape in this colour with those (optional) rims looks awesome.

It’s certainly a lot more modern and fresher, this 2021 Q5. It’s looking a lot sharper at the front, and there’s some nice scalloping on the sides too, along with a rising and falling waist line. Our test car was specced up with 21” alloy wheels – 5-double-spoke with grey inserts at $3,100, and they suited the car perfectly.

Up front, the grill was a bit plasticky for me – it bends in quite easily when you push it, and didn’t seem in keeping with the rest of the car, as far as quality of build goes. The front certainly looks more aggressive than the outgoing model; it’s lost that friendly, happy face, and now has an angrier ‘move over’ face.

Around the back there’s some black fake exhaust tips finishing off the lower part of the car. Our test car was fitted with some optional OLED tailights using ‘light signature 2’, since there are a 3 different OLED light clusters to choose from. They looked good at night, but I’m not sure I could justify the $3,300 price tag for that rear lamp cluster. These new OLED clusters do have proximity detection, meaning if a road user approaches within 2 metres of the rear of the car, all the OLED segments light up, which is a nice safety feature.

Walking around the car there’s a distinct lack of shiny chrome. Black and green is the order of the day, and I love this shape in that colour. District Green is one of two new colour options, the other being Ultra Blue. Sadly, I bet the majority of Q5 sales will be grey or silver. Such a shame.

The Interior

Like so many cars we get to review now, the interior of the 2021 Q5 test car was all black. I wish more would put in at least a beige of ivory headlining – this lifts the perception of the interior hugely. So it’s all feeling a little claustrophobic in the Q5. Not badly, but not helped by black everything. If it were me buying this car, I’d be opting for another colour interior.

There is some relief in the grey suede on the middle sections of the doors – I first saw this in the Q8, and it both looks and feels awesome. A classy touch.

The seats – black of course – do have contrasting white stitching in a checkered pleat and look very nice. The seats themselves are pretty darn firm – typical of many European cars – but are comfortable enough on a longish drive. The fronts are electrically adjusted, and there’s also manual adjustment for cushion length, for all you tall people out there.

Just in case you forget, there’s a ‘quattro’ badge right there on the dash, along with lashings of brushed alloy, and some piano black on the centre console. For front seat passengers, there’s a single standard USB port, and then a USB-C port inside the centre console cubby.

For the driver, this model of Q5 has Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, so you get the View button on the steering wheel to instantly minimise the speedo and rev counter so you can focus on whatever screen you are using at the time. This is especially handy when you are using Satnav, and have an almost full-sized map on the dash, as well as on the centre display. We’ve experienced Virtual Cockpit a number of times on Audis, and it always impresses in its efficiency and clarity.

There’s a lot of different angles and textures inside the Q5, but believe me it’s all beautifully finished, with tight lines and a perfect fit everywhere you look.

It’s a bit of a shame for me that Audi hasn’t taken the opportunity to integrate the centre display, so it’s still a tacked-on unit. My small frustration with this is that while it looks like you can, I’ve yet to find a tacked-on display that you can alter the angle on. This for me is one of the main reasons for tacking on the display, but it simply doesn’t. Next time, hopefully.

The new model has some LED strip lights in the cabin but they are tastefully done. While all black, the cabin does exude class and style, and certainly feels like you’ve spent near $120K. An example of this is the contrasting stitching on the seats – it looks incredible and expensive.

Back seat passengers have it pretty good, with ample leg and shoulder room, plenty of headroom, 2 USB ports and a 12-volt socket, as well as two air vents.

The boot is not massive, but there’s plenty of usable space at 550 litres. There’s also some levers so you can drop the back seats from the boot. Under the floor is a deflated spare – there’s a pump there so you can get some air into it before having to use it.

The Drive

The last Q5 was a pretty nice drive, and the 2021 model is simply better again. It’s quiet, smooth, torquey, and there’s plenty of power available at any time.

Instantly, you know it’s going to be a nice week with this car. After a couple of cars with very noisy (and with newly designed) engines, the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol unit in the Q5 TSFI is a gem. It constantly impresses with its smoothness, and that’s right out to the 6,750 redline. It’s incredibly quiet too, and only heavy throttle use will get the engine to make itself known. Get it above 5,000rpm, and the noise is a nice one – it’s got that highly tuned-european engine sound, and I like it.

You get to select from four drive modes, all very standard Audi fare; Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency, and Comfort. Generally, I’ll play around with the other modes than leave it in Auto. It was the same in the Q5; Efficiency was just fine with the amount of torque at hand, Comfort was fine too – a nice all-round drive mode. Dynamic certainly gets the Q5 to sit up like a Meerkat, ready to go whenever you stab that right pedal. Still, it was back to Auto mode for me. It predicts your driving so well, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. Want to accelerate? Just mash the pedal, and the Q5 will go into Sport mode temporarily to get you the acceleration you are asking for.

And boy it does accelerate very well for this size SUV. It gets to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds, and as mentioned sounds so good getting there. It can really pick up and move it if you need to, and midrange performance for overtaking is a breeze. There always seems to be plenty of power at hand, at any revs.

It’s time for the ‘but’. Honestly, this drivetrain is almost brilliant. But the dual-clutch transmission can spend a while deciding to get into gear, and then release the clutch so you can actually move forward. It’s not the worst I’ve driven for this, but it overshadowed what is essentially an excellent engine/transmission combo. In saying that, in Sport mode on a full throttle, the upchages are lightning quick – it blitzes through the gears.

The Q5 is now fitted with Audi’s ‘Mild Hybrid’ system which means a variety of tweaks, such as coasting. We saw this recently on the S5, where the engine will shut off if you go below 20km/h. It does this intelligently using radar, GPS and other factors to decide if it will turn off or not. It can feel strange but once you get used to it, becomes second nature while driving. It all helps to save gas and reduce carbon emissions.

Handling-wise, the Q5 as a TSFI model does brilliantly, especially when fitted with optional 21” rims and Pirelli P-Zero tyres at 255/40 all round.  While corners aren’t taken flat, you can really push the car around them as quickly as you’d like, with the quattro all-wheel drive system backing you up, along with those sticky Pilrellis.

You’d think then with huge rims and low profile tyres, the Q5 would ride like a rock. For me, it was memories of the Q8 we tested which also had 21” rims; the ride is excellent, especially when you consider the size of the wheels and low profile of the tyres. It doesn’t quite glide over bumpy roads, but it simply should not ride this well.

The 45 TFSI is fitted with Audi’s safety package, such as adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a host of other safety features. Sometimes these are just words on a page, and that’s it. For some people they simply add cost, but may never be needed. But for me, one of the safety systems paid off during my week with the car. I was driving through town, spying a courier driver on the other side of the road, itching to get across and deliver something. The way he was in a sprint position made me think maybe he was carrying a heart for a transplant or something like that, but then we were nowhere near a hospital. I kept him in my sights, noting that he was actually looking at me approaching. Then what does he do? He ran right in front of the Q5. Within a split second, up on the dash comes the words Audi Pre Sense! and then the car stopped. This was before I could even get my foot on the brake pedal. So undies remained clean, and a courier driver lived to see another day. Thanks, Audi. It works.

Using the new Q5 as a Daily Driver really hit home just how good this car is. Ignoring all the words above about performance and driveability, there are other things to make your commute just that much easier. For example, the voice to satnav actually works. I often avoid this, as it generally is a waste of time, but the Q5 nailed it three times in a row, actually picking up the street name correctly from my voice. That’s a record for me.

Other items include the excellent adaptive cruise control, taking you right down to a stop if needed. There’s 3-zone air con, and even though it’s listed as 11.8 metres, the car feels like it has an excellent turning circle. The steering wheel feels awesome in your hands, the auto brake-hold actually works the way intended at the traffic lights, and hallelujah! It stays on when you get out of the car, then back in again.

Other great features are generally excellent visibility (along with blind spot monitoring), Audi’s superb audio controls on the steering wheel, and a Qi charger that slides back with your phone still on it to reveal cup holders – such a nice party trick, the disappearing cellphone. You do get a verbal reminder though, so there’s no danger of walking off without it.

The matrix headlights on the Q5 are amazing, as they should be at an additional $2,900. They’re adaptive of course, so they will put on high beams even when you are following someone (or there’s someone on the other side of the road/motorway) but will not blind other drivers. I’m not sure they’re up there with BMW’s laser headlights, but they are extremely impressive all the same.

In my view, the best steering wheel audio controls in the business. Simple and effective. It’s all you need.

Bad points? Other than the DCT transmission, I was really surprised that there’s no heads-up display (HUD) at near-on $120,000. You can option one in, but it’s a $2,750 cost. With the Corolla ZR having one at $30,000, a HUD should be standard equipment at this price point. And while generally things are extremely quiet in the cabin on the Q5, as usual tyre noise on coarse-chip seal can be a little noisy, but honestly with those slim tyres that’s no surprise.

Fuel economy over 600Kms of driving was 9.0L/100km, a way off Audi’s suggested 7.5. Still, for a relatively heavy SUV with a turbo petrol motor, 9.0 is reasonable.

[Rob’s View]

I drove the Q5 for a week, and very much enjoyed it. It’s surprisingly quick, handles better than a car this size should, and is much more comfortable than I expected it would be on those massive 21″ wheels. What really stood out to me was how quiet it is most of the time. Genuinely impressive levels of refinement. The green metallic paint earned lots of positive comments too.

I did have a few small niggles. The cup holders are designed more for Mcdrinks than coffees, so are too deep to easily get your cup out. The Audi pre-sense safety systems were a little too enthusiastic. I live in a suburb with lots of tight roads and parked cars and it was warning constantly. And once when reversing out of a diagonal parking space it kept braking hard for oncoming cars from both directions, before I had crept out of the space far enough to see them myself. Great for safety, but frustrating when the car won’t let you move! It braked so hard that my lower back ached for several hours.

But these are minor issues really, and the Pre-Sense sensitivity can be turned down. Overall I liked the Q5 very much and would love to have one as my family car.

The Competition

Brand/ModelEnginePower/Torque
kW/Nm
SeatsCargo capacity, litresFuel L/100kmBase Price – High to Low
Audi Q5 45 TFSI AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol183/37055507.5$106,900
Porsche Macan AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol185/37055008.9$105,900
BMW X3 xDrive30i AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol185/35054607.4$102,900
Lexus NX300 F Sport AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol175/3505NA7.9$95,400
Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-supercharged-petrol246/44056358.0$92,900
Mercedes-Benz GLB250 AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol165/35055657.4$92,900
Jaguar E-PACE Checkered Flag AWD2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol186/36555778.1$85,900

The Pros and Cons

Pros
Great engine – smooth, torquey, so very quiet
Performance
Quality of finish
Space
Design
Surety of AWD     
Cons
No HUD at $117K
Some tyre noise
Dark inside
Transmission can be jerky from stop, indecisive
Vehicle Type5-door, medium SUV
Starting Price$106,900
Price as Tested$117,700
Engine2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol with Mild Hybrid system
Power, TorquekW/Nm183/370
Transmission7-speed S Tronic
Spare WheelDeflated space saver, with pump
Kerb Weight, Kg1,760
Length x Width x Height, mm4682x1893x1662
Cargo Capacity, litres550/1520
Fuel capacity, litres73
Fuel EfficiencyAdvertised Spec – combined – 7.5L/100km
Real World Test – combined – 9.0L/100km
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750/2,400
Turning circle, metres11.8
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 Years, 150,000Km
5 Years, 150,000KM Roadside Assist
3 Years, 150,000Km Audi Motoring Plan
12 Years anti-corrosion
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 Star
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
8
Performance
8
Safety
8
Styling
9
Value
6
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How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on www.usa2nz.co.nz. We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm also an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.

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