The all-new 2018 Audi Q5 five-passenger compact crossover begins its second generation with a new platform, cabin, engine, transmission, grille and side sculpting, and new all-wheel drive, which is now standard.
The 2018 Q5 is slightly longer and a couple inches wider than before. The platform comes from the Audi A4 sedan, and has more structural rigidity, as the chassis uses more aluminum. The all-wheel drive system is lighter and more sophisticated. There’s more sound-deadening material between the chassis and the cabin. The interior speaks a new design language: roomy and beautiful. There are more standard features.
The base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gets a needed horsepower increase, from the previous 220 to 258 hp, while torque gets boosted to 273 pound-feet, up from 258. It’s the same engine that’s used in the heavier Q7, so it runs more free in the Q5. It’s mated to a 7-speed automatic and all-wheel drive called Quattro Ultra, which disconnects the driveshaft to the rear wheels to save fuel; and it must work, because the new engine gets two more miles per gallon, to go with its 38 more horsepower. When power to the rear is needed, it comes back in a fraction of a second.
The high-performance Audi SQ5 uses a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 making 354 horsepower, mated to an eight-speed automatic.
Audi Q5’s rivals include BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Jaguar F-Pace, Volvo XC60, Cadillac XT5, and Range Rover Evoque.
Available safety features include adaptive cruise control that drives the car in stop-and-go freeway traffic, and automatic emergency braking. A new 2018 option is a warning when you start to open a passenger door into traffic.
Q5 Premium ($41,500) comes with leather upholstery, power front seats, proximity key, Xenon headlamps, roof rack, and automatic emergency braking at low speeds. Premium Plus adds LED headlamps, a panoramic moonroof, memory seats, blind spot monitoring, and automatic braking when backing up. Prestige adds a Bang & Olufsen sound system and 20-inch wheels. Options abound. (Prices are MSRP and do not include destination charge.)
The all-new Q5 doesn’t look that much different from the old one, but it’s easier to look at. The grille remains the same basic big-mouth rounded trapezoid, but the chrome bars run horizontally instead of vertically, which is more cohesive with the car’s lines and makes the hood look longer. The headlamps are slimmer and sharper, touching and flying off the top corners of the grille, which also has a thicker border of satin metal. Along the sides, there’s a sharp crease like a high beltline above the door handles, connecting the HID or LED headlamps to the LED taillamps.
The SQ5 has different trim and unique alloy wheels. It’s a sleeper, with no clues that there’s 354 horsepower under the hood.
The Q5 cabin has changed a lot for 2018, adopting the latest Audi design direction. It ranks with the best in the segment. It’s refined, beautifully detailed, and serene, remarkably quiet and free of road noise. The instrumentation is logical. Switchgear is on a panel below the climate control, while infotainment is managed on a big touchpad.
There’s ample room in front, with comfortable leather seats; some rivals use leatherette upholstery in their base model, and perhaps that’s why Audi calls its base model Premium. Quite a few optional wood trims are available.
The new architecture created more room in the rear, so now the A5 is as comfortable as others back there. Two six-footers can fit, although that third rear passenger might find his or her legs mashed together from the knees to feet, not just because of the four other long legs, but because the middle seat is flat while the outboard seats are deeply scalloped. Four are more comfortable than five.
The rear seats fold easily but not flat.
The cargo area behind the rear seat is nicely finished. It’s about 0.5 cubic feet smaller than before, as the seat was moved back for more legroom. However, when the 60/40 rear seats are down there’s almost three more cubic feet of cargo space than before.
The panoramic moonroof is not a sunroof; that is, the shade doesn’t fully block out the sun, so we couldn’t make the cabin cool and dark like we like it.
The other thing we didn’t like was the display screen fixed at the center top of the dash. It never retracts. It looks like a tablet computer on a clip. Dash top screens are not our favorite Audi feature.
Prestige models replace the standard analog-type instruments with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit with a configurable 12.3-inch LCD screen showing everything from digital gauges to audio controls to Google Earth navigation. The system interfaces using Audi’s MMI that has its own touchpad on the console near the shift lever.
The SQ5 gets sportier seats with red stitching, and available carbon-fiber trim.
The Audi Q5 is poised when cornering, with excellent stability at high speeds on the freeway. Its handling inspires confidence. Steering is light and feedback is limited, however, so it’s no canyon carver. It’s designed for comfort, not sport.
The optional Drive Select system has four modes, Auto, Comfort, Sport, and Individual, which change the steering, transmission, and throttle responses.
While most manufacturers are increasing the number of gears in their automatic transmissions, in pursuit of fuel mileage, the Q5 drops a gear, from eight speeds to seven. Yet efficiency improves by two miles per gallon to an EPA-rated 23 mpg City. It still gets 27 mpg Highway, for an EPA-rated 25 mpg Combined. Bottom line is that fuel economy is improved significantly while power is increased substantially.
We couldn’t feel much difference in the dynamics in a Q5 with the available adaptive dampers. But even set in the firmest mode, and with 20-inch wheels, the cabin was still serene and isolated.
On hard-packed washboard and through deep sand, we found the Q5’s suspension kept the ride surprisingly smooth on the washboard, and the Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive was unfazed by the sand.
The SQ5 uses a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 making 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, and a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic. It can accelerate from zero to sixty in 5.1 seconds. An available rear mechanical limited slip differential sends power to the outside wheels in corners, which helps the SQ5 feel more nimble, despite its 4400 pounds. The SQ5 comes alive in Dynamic mode.
The standard air suspension lowers the normal ride height of the SQ5 to 7.0 inches, a bit less than the 8.2 inches of the Q5. And it’s adjustable, so the car be raised for rugged terrain (or steep transitions in town) or lowered for freeway. The ride suffers with the optional 21-inch wheels, however. We found the 20-inch wheels offered a much better ride.
The all-new Audi Q5 is better looking, has a beautiful cabin with more room in the rear, a significantly more powerful and responsive four-cylinder engine that gets better fuel mileage, and a new all-wheel drive called Quattro Ultra. The base Premier model is very well equipped. The SQ5 with its turbocharged V6 offers a lot higher performance, although it’s not a canyon-carving crossover.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.