From £38,0358
Mild-hybrid technology brings an efficiency boost for the diesel-powered family SUV, which remains a capable and comfortable mile-eater
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
14 January 2021

What is it?

The diesel engine may now be living on borrowed time, but the addition of mild-hybrid electrification promises to at least keep it on life support for a few more years. Audi has slowly been overhauling its line-up with the technology, which now makes an appearance on the Q5 for the first time.

In gaining a 12V belt-driven starter-generator, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel gets a minor low-end performance boost, with power and torque now 201bhp and 295lb ft - a 14bhp increase over the outgoing model. The 0-62mph sprint is now roughly half a second quicker, at 7.6sec.

Arguably more important for potential owners are the efficiency improvements. Engine-off coasting at any road-legal speed and the ability to activate the start/stop function at speeds below 14mph help raise the claimed combined fuel economy to 44.8mpg and reduce CO2 emissions to 165g/km. 

These updates arrive as part of a wider mid-life refresh, which aims to help the Q5 keep pace with premium SUV rivals such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Volvo XC60. Visual clues are minimal, with an even wider front grille, redesigned LED headlights and some sharper door sill inserts that give the impression of a higher ride height, even for the Sport trim tested here, which rolls on 18in alloy wheels.

Upgrades to interior technology are more obvious, with a 12.3in digital instrument cluster now standard across the range and the infotainment display upgraded to the same 10.1in touchscreen seen in the new A4. It ditches the familiar dial controller and receives all-new software that’s more suited to touch inputs.

What's it like?

This latest Q5 iteration is just as capable, comfortable and classy inside the cabin as before, which should hardly come as a surprise: as one of Audi’s most popular models, there’s little sense in straying too far from a working recipe.

It has a level of body control you’d expect from a much lower-riding car and continues to be surprisingly agile but ultimately uninvolving to drive, with numb and overly light steering. Anyone searching for true dynamism won’t find it here, but on the plus side, it has allowed ride quality to remain very good. Although not quite as compliant and absorbent over road imperfections as say, a Mercedes-Benz GLC, it has no issue devouring long distances in relative comfort.

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It’s here where the diesel engine makes the most sense, with plenty of overtaking ability and decent noise isolation inside the cabin while travelling at speed. The seven-speed automatic transmission can be a little hesitant to shuffle its cogs, as with many recent Volkswagen Group models, but the low-end torque and 12V assistance help you get away from junctions that little bit smoother than in the petrol-powered Q2 we drove recently.

Inside, the switch from physical controls to a touchscreen for the infotainment has been handled deftly, reusing the icon-rich interface seen in more premium models while retaining actual buttons for the climate controls. Combined with the all-digital dashboard, Audi’s user interface is still comfortably among the best in the class, even if it’s not as visually flashy as some rivals'. A touchscreen means Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are much more intuitive here than they were on previous generation models, too.

Materials quality remains high and Sport trim cars include niceties such as front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, heated seats and three-zone climate control. There’s also a powered tailgate as standard, which should come in handy when filling the 550-litre boot. 

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for a comfortable SUV and frequently drive long distances, the Q5 is still worth your consideration. It’s well equipped, rides well and delivers decent economy. Sport trim looks like particularly good value, too: you get lots of goodies without needing to step up to a pricier S line model.

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The biggest question is whether a plug-in hybrid would better suit your driving style. The mild-hybrid powertrain at least promises to reduce your environmental impact over a traditional diesel model, but the TFSIe isn’t significantly more expensive and should provide even lower running costs for shorter commutes.

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xxxx 14 January 2021

Decent car made all the better with dials and buttons, lets hope they make a comeback. Would like to have the choice and save 2k by not having the mild hybrid together with its associated weight and complexity though.

Cobnapint 14 January 2021
A great car - if you're the passenger.
Audi really needed to do something with the steering on this thing, the last one was full to drive. But they didn't bother.

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