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Audi Q5 long-term test review: great expectations

Published: 16 June 2017

► CAR lives with an Audi Q5
► Our car is a TFSI S line...
► ...and it has big shoes to fill

‘The needs of a magazine force us to swap these cars every six months: I’d have happily driven this one for 10 years’ – that was Ben Oliver talking about our recently departed Q7, and one of the most profound endorsements of a car I can remember reading in this magazine. The new Q5 has plenty to live up to.

And contrary to appearances, this is a new car, and not merely a facelift of the original. The new chunky grille-frame and scowling bonnet-line help make that clear at the front, and if you see old and new together the 2017 car’s pronounced swage line does the same from the side.

But from the back… I parked ours next to an old Q5 at a petrol station and had to look hard to spot the differences. It’s a handsome car, though: more muscular than the Q3, and more athletic than the Q7. Think A5 Sportback reimagined for the Baja 1000.

Unlike other Audis, the Q5 range is surprisingly light on choice. Leaving aside the SQ5 for a moment, you get to pick from basic SE, starting at £37,240, better equipped and better looking Sport for £1100 more, and S-line trim for a further £2k, plus a stack of options. But when it comes to engines, there are only two: a 187bhp, 2.0-litre TDI and a 249bhp petrol, both with a seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch ’box and awd. 

Audi Q5 LT interior

Given a recent house relocation means I now do more miles than a public school hussy, the 2.0 TDI was the only sensible choice. But I went for the petrol Q5 for a couple of reasons. First, we know that TDI engine inside out but the petrol engine, falling halfway between a Golf GTI and a Golf R on power, is less of a known quantity, especially in an SUV.

And second, because whatever it does to the gallon can’t possibly come as a shock after six months in a 550bhp AMG V8, especially when the combined fuel consumption figure is a very reasonable 40mpg. Okay, so we all know better than to believe the nonsense that is official fuel consumption figures, but since the tide seems to be turning against diesel, we’re curious to see whether petrol power really is a viable alternative.

Audi Q5 LT virtual cockpit

It certainly looks like the best choice if you want to get anywhere in a hurry. The diesel might eke a further 15 miles from every gallon, but it needs 7.9sec to reach 62mph, compared to just 6.3sec for the petrol. And though a diesel’s superior torque output usually makes for more relaxing progress in a big car (the Q5 weighs 1875kg), its 295lb ft isn’t that much better than the 273lb ft of the petrol.

The TDI does fare slightly better in the company car tax battle thanks to its lower CO2 output, but you’re only talking a few hundred quid a year, which keeps the petrol in the running, if not necessarily at the front. 

Audi Q5 cars for sale

Our car came in S-line spec, which brings an upgrade from 18- to 19-inch wheels, sporty leather and alcantara trim, and more aggressive bumpers for your £40k. But the price of our car was significantly inflated thanks to the addition of kit like 20-inch wheels (£900), matrix LED lights (£650), panoramic roof (£1400) and adaptive air suspension (£2000). It also has a couple of option packs: the Comfort and Sound pack, which delivers keyless entry, electric seats and a B&O hi-fi for £1250, and the £1100 Technology pack (better nav, a 36-month Audi Connect subscription to access online content, and a wireless phone charger that is absolutely useless to me because my iPhone doesn’t support it).

Audi Q5 LT phone charging

That lot brought the total to £51,085, which is pennies away from the price of a completely option-free – but still well equipped and much faster – SQ5. And around £20k more than the cost of my family’s own car, a current-shape A4 Avant. We might well return to both of those comparisons later in the loan.

For now, though, we’ll finish with our early impressions of the Q5. It looks great, feels usefully roomy, and we’re enjoying the refinement of the petrol engine over the typical chuntering diesel clatter you expect when you punch the starter button in a modern SUV. In fact the Q5’s overall refinement has really shocked me. It’s so quiet and rides so well I’m struggling to think of another non-limo type car that’s such good company on the motorway. Come back next month to find out if that honeymoon feeling has lasted.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 901
Total 2460
Our mpg 27.4mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £166.26
Extra costs £0

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker