When it comes to possessions, there’s need, and then there’s want. Usually the “need” can be addressed by something that doesn’t cost a lot of money, but when it comes to “want,” well, the sky is the limit.
Crossover utility vehicles often address a “want.” Sure, you may need the functionality of additional cargo storage, but that can be met with a station wagon, a hatchback, or a minivan. Yes, crossovers often offer the option of all-wheel drive and additional ground clearance, but many SUV shoppers don’t necessarily need these features. What they want is SUV styling and a raised ride height for better visibility down the road. Carmakers understand this, and are building plenty of options, with prices that reflect the demand.
Luxury vehicles take the “want” equation even further, sometimes to stratospheric heights. Take the redesigned 2018 Audi Q5, for example. Sure, you can get a compact crossover SUV to solve your needs and wants in a new vehicle for about half the price of the Q5. But what you really want is a vehicle that’s beautiful inside and out, and provides genuine zing in terms of performance that makes you crave a long and winding road.
Thankfully, the new Q5 delivers on all counts. Audi has remade its best-selling vehicle from the ground up, stuffed it chock full of safety and infotainment technology, and dressed the cabin in the finery befitting the Audi brand. While pouring on the features can skyrocket the price, the Q5 addresses the “want” calculation quite well.
For this review, we evaluated a mid-grade Q5 Premium Plus with nearly all of the trimmings. The test vehicle included metallic paint, 20-inch aluminum wheels, the Cold Weather package, the Navigation package, and a premium audio system, bringing the price to $52,700, including the $925 destination charge.
What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2018 Q5, it is helpful to understand who bought the previous version of this SUV, and what they liked most and least about it.
Compared to the Compact Premium SUV segment as a whole, Audi Q5 owners are younger, wealthier, and more often female. According to J.D. Power, 46% are women (vs. 44%), the median age of a Q5 owner is 54 years (vs. 57 years), and they enjoy a median annual household income of $171,324 (vs. $157,767). Generationally, 46% of Q5 owners are members of Generation X or Y (vs. 37%).
Audi Q5 owners more frequently identify as Performance Buyers (44% vs. 38%) and are significantly less likely to agree that they prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (19% vs. 29%). People who own a Q5 are less likely to agree that a vehicle is just a way of getting from place to place (21% vs. 27%), and are more likely to agree that they’re willing to pay extra to ensure that their vehicle has the latest safety features (90% vs. 86%). In other respects, Q5 owner sentiments align with those of owners across the Compact Premium SUV segment.
Owners report that their favorite things about the previous Q5 were (in descending order) the exterior styling, engine/transmission, driving dynamics, seats, and interior styling. Owners indicate that their least favorite things about the previous Q5 were (in descending order) visibility and safety, the climate controls, storage and space, the infotainment system, and fuel economy.
What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides her own perceptions about how the new 2018 Q5 measures up in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2017 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM
If you’ve seen the Q5’s big brother, the Q7, you have a pretty good idea of what the Q5 looks like. The front end is nearly the same, dominated by Audi’s Singleframe grille design with its polished horizontal slats. The rear end is similar as well, but overall, to my eye, the Q5 is better proportioned than the Q7. And its flanks are a little more interesting, thanks to deeper creases and sculpturing. My test vehicle’s optional 20-inch wheels certainly helped, too, lending the Q5 a more muscular stance.
When you think about an Audi, one of the chief assumptions that might pop into your brain is that it’s got a deluxe interior. In this regard, the Q5 does not disappoint, with gleaming wood and metal accents providing shiny contrast to the smooth leather and quality plastics that adorn the cabin. Everything feels upscale and is assembled with care.
The governing design principle is one of straight lines and right angles, and a particularly charming aspect of the Q5’s interior is nighttime illumination that gently glows with LED light strips throughout the cabin. Owners can be customize the ambiance with one of 30 color choices, making the Q5 a pleasurable place to while away an evening.
Slipping into either of the Q5’s front seats is a treat, thanks to multiple power adjustments allowing occupants to achieve an ideal position. They supply just the right amount of bolstering for most driving conditions, but people who love to tackle curves with enthusiasm may want to check out the available sport-bolstered seats. Noteworthy, too, is the center console armrest that can be adjusted for height and which slides back and forth.
With this redesign, Audi improves the Q5’s rear seat room, and adults will find the resulting seating area perfectly comfortable. Increases in leg and foot room are genuinely surprising, though shoulder space for three abreast remains tight, a predictable situation given that this is a compact SUV. The seats also slide fore and aft, and can recline.
Climate Control System
Every 2018 Q5 is equipped with a three-zone climate control system, which gives the front passenger and rear passengers individual control over temperature. The system’s dashboard controls are excellent, with two oversized temperature knobs and clear markings. The test vehicle’s front seats were heated, but not ventilated. Ventilated seats are available only with the sport-bolstered seat option.
Immediately noticeable and practically unforgettable, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit instrumentation display is one of the best and most beautiful digital gauge clusters I’ve ever seen. A 12.3-inch screen replaces the analog dials and gauges, and owners can customize the display to specific preferences, each rendered with stunning graphics and relevant information.
Personally, I like to minimize the gauges and maximize the navigation display, wherein Google Earth satellite imagery dominates the dashboard. You can zoom in or out to your pleasure, from a view of the planet from space right down to a close-up helicopter view of the street you’re driving upon.
Audi’s Multi-Media Information (MMI) infotainment system takes a bit of getting used to. It does not include a touchscreen. Rather a display correlates to controls on the center console, on the steering wheel, and voice commands. Once you acclimate to how the system works it becomes fairly easy to use.
In the Q5, the system includes a new All-in-Touch fingertip track pad mounted on the center console. A row of radio station pre-set buttons frames the top of this pad, which I found helpful for surfing between stations. The touch pad itself, however, is another story. Equipped with handwriting recognition, it often didn’t recognize my handwriting. Allegedly, it also allows you to zoom the screen, or swipe to the next one, but I found the traditional MMI control knob to work better in this regard.
Storage and Space
Storage is stingy within the Q5. The center console box is small, and the glove box could use more space. Because this is a compact SUV, cargo space is on the small side, too. The Q5 supplies 26.8 cu.-ft. of room with the rear seats in use, and 60.4 cu.-ft. when the rears seats are folded down.
You can make the most of the space, though, thanks to the 40/20/40-split rear seat and a little lip at the load floor that keeps your groceries in place when you open up the power hatch. The Q5 easily swallowed up the luggage of two adults and two kids returning from a weeklong sojourn.
Visibility and Safety
Outward visibility is excellent, thanks to the height adjustable front seats, slender windshield pillars, and large side windows made possible by door-mounted side mirrors. A reversing camera is standard on all Q5s, providing a better view to the back.
Premium Plus trim adds a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, and vehicle exit assist. Each helps to improve both visibility and safety, and vehicle exit assist is designed to warn the driver not to open a door when traffic is approaching from the side. Full LED headlights are also standard for Premium Plus trim, along with Audi Connect Care subscription services.
Move up to Prestige trim for a head-up display and several more driver assistance and collision avoidance systems. They include a top-down-view camera with front and rear parking assist sensors as standard, while options include adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, an active lane assist system, and automatic high-beam headlights. Traffic jam assist allows the Audi to follow and stop along with the car in front of you, at speeds up to 40 mph.
As this vehicle is reviewed, the NHTSA has not performed crash tests on the 2018 Q5. Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is incomplete, reflecting a “Good” rating in moderate overlap frontal-impact testing, a “Good” rating in side-impact testing, and a “Marginal” rating for headlight performance.
Before sampling the new Q5, I’d had the pleasure of driving several Audis in a row, all equipped with the company’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. As with most turbo engines, there is a small amount of turbo lag at lower rpm as the engine spools up. In the Q5, this characteristic was particularly pronounced. I can only surmise that the Q5’s curb weight of more than two tons contributes to this more noticeable delay in power delivery.
Get it in its sweet spot, however, and the 252-horsepower engine pays off with gobs of smooth, linear power. While that doesn’t seem terribly impressive, Audi claims that the 2018 Q5 can sprint from a standstill to 60 mph in about 5.9 seconds, which is one second faster than last year’s model.
A 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission sends power to the new Quattro Ultra all-wheel drive system. What makes it “Ultra?” When you’re cruising on the highway, it disconnects the rear axle from the drivetrain in order to maximize fuel economy, and then automatically reconnects when the driver stabs the accelerator pedal. As for the transmission, it shifts efficiently when you’re not in a hurry and wisely holds gears when maximum performance is desirable.
While the Q5 is no boulder basher, its 8.2 inches of ground clearance and standard AWD with an off-road driving mode ensures that you can travel farther off the beaten path than many SUVs. Off-Road mode locks power distribution between the front and rear axles, helping to improve traction on slippery or unpaved roads.
Those seeking a little more verve from a compact Audi SUV might want to check out the SQ5, a performance variant that offers 354 horsepower and an adjustable suspension system that raises and lowers ground clearance as is desired.
According to the EPA, the Q5 should get 25 mpg in combined driving. I ended up with a 21.9-mpg average during my week with the Q5, a poor showing, indeed. Given that Q5 owners have told J.D. Power that fuel economy is their least favorite aspect of the vehicle, this is almost certain to remain true for 2018.
Around town, the Audi Q5 calmly absorbed most bumps despite the test car’s optional 20-inch wheels, which did add some impact harshness that never proved unduly jarring. Furthermore, the Q5’s petite dimensions allowed me to squeeze into tight parking spaces and to leverage holes in traffic.
Looking down upon the Audi Virtual Cockpit display, you’ll find that seeing curves on the route ahead is pretty much a guarantee that you’ll be smiling in no time. The Q5’s suspension does a great job of managing the SUV’s weight, producing little in the way of wallow or sway, snugging the Q5 down when tossed into the turn and exiting the corner raring for more.
Steering is accurate, if a bit light, and the brakes are terrific, even under performance driving conditions. While the Q5 isn’t quite as athletic as a lighter Audi A4 or A5 with lower center of gravity, compared to a typical SUV it can be slung about with confidence and enjoyment.
Nine years have passed since the first Audi Q5 was introduced. Then, it was something of a novelty. Now, the automotive landscape is crawling with crossover utility vehicles. BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, and Volvo all offer variations of the compact luxury SUV, and all of them stroke the fires of “want” to some degree.
Good thing for Audi, then, that the new 2018 Q5 has the technological, luxury, and performance chops to compete with, and in many ways outshine, this roster of capable and credible upscale SUVs.
Volkswagen of America supplied the vehicle used for this 2018 Audi Q5 review.
The 2018 Audi Q5 has been remade from the ground up, stuffed full of safety and infotainment technology with a cabin dressed in finery befitting the Audi brand.
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