Even enthusiasts might shy away from a performance variant when the basic flavor of the new Q5 is this good.
– Northville, Michigan
Earlier this year I had a blast with the Audi team out in British Columbia, driving very aggressively in the fantastic SQ5. SUVs and crossovers are increasingly closing the dynamic gap with sedans, and the SQ5 is the poster child for those improbably entertaining physics.
Good as the SQ5 was, however, I remember pondering if the also greatly improved 2018 Q5 was really that much of a drop off, in terms of real driving, in the real world. Thankfully, our Audi friends held a kind of refresher event right around the corner from my house, giving me the chance to get more wheel time in the Q5 and test out the theory.
You only lose 0.8 seconds 0-60 time versus the SQ5. Less than one second. Granted, the S version of the Q5 does lots of other dynamically interesting things. But the standard version is so capable and nice to drive, the lack of an acceleration penalty makes me like it even more. I also love this stat because you don’t see it coming from the spec sheet. With 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque from its 2.0T, I would expect the Q5 to feel a lot slower than the 354-hp SQ5, but it doesn’t.
Chill out in the cabin. Okay, I got ahead of myself talking about the performance, first. The truth is that most Q5 shoppers are going to be happy that the SUV feels quick, but actually love how quite it is at speed, and how supple the ride quality is. I drove on a few of my favorite back roads in southeast Michigan, some of which aren’t exactly glass smooth, and found the Q5 underpinnings wonderfully up to the job of filtering out harshness. I really love that kind of isolation – without resorting to soft, squishiness in the corners – over long-haul drives.
Packaged nicely. I’m a huge man. Despite that fact, I usually fit just fine in the front seats of most cars – the Q5 being no exception. More surprising to me was how well I fit in the rear seats; not only are there “knee cutouts” in the seat backs for big legs like mine, the door apertures have been cleverly scalloped for easier access by those with big feet. Behind the rear seats there is also a very large, square-sided cargo area, whose 57.3 cubic feet of maximum storage seem to breathlessly await my next extravagant television purchase.
Get the navi. Opting for the Navigation and Telematics package (my, that’s a fancy title) sets you back $3,000, but it’s on my must-have list. This is your way into Audi Virtual Cockpit, the giant, easy-to-read instrument display; currently my favorite infotainment system in the whole wide world. It also allows for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay function, which is pretty much how everyone who plugs a phone into a car would like to interface with said phone.
Is this the new one or the old one? Audi exterior design is usually a strong suit, but on Q5 the overarching theme seems to be “demure.” In a world where Lexus has love/hate grilles and lighting elements and Volvo models seem to get more sultry by the minute, I’m not sure the staid looks are quite what it takes to get me out of bed every morning. Of course, if you liked the plain-German-SUV wrapper of the last-gen Q5, you might not mind that it’s hard to tell the ’18 car apart from it, at a glance.
Tough crowd. You can’t make a horrible choice buying a luxury SUV of this size, right now. The Q5 is excellent, but so is the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Acura RDX. And, well, you might not trust the brands as much when it comes to reliability, but the Jaguar F-Pace and Alfa Romeo Stelivo are both exciting to drive, and lovely to behold.
Photos: Seyth Miersma / Motor1.com