"The compact Q5 is easy to drive and has a practical interior. However, stiff suspension and a high price dent its overall appeal."
Despite a firm ride and limited off-road ability, the Audi Q5 is still a very desirable car. Aimed at the Land Rover Freelander 2, it has the build quality and refinement of an Audi saloon but the practicality and space of a larger 4x4, so it's an excellent compromise. Thanks to big seats, it's very comfortable, too. If it weren’t for the slightly stiff ride Audi would have built a clear class leader. The choice of engines is good, and the excellent 2.0 TDI diesel is the best of the bunch, as it offers pace and economy in equal measure.
The Q5's accurate steering and reassuring handling are impressive. And as Audi thinks most owners won’t take their car off-road, it has been tailored for tarmac performance. Although the ride is firm, the steering is precise, and the optional Drive Select system allows the driver to alter the set-up of the car between sportier or more comfortable settings. It's not designed for extreme adventure, but the Q5 will cope with light off-roading, with features like hill descent control and an off-road setting for the traction control to ensure it can cope with muddy tracks and slippery ground.
The suspension is stiff, but not to the point where it's uncomfortable. For the most part, the Q5 soaks up bumps and undulations in the road well. There's a little wind noise in the cabin, yet not so much that it becomes intrusive. There's plenty of space for passengers in the front and the rear, so long journeys shouldn’t be a problem.
The Q5 uses tried and tested Audi engines. Build quality has always been a strength for the brand, and things haven’t changed with the Q5 – it has a high-quality interior with robust materials that are well put together. During Euro NCAP crash testing in 2009 the car was awarded with a five-star rating.
There's 540 litres of boot space with all the seats in place, but fold the rear seats and that grows to a huge 1,560 litres. Buyers can specify runners that allow the rear seats to slide back and forth by 100mm to increase boot or legroom, and there's additional storage space hidden beneath the boot floor. Up front, big door pockets, a large central cubby and a sizeable glovebox are all useful.
Value for money
The Q5's starting price is high and options expensive, but it has a generous amount of standard kit. Because of the prestige of the Audi badge on the bonnet, the Q5 will hold on to its value much better than the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander 2.
We’d recommend the 2.0 TDI diesel, as it's one of the cheapest versions of the Q5 to buy and offers the best mix of economy and performance: the entry-level 2.0 TDI quattro returns 43.5mpg on average, helped by its smooth stop-start system. Road tax costs are considerably lower than for the petrol 2.0 TFSI, and the diesel is likely to keep its value better, too.