2018 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Quattro Technik Road Test Review

 Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc. 

New and improved in every respect 

Audi's Q5 has been the best-selling compact luxury SUV for years, and thanks to a striking new redesign it's sales leadership remains comfortably in the clear.

The Q5 isn't just popular here in Canada, but it's a favourite the world over. 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 only minor changes, sales actually grew in its final years.

As you might expect, the completely redesigned 2018 Q5 has continued this surge up the sales charts. Yes, calendar year 2017 will be another Q5 record when it closes in just over a month's time, with year-to-date deliveries of 8,791 units as of October's close, this number already surpassing last year's record high of 8,313 unit sales.


Styling, quality, performance, prestige and value push the Q5 way ahead

Does the Q5's seemingly uncontested number-one status prove overall superiority over its competitors? The list of compact luxury SUV rivals that beg to differ 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's $44,950 MSRP makes it the most attractively priced German luxury SUV in its class, while it also undercuts the market's lone Swede and a pair of lofty Brits. 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 amongst 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 125 kilos of curb weight from the outgoing model, despite growing slightly in overall size.


Standard features adds to its impressive value proposition 

Like last year's Q5 and nearly every other model in Audi's Canadian lineup, the 2018 Q5 is available in three trims including base Komfort, mid-range Progressiv, and top-tier Technik.

Standard Komfort equipment includes 18-inch alloys, auto on/off HID headlamps, anodized roof rails, ambient cabin lighting, pushbutton ignition, an electromechanical parking brake, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, tri-zone auto climate control, 7.0-inch infotainment, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth with audio streaming, 10-speaker /audio, satellite radio, heatable eight-way powered front seats, four-way powered driver lumbar, leather upholstery, Micrometallic silver inlays, a powered liftgate, Audi pre sense basic that automatically closes all windows and the sunroof if sensing a potential accident, the usual allotment of active and passive safety features, plus more.


Komfort model options include two standard and eight available $890 exterior paint colours, the choice of four no-cost interior colour themes, a $1,850 Convenience package featuring proximity keyless access including a foot-activated liftgate, power-folding and auto-dimming side mirrors with memory, driver's seat memory, a heatable steering wheel, a rearview camera, plus front and rear parking sensors, while its sole standalone option is a $500 set of rear side-thorax airbags. Near countless accessories can be ordered for your Q5 as well, including a wireless device charger.

The Convenience package is standard when moving up to $49,950 Progressiv trim, while additional features include 19-inch alloys, a garage door opener, navigation, a powered panoramic sunroof, and a stainless steel cargo sill protector.


Progressiv and Technik trims add desirable options 

Progressiv trim provides three more colour options, while LED headlamps with auto high beams are also available for $900, plus a $1,650 Comfort Interior package featuring ventilated front sport seats and retractable rear sunshades, a $2,300 S line Sport package with 20-inch alloys, sportier S line exterior styling, an rear spoiler, S line branded stainless doorsills, interior upgrades including brushed aluminum inlays, stainless pedals, sport seats, front passenger power lumbar, plus a black headliner, while lastly a $1,500 Driver Assistance package adds an alarm with tow-away protection, a very useful 360-degree top-view camera, blindspot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, exit warning, and Audi pre sense rear.

Standalone items for Progressiv trim include Fine Grain Ash Natural Brown inlays for $600, rear seat heaters for $300, and Audi Connect Assistance at $520.


Lastly, as-tested $54,200 Technik trim makes the LED headlamps and auto high beams standard, as well as the Driver Assistance package and heatable rear seats, before adding different 19-inch alloys, a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster, configurable ambient lighting, heated and cooled cupholders, a superb Bang & Olufsen 3D surround sound system, Audi connect telematics, etcetera.

Dark Brown Walnut joins the previously noted optional hardwood inlays for $600, while additional Technik options include a head-up display for $1,100, a $1,000 sports suspension with damping control, or alternatively a $2,400 adaptive air suspension, while finally a $2,100 Advanced Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control with low-speed stop-and-go functionality, Audi pre sense front and pre sense city autonomous braking, traffic sign recognition, active lane assist, and traffic congestion assist.


New more powerful engine is a big improvement 

A standard item not yet mentioned is the all-new 2.0-litre direct-injection and turbocharged four-cylinder, making 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque for a 32-horsepower and 15 lb-ft bump over the outgoing engine. 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. The new Ultra design dispatches with the outgoing model's centre differential in favour of two clutch packs that disengage the rear axle when no rear-wheel slip is detected in order to save fuel. This allows a competitive fuel economy rating of 12.3 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 10.5 combined, which is superb considering strong performance.

Going fast 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 (of course). The extra zoot results in a full second shaved from the sprint to 100km/h, now taking just 5.3 seconds instead of 6.3, with the top speed increased from 209 to 250 km/h.


A smoother ride with more dynamic handling 

While some time in the SQ5 would be wonderful, I was 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 aforementioned S line trim, which meant its overall motif was sporting thanks to contrast-stitched black leather and loads of aluminum in place of warmer colours and luxe hardwoods used by other trims.


Interior quality remains an Audi advantage 

Quality for 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 fabulous, its centre 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.


The tri-zone auto climate control panel just above is equally 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 substantive matte black composite.


Audi does steering wheels well too, and this S line-equipped model'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. A cool set of aluminized toggle switches on the centre stack lets you set 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.


Q5 makes headway in comfort, roominess and convenience 

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 centre armrest flips down to expose dual flip-up cupholders, always appreciated. 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 centre 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 550-litre cargo compartment via handy release levers attached to each sidewall. Like all Audi SUVs and wagons the cargo compartment is beautifully finished with high-grade carpeting most everywhere, while metal brightwork tie-downs at each corner and little corner cargo nets keep loose items from flying around.

So is the Q5 worthy of its number one status? I have no problem declaring an enthusiastic yes. In fact, I could drive this 2018 Q5 all day long without complaint. It truly is a superb compact luxury SUV in every respect.


Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press 

Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press 

Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc. 

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