2018 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Quattro
A superb compact luxury SUV in most every respect
Audi’s Q5 has been the number one selling German compact luxury SUV for years, and thanks to a striking new redesign it’s sales leadership remains comfortably in the clear.
Full disclosure, the lower priced Lexus NX and Acura’s even more affordable RDX find more luxury buyers last year, but third out of a long list of rivals is still plenty impressive. This said, over the first nine months of 2017, some months of which included this completely redesigned 2018 model, the Q5 has leapt into second place, while first is hardly out of contention as this calendar year comes to a close.
The Q5 isn’t just popular in the U.S., but it’s favored the world over. In fact, it’s been number one in its subcompact luxury SUV class in Canada for years and does extremely well in Europe as well. The first-generation model sold more than 1.5 million units globally since its 2008 arrival, and despite being on the market for more than eight years with few significant changes sales actually grew in its final years.
Of course, the list of rivals trying to push this segment’s top three off their elevated podium is long, and some of those could arguably be deemed more luxurious and/or more capable both on- and off-road, albeit for a price. Ask the Q5’s legions of owners why they made their choice and the answer will likely be a combination of styling, quality, performance, prestige, and value.
For starters, the Q5 is hardly the most expensive compact luxury SUV on the market. Its starting price of $41,500 plus freight and fees leaves a lone German, a single Brit, two domestics (one of Chinese origin) and three Japanese with MSRPs below, while a Swede is tied and two Brits are priced much higher, as are duo of dueling Germans, not to mention a subset of SUV coupes.
Such value for a vehicle that’s easily on par with its fellow Germans for pedigree, drives brilliantly, surpasses most in the class when it comes to exterior and interior design plus materials quality, is among the leaders with respect to digital interfaces, is roomier than the class average, and delivers plenty of features in base trim as well as a compelling list of competitively priced extras, is certainly reason enough for its extreme popularity.
Along with its edgy new styling, which follows the sharper lines and squared off shoulders of the Q3 and Q7 that came before, the new 2018 Q5 sits on VW group’s more up-to-date MLB platform that already underpins the recently redesigned A4. Combining multiple grades of high-strength steel with a generous supply of aluminum, the latter used for the hood, liftgate, suspension, powertrain and more, the updated Q5 sheds some 200 lbs of curb weight from the outgoing model, despite growing slightly in overall size.
Like last year’s Q5 and nearly every other model in Audi’s U.S. lineup, the 2018 Q5 is available in three trims including base Premium, mid-range Premium Plus, and top-tier Prestige.
Standard Premium equipment includes 18-inch alloys on 235/60 all-season tires, auto on/off HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights with dynamic indicators, aluminum roof rails, ambient interior lighting, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, heatable powered side mirrors, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a garage door opener, tri-zone automatic climate control, a 7.0-inch infotainment display, a rearview camera, a smartphone interface utilizing Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, 10-speaker audio, eight-way powered front seats, four-way powered lumbar support for the driver, leather upholstery, Walnut Brown inlays, a powered liftgate, an alarm system, tire pressure monitoring, Audi pre sense basic that automatically closes all windows and the sunroof if sensing a potential accident, Audi pre sense city autonomous braking, the usual allotment of active and passive safety features, plus more.
Options on Premium models include two standard and nine available $575 exterior paint colors, the choice of four no-cost interior color themes, a $900 Convenience package featuring proximity-sensing keyless access including a foot-activated gesture liftgate, power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors, memory for those side mirrors and the driver’s seat, heatable front seats, and satellite radio, a $3,000 Navigation and Telematics package featuring a fabulous 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit TFT configurable instrument cluster with the ability to shrink the digital gauges and simultaneously enlarge the multi-info display, Audi’s MMI navigation with its MMI touch interface (more on that in a moment), Audi connect Care (with a limited time subscription) and Audi connect Prime and Plus (with a six-month trial subscription), while its standalone options include a set of 19-inch alloys on 235/55 all-season tires for $800, heatable front seats for $500, a powered panoramic sunroof for $1,450, rear side-thorax airbags for $350 and some no-cost aluminum or Gray Oak inlays or alternatively a pricier Fine Grain Ash set for $850.
The Convenience package is included as standard equipment when moving up to $45,500 Premium Plus trim, as is Audi Connect Care, the panoramic sunroof, while additional features include LED headlamps with auto high beams, high-gloss window surrounds instead of black, stainless steel doorsills and a stainless cargo sill protector, front and rear parking sensors, Audi side assist blindspot monitoring, Audi pre sense rear cross-traffic alert, and an exit warning system.
The navigation package drops down to $2,600 in Premium Plus trim due to Audi Connect Care being standard, while a new $500 Cold Weather package adds a heatable steering wheel rim and heated rear outboard seats. On the opposite side of the weather spectrum, a $1,450 Warm Weather package adds ventilated front sport seats and rear side window sunshades, while a $3,000 Sport package adds red brake calipers, a sport rear differential, and a sport adaptive suspension.
Lastly, $50,800 Prestige trim makes the 20-inch alloys, full LED headlamps with auto high beams, navigation, Bang & Olufsen audio, and Cold Weather package standard, while adding a color head-up display, a 360-degree surround top-view camera system, dual-pane acoustic glass to the front windows for improved sound deadening, leatherette-covered center console and door armrests, configurable ambient interior lighting, and a stainless steel trunk sill.
Moving up to Prestige trim also allows the ability to add a $1,800 Driver Assistance package featuring adaptive cruise control with low-speed stop-and-go functionality, traffic sign recognition, active lane assist, and traffic congestion assist, while standalone options include an active damping air suspension for $1,000.
A standard item not yet mentioned is the all-new 2.0-liter direct-injection and turbocharged four-cylinder, this engine making 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque for a 32-horsepower and 15 lb-ft bump over the outgoing mill. It comes mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that’s as easy to use as a regular automatic yet shifts quicker, uses less fuel and is nicer to the environment, the latter two benefits enhanced further by standard auto start/stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling. Also standard, Audi’s Drive Select lets you choose between Comfort, Auto and Dynamic (sport) driving modes that affect steering and damper control.
Audi’s new Quattro Ultra all-wheel drive system is standard too. More recently introduced on the A4 Allroad compact crossover wagon, the new Ultra design dispatches with the outgoing model’s center differential in favor of two clutch packs that disengage the rear axle when no rear-wheel slip is detected in order to save fuel. This change, along with the other upgrades already mentioned, result in a significant improvement in fuel economy, with the EPA rating moving up from 20 mpg city, 27 highway and 22 combined last year to 23 mpg city, 27 highway and 25 combined this year. This is very impressive considering its much-improved performance.
Performance in mind, the old 272-horsepower V6 is no longer available, so you’ll need to step up to the 354-horsepower SQ5 if you want a boost in performance, this model featuring a ZF-sourced eight-speed auto and Quattro AWD (of course). The extra zoot results in a full second shaved from the sprint to 60 mph, now taking just 5.1 seconds instead of 6.1, with the top speed increased from 130 mph to 155 mph — as if any of us would attempt achieving either in most U.S. States.
I haven’t yet tested the SQ5, which leaves me very satisfied with the regular Q5’s performance. It’s off-the-line power is more than adequate and doesn’t relent on its way up to highway speeds, while the new gearbox shifts smoothly in Comfort mode and extremely quick yet still amply smooth in Dynamic mode. Speaking of smooth, the Q5’s ride might be even nicer than the outgoing model, which was already a class leader when it comes to comfort, while fast-paced handling has definitely benefited from its new underpinnings, the upgraded SUV feeling more planted on the highway and more confidence-inspiring through switchbacks.
I like the new Q5’s driving position better too, the steering wheel providing plenty of rake and reach and the seat including more adjustment than I required, while no one should complain about the new model’s interior styling, which follows the same modern, high-tech design and materials theme set out by the larger Q7. Although take note my tester was done up in a sportier motif than some other trims on offer, thanks to contrast-stitched black leather and loads of brushed aluminum in place of warmer colors and luxe hardwoods.
Quality for most everything above the hips is superb, this including switchgear, much of which is edged in various textures of aluminum, with most knobs featuring gorgeous knurled detailing. The Virtual Cockpit gauge cluster is digital overwhelm in a good way, its center multi-info panel capable of growing in size when pressing the steering wheel-mounted “VIEW” button for one of the most alluring navigation mapping displays in the industry, and more, while the fixed tablet-style infotainment monitor at dash central features one of the best quality displays in the business, plus Audi’s easy-to-use lower console-mounted MMI interface to control it, the latter incorporating the usual rotating knob as well as a handy trackpad for pinch and swipe gesture inputs. It includes eight touch-sensitive presets as well, plus a touch-sensitive menu and back button plus other functions. Aluminized rocker switches allow quick access to the navigation and mapping system, phone, audio, and media interfaces. I only wish the display up top was also a touchscreen, as it would fit more naturally into my smartphone and tablet oriented world.
The tri-zone auto climate control panel in between is just as impressive, with some of the most exacting bezels I’ve ever experienced in a vehicle. They click with the precision a finely crafted dive watch, and once again their knurled metal edges are so beautifully finished I couldn’t help but be left in awe. As noted, the rest of the switchgear is above par, whether aluminized or made from matte black composite, with only the row of center stack-mounted toggles feeling a bit hollow and unsubstantial.
All this said I was a bit surprised that Audi didn’t go all the way when it comes to soft-touch interior plastics, the entire dash top and all of the door panels made from pliable materials, but the mid and lower portions of the instrument panel, including the glove box lid, comprised of hard shell plastic. It was high-quality stuff with a nicely textured matte finish, but I can’t say this is par for the course in the compact luxury class, because many of the Q5’s competitors have anted up in this respect, not to mention a number within the mainstream volume branded ranks costing thousands less. Still, the Q5 does everything else so very well that we’re forced to accept such corner cutting.
One of Audi’s best qualities is its steering wheels, and my tester’s contrast-stitched, solid and perforated leather-wrapped multi-function wheel is a standout design, benefiting from metal paddle shifters to enhance its sporting character. Back over to those aluminized toggle switches is the aforementioned Drive Select function, while the perforated leather and aluminum trimmed T-shaped gear lever just below can be pulled to the left for manual mode allowing optimal control via those shift paddles.
All this talk about the cockpit made me almost forget to mention the rear seating area, which is large, accommodating and extremely comfortable, especially in the outboard positions thanks to good lower back support. A wide center armrest flips down to expose dual flip-up cupholders, which would do a decent job of holding small coffee cups or tins of juice or pop, but aren’t helpful if your kids’ drinking habits lean more towards Big Gulp-sized containers.
Only those in the middle position will complain about the three-way outboard seat heaters that warm up quickly and stay nice and hot, these ideal when returning home from a day on the slopes with skis stored down the center pass-through, although you’ll want to remove the griping third child in advance.
The rear seatbacks split 40/20/40 across the entire Q5 line, easily expanding on the 19.4 cubic foot cargo compartment via release levers attached to each sidewall. The seats don’t completely fold flat when you release them, meaning you’ll need to walk around to the side doors in order to click them into place, so I suppose what at first appeared like a handy set of levers are really a bit redundant. Still, like with all Audi SUVs and wagons the cargo compartment is beautifully finished with carpeting across the floor, up most of the sidewalls as well as the seatbacks, while metal brightwork adorns the tie-downs and nice little corner cargo nets keep smaller loose items from flying around. A temporary spare can be found under the removable cargo floor, but there’s not much room for much else unless you’re in the habit of stowing away work gloves and a small set of tools like yours truly.
So is the Q5 worthy of its ultra-strong sales? Considering its value proposition I have no problem declaring an enthusiastic yes, although I’d like to see Audi improve its rear seat folding mechanism and upgrade the quality of its below-the-belt dash plastics, while the powers that be might also want to combine its various infotainment system controllers with a more straightforward touchscreen—the world is addicted to smartphones and tablets these days, so carmakers might as well make the transition to automotive applications as seamless as possible.
Still, I’d drive a 2018 Q5 all day long without complaint. It really is a superb compact luxury SUV in most every respect.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Trevor Hofmann and Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press