New car review: Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sport
Facelifted Q5 introduces handy new tech in a stylishly overhauled package.
In the mid-sized prestige SUV segment, the Audi Q5 faces stiff competition from no less than seven rival brands, ranging from Alfa Romeo to Volvo.
Some have multiple players in the segment, including BMW with its X3 and X4, Land Rover with its Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque, and Mercedes-Benz with its GLB and the GLC which comes in both coupe and wagon body styles.
Not so Audi, which soldiers on with its singular Q5 model, yet still mustered a respectable 2992 sales in 2020, placing it third in outright category sales behind the class leading the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3 and Lexus NX respectively. The Volvo XC60 and Porsche Macan also nip closely at the Q5’s heels.
Given the highly competitive landscape, it makes sense for brands to keep the pedal down on product development. Luxury SUVs are, after all, an expensive and image-conscious category where being the latest and the greatest counts for much.
Hence why, just three and a half years after releasing its all-new second-generation Q5, Audi is back in front of buyers with a mid-life refresh of the popular SUV.
The MY21 version’s refreshed looks and new features are accompanied by price rises, meaning the line-up now spans a range from $68,900 for the 150kW Q5 40 TDI quattro to $89,600 for the 210kW Q5 50 TDI quattro S line.
That price and performance ceiling will be raised to beyond the $100K mark come May with the return of the updated SQ5 TDI quattro, the range-topping 255kW/700Nm 3.0-litre turbo and electric supercharged diesel V6 version targeting performance fans.
The Q5 45 TFSI quattro we’re driving here is a far more sedate machine, though, sitting as it does in the middle of the five-model Q5 line-up, which is temporarily swollen to seven with the addition of Q5 40 TDI quattro and Q5 45 TFSI quattro Launch Editions models, both packing a swathe of extra features to tempt a limited number of early bird buyers.
Meanwhile, back with the Q5 45 TFSI quattro which sports a less-muscular but smoothly responsive 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder enhanced with a progressive 12V Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) system.
The latter is designed to improve refinement by smoothing the start-stop process and improving fuel efficiency by cutting the engine early when coming to stop.
A more powerful 48V Mild Hybrid system is used on the SQ5 TDI quattro and the Q5 50 TDI, enabling their engines to be turned off for up to 40 seconds when coasting and automatically restarting when acceleration is called for.
This fuel-saving coasting feature is not available with the 12V system that’s fitted to the Q5 45 TFSI and Q5 40 TDI.
The turbocharged petrol four-cylinder nevertheless develops a decently muscular 183kW and 370Nm, channeled through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and quattro all-wheel drive to 20-inch alloys, clad with grippy 255/45R20 Michelin tyres.
Stylistically, the updated Q5 is subtly distinguished from its predecessor with a refreshed exterior design featuring a prominent Single frame grille, along with new LED headlights and a unique daytime running lights.
Audi says the Q5’s “refreshed exterior design… looks even more powerful than its predecessor,” but to be honest, it’s not wildly different looking, and anyone other than dedicated Audi-philes might struggle to tell the difference.
Inside the cabin, Audi continues to take the high ground when it comes to premium design with a clean, modern look and excellent fit and finish.
It lacks the latest single screen look that connects the instrument panel and infotainment screen now favoured by Mercedes-Benz and BMW but it’s nonetheless classy and sophisticated looking.
Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit digital dash remains a standout piece of kit, providing all necessary information for the driver in an attractive and versatile multifunction display that can be altered at the press of a switch to expand or reduce the instrument size, include mapping, and a range of other formats.
At the centre of the dash is a new 10.1-inch high-resolution MMI touch display, now thinner at just 13mm and more seamlessly integrated into the dashboard.
The display is crystal clear with 1540 x 720-pixel resolution and the same crisp graphics and colours displayed in the main instrument panel.
Most major driving, infotainment and connectivity functions can be controlled from the MMI, either via the touchscreen, or the ever-improving voice command feature.
The system offers seamless integration of Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, plus the ability to run two simultaneous Bluetooth connections.
Other infotainment highlights include wireless phone charging for supported smartphones, Digital DAB+ radio, and four USB outlets shared between the front and rear.
Other notable new tech includes Audi connect plus functionality, which uses an embedded SIM card to integrate online traffic, weather conditions, fuel prices, parking information and Google Maps into the Q5 driving experience.
Owners can also use the myAudismartphone app to remote lock/unlock the vehicle, log a service request, make an emergency call and more.
Convenience features include keyless entry and start, leather-appointed seats, electric front seats with four-way electric lumbar support, three-zone climate control air-conditioning (with rear digital display), ambient interior lighting and frameless auto-dimming interior mirror.
Additional equipment that comes with the extra $7K for this Sport designation includes sport front seats with heating and driver memory, adaptive cruise control with stop and go (including traffic jam assist), collision avoidance assist, turn assist, 360-degree camera, park assist, and a 10-speaker, 180-watt sound system with subwoofer.
Standard safety features include eight airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, attention assist, side assist, active lane assist, exit warning system, hill descent control, rear cross-traffic assist, parking system with reversing camera, tyre pressure monitor and rear pre-sense.
Stepping inside, there’s plenty of seat adjustment to enable a good driving position ahead of an attractive multi-function leather steering wheel that now has hands-on detection technology to go with the car’s advanced assistance systems.
The sports seats are nicely shaped and supportive with large side bolsters and plenty of adjustment to achieve a good driving position.
A stubby auto shift lever controls the smooth shifting and responsive seven-speed S Tiptronic dual clutch transmission, with paddle shifts behind the steering wheel for manual control.
A console-mounted drive-select switch enables five different drive modes – Dynamic, Individual, Off-Road, Efficiency, Comfort and Auto – which should be enough to cover most tastes and conditions.
Visibility out of the cabin is good and the car’s mid-sized dimensions make it easy to manoeuvre through city traffic.
Rear seat accommodation is roomy enough to accommodate two adults and a child in comfort, although the centre perch is best used for short trips, and anyone taller than 183cm will find knee room is constrained.
An electric tailgate with gesture control opens to reveal a 520-litre luggage compartment, which expands to 1520 litres with the backrests folded flat. The rear seat can also be split 40:20:40 and buyers can option fore/aft sliding via a Comfort package to create additional luggage space or legroom.
As to the important question of how this refreshed 2021 Audi Q5 drives?
The answer is not very differently to the previous version – which is no bad thing, since that means smoothly, quietly and with decent efficiency.
The engine is sewing machine smooth and eagerly spins up to its 6500rpm redline, although with peak torque available from 1600rpm it’s not necessary to go there too often.
Pedal to the metal acceleration sees it cover the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.3 seconds, which is decently quick.
The cabin is well-insulated from road, wind and engine noise and the ride is civilised, given the large wheel and tyre combination.
The electromechanical steering is speed dependent, providing easy around-town weighting but firming up with decent weighting on the open toad.
Body control is disciplined with fully independent suspension that keeps roll and yaw in check even when pushing through bends.
This, along with the combination of 255-section rubber and all-wheel drive instils confidence to push the Q5 45 TFSI through bends, where it displays both the progressive braking power and the acceleration out of corners to make for an enjoyable drive.
To be honest, there wasn’t a great deal wrong with the just-superseded Q5, and this update stops well short of dramatically rewriting the script set down by that car.
However, it does add some valuable tech and features that helps the Audi SUV keep pace with its hard-charging rivals, and the fundamentals of its handsome styling, brisk performance and disciplined ride and handling should ensure it retains a prominent place on the shopping list of many mid-sized prestige SUV buyers.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder petrol.
ANCAP CRASH RATING: Five stars ANCAP (2017).
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.0L/100km (186 g/km C02).
FOR: Handsome styling, high quality finishes, brisk performance, reasonable fuel efficiency.
AGAINST: Price, temporary spare wheel, 95 RON fuel, basic 3 years unlimited km warranty.