Parkers overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 4.3
  • 2.0 and 3.0-litre petrol and diesels
  • Petrol power for SQ5 performance version
  • TFSI e plug-in hybrids from autumn 2019

From launch, only a pair of 2.0-litre engines – one petrol, the other diesel – were available, but during 2017 performance for the Audi Q5 range was uplifted with the introduction of the petrol-engined SQ5. A 3.0-litre diesel was also added in the latter part of 2017.

Note that from the switch to WLTP emissions regulations in 2018, the 252hp 2.0-litre TFSI, 354hp 3.0-litre V6 SQ5 and 286hp 3.0-litre TDI models were taken off sale. 

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Also note that roughly coinciding with this, model naming conventions for the Q5 - and other Audis - switched to designations based on the car’s output, not engine size. For example, the 190hp 2.0-litre TDI has become the 40 TDI. That means the new line-up, as of late 2019, consists of 40 TDI, 45 TFSI, 50 TFSI e and 55 TFSI e plug-in hybrids and the SQ5, reintroduced as a diesel. 

Efficient TDI diesels

The mainstay of the Audi range for years now has been 2.0-litre diesels, so it’s no surprise that a 190hp version fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch S Tronic automatic gearbox and part-time Quattro Ultra all-wheel drive is the most popular choice.

Peak torque of 400Nm is available low down in the rev range – from 1,750-3,000rpm – making it easier to access the Q5’s accelerative power from low speed; great for exiting junctions or completing safe overtaking manoeuvres. That power delivery feels linear with only a slight lag from the turbocharger.

Top speed is 135mph, while the 0-62mph sprint takes 7.9 seconds, so it’s hardly slow.

It’s also pleasantly refined, although its quietness was accentuated by the double-glazed side windows on our test cars.

Like many vehicles fitted with dual-clutch transmissions, the S Tronic can prove hesitant when pulling away from a standstill or crawl, while the software gets the transmission’s act together. This can prove disconcerting at roundabouts, and was more apparent in the diesel than the TFSI petrol.

You do learn to drive around it, though, and for most buyers this TDI is the engine to go for.

Top of the turbodiesel range was a 286hp 3.0-litre V6. Producing a chunky 620Nm of torque, it’s capable of accelerating from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 147mph.

Such performance figures are only slightly behind what the SQ5 can deliver, and in some ways both engines are quite similar. Acceleration is brisk and effective rather than draw-dropping, while there’s a noticeable lack of drama in how they go about their business.

However, it’s hard to escape the lingering feeling that the 3.0-litre TDI engine isn’t quite suited to the Q5. Whereas the 2.0-litre motors fit in nicely, the larger engine feels out of place, and does nothing for the feeling of heaviness from behind the wheel.

Punchier TFSI petrol motor

Audi expected up to 40% of UK buyers to choose the turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI petrol powerplant for their Q5s – a point amplified by fears among London residents in particular that extra charges could be levied against diesel-engined cars.

It was also the pick of the 2.0-litre range for those seeking to maximise performance rather than lower their running costs: 252hp and 370Nm of torque from 1,600-4,500rpm ensured it was a very flexible performer, gathering momentum impressively and progressively.

Audi quoted a top speed of 147mph and a hot hatch-like 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds. Unsurprisingly, it’s a hushed mechanical unit, erring on the side of raspiness rather than screaming for mercy when you press on harder.

This was replaced in the line-up by the 45 TFSI, a 245hp detuned version that still fits. It's not quite as quiet and smooth, but impressive nonetheless. The 0-62mph time is 6.4 seconds, while the same torque figure of 370Nm means it's still just as punchy. 

SQ5: was petrol, now diesel 

While the first SQ5 employed a diesel engine, the second time around it shared the same 3.0-litre V6 TFSI 354hp powerplant with the related A4 and A5 models. However, for 2019 Audi reverted back to diesel for its S models, with a 347hp twin-turbo V6 diesel being added to the A4, A5 and Q5 ranges. 

For the petrol (you'll have to find a used one of these if you want it), there’s 500Nm of torque on tap from 1,370rpm through to 4,500rpm, enough for a 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

No S Tronic twin-clutch gearbox here: the SQ5 used an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic instead to cope with the extra torque, sending drive to all four wheels via a full-time Quattro system.

It's undeniably fast in a straight line but never feels particularly dramatic - rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 provide more theatre while the SQ5 is very business-like in the way it gathers pace.

The gearbox is also a bit Jekyll and Hyde at first - sleepy in its responses when set to D and overly keen to drop gears in S. The best middle ground involves using the steering wheel mounted paddles to choose gears for yourself and in this mode the SQ5 is rewarding to drive.

The diesel SQ5 is actually quicker than the petrol it replaced. The 0-62mph time is down to 5.1 seconds, while a useful 700Nm of torque makes it much more rapid in-gear, providing effortless acceleration when you need it. 

Two Q5 plug-in hybrid choices 

Also added in 2019 was a pair of plug-in hybrid Q5s, badged 50 TFSI e and 55 TFSI e. Both use a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor. The 50 TFSI e offers 299hp, while the 55 TFSI e offers up 367hp. 

The latter is capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 5.3 seconds, and will reach a 149mph top speed. You'll need it in Dynamic mode to properly feel that power, otherwise it's a refined and quiet performer. It's a very quiet powertrain - you barely notice it switch on when you've been in EV mode - and when you accelerate hard it's still barely audible. It's very impressive. 

Leave it in Hybrid mode and it'll work out which is the most effective, most efficient way to operate. At all times it's hushed, with no jerkiness felt when switching between electric motor or engine power. 

How does it handle?

  • Handling is very competent but not exactly fun
  • Ride quality with optional air suspension impresses
  • Two modes for off-roading increase the Q5’s appeal

You won’t choose an Audi Q5 because it offers the most thrilling driving experience in the segment, but its handling characteristics are well-balanced and conducive to making brisk progress in comfort.

Audi’s Drive Select is standard across the range allowing various aspects of the Q5’s handling parameters – throttle response, transmission shift pattern and steering response - to be varied or mixed depending upon personal preferences.

Steering’s one area Audi’s suffered with criticism in the past, but this Q5 – along with the A4 and A5 ranges it shares its underpinnings with – have come on significantly. There’s an enhanced degree of feel through the wheel itself, more so when you switch to Dynamic mode, although we would have liked a bit more weight in this setting.

The ride height of the now discontinued air suspension option is also controlled via the Drive Select system by toggling between its different modes.

Most will keep it in Auto for the majority of the time, but Comfort’s great for traversing poorly surfaced asphalt or plying motorways with ease, isolating you further from the outside world. It still feels controlled and composed, though, not suffering with the same degree of floatiness you’ll experience in a similarly equipped Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Dynamic mode sharpens up the Q5’s responses, reining in bodyroll that bit further, yet while its immediately firmer, it’s not jarringly so – sharper ruts still feel as though their edges have been rounded off. Flicking to this mode also lowers the car by 15mm.

If you’re intending to venture off the beaten path with your Q5, then the Allroad (increases the ride height by 25mm) and Offroad (a further 20mm higher) modes will get plenty of use, increasing ground clearance to make traversing trickier terrain something you can do confidently.

In these modes the ride quality isn’t as soft but feeling those extra bumps and crevices keeps you more attuned to the surface conditions.

Opt for the adaptive dampers and you can expect a ride that, although not quite as cushioned as its air-suspended equivalent, still delivers excellent comfort levels.  

Sportier SQ5 tightens up handling

The fastest Q5 on offer - the SQ5 - offers remarkable handling and road-holding for a car this size, reminiscent of a large hot hatch.

Grip levels are huge with the Quattro system clinging onto the tarmac with neck-straining ability, and bodyroll is kept well in check providing you select the Dynamic drive mode.

The only complaint really is with the steering - overly light and devoid of feel, it doesn't inspire confidence like the set up in more driver-focussed cars like the Porsche Macan.

As a result the SQ5's best work is done with a little performance held in reserve, rather than being driven at ten tenths. As such it makes for a superb grand tourer.