"The compact Audi Q5 is easy to drive and has a practical interior. However, the firm suspension and high price dent its overall appeal."
Sitting between the Q3 and Q7 in Audi's range, the Audi Q5 is very desirable despite having limited off-road ability and a pretty firm ride. Its smaller dimensions make it far more manageable than its big brother, the Q7 (it's so much easier to park), and a recent facelift has given it a more up-to-date look and feel. Aimed squarely at the Land Rover Freelander, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, the Q5 has all the build quality and refinement of any Audi saloon combined with the extra space of a larger SUV, so any compromises are in service of creating an excellent middle ground. It has big, roomy seats that make it very comfortable, and the Q5 would be a class leader, if only its ride wasn’t so firm. However, it handles more like a car than an SUV, which makes it a pleasure to drive. You get a good choice of engines, with the 2.0-litre TDI diesel proving the pick of the range, thanks to the fact it offers performance and fuel economy in equal measure. It comes in three standard Audi specifications – entry-level SE, mid-spec S line and top-of-the-range S line Plus.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
For the best combination of performance and economy, we’d go for the 2.0-litre TDI diesel as it's also one of the cheapest Q5 models to buy. The entry-level 2.0-litre TDI quattro returns 47.9mpg in fuel economy, and emits 154g/km of CO2, aided by a smooth stop-start system to further save fuel. CO2 emissions – and thus road tax costs – are much lower across the board for the diesels, with the 2.0-litre TFSI quattro starting at 174g/km. If you opt for an S tronic or tiptronic automatic gearbox, economy and emissions both suffer. The diesel models also keep their value better, too, when the time comes to sell.
Interior & comfort
Its suspension may well be firm, but like its Q7 big brother, never to the point of actually becoming uncomfortable. Generally speaking, the Audi Q5 successfully absorbs any bumps or potholes in the road, preventing any real crashes for passengers. You can hear a bit of wind noise in the interior, but it never becomes truly intrusive. And there's lots of space in both the front and the back for adults, so long journeys shouldn’t be a problem for anyone inside the Q5. The seats very comfortable, offering plenty of side support, too.
Practicality & boot space
Being smaller than its gigantic Audi Q7 cousin, the Q5 offers an average amount of space in its class. With all the seats in place, you get a respectable 540 litres of boot space (which beats the Volvo XC60 but is just behind the BMW X3), but fold the rear seats down flat and that expands to an impressive 1,560 litres. However, the sharp angle of its rear windscreen means that carrying really bulky isn’t really possible. An optional sliding bench further boosts practicality by allowing the back seat to move back and forth by 100mm each way to create either more legroom or extra space in the boot. There's also an additional storage space hidden underneath the floor of the boot. In the front, you’ll find a sizeable glove compartment, big door bins and a useful large central storage cubby. Plus, for a little bit more cash, you can get a clever cup holder that chills cold drinks and heats up hot ones.
Reliability & safety
Audi rightfully has a very good reputation in this area, being renowned for excellent build quality and its use of top-notch materials inside its cars. So it's no surprise that Audi came 10th in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, climbing up five places from its 15th-place finish in 2012. The Q5 itself doesn’t feature in the top 150 cars list, but it still has a high-quality interior made of sturdy, robust materials that are very well put together. Plus, it secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, coming with electronic stability control and six airbags fitted as standard. You also get a selection of three, four or five-year warranties to give even further peace of mind.
Engines, drive & performance
As most Audi owners probably won’t take the Q5 off the road, it's probably reasonable for Audi to have tailored the mini-Q7 for tarmac performance. Clearly not designed for any extreme off-road adventures, you can do some light off-roading, though, with features like hill descent control and a traction control proving useful in slippery conditions. With its reassuring handling and accurate steering, the Q5 really impresses, driving more like a normal family hatchback than any of its rivals. The ride may be firm, but if you go for the optional Drive Select system you can alter the suspension set-up of the car for performance or comfort, and it copes well enough with most bumps in the road. As you would expect, sportier models fitted with bigger wheels are noticeably less comfy.
Price, value for money & options
You do get a generous amount of equipment and accessories as standard in the Q5, but you will need to decide if that's enough to justify the high asking price – especially when most of the options are also equally expensive. Because of the prestige of the Audi badge on the bonnet, the Q5 will hold on to its resale value on the used car market much better than the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander 2. The comfortable and well-equipped SE spec with the economical 2.0-litre TDI is the best second-hand seller.