Audi Q5 S line review
Is the big-selling S line the best Audi Q5 trim level?
The Audi Q5 has become a popular premium SUV, and deservedly so. It competes directly with the Mercedes GLC and BMW X3 and does so with inimitable Audi style – from its distinctive front grille to the subtle bulges over its wheelarches, the Q5 looks muscular without being over the top.
Of course, with three trim levels to choose from, Q5 buyers have the scope to personalise their cars, and the Q5 becomes more eye-catching as you ascend the price list. The 'blank slate' trim level is named SE and is quite well equipped, or you can step up to the Sport, which introduces bigger 18-inch alloy wheels, MMI navigation, sports front seats and an LED interior lighting package.
However, the range-topping S line trim, with its more aggressive body styling, 19-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass and LED headlamps, remains a popular upgrade despite costing considerably more. It's not hard to see why, because the Q5 S line has a very sporty look to it. The uninitiated might be hard-pressed to tell it apart from the high-performance Audi SQ5, yet you can choose the Q5 S line with the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine – the most economical in the range.
If you want the power to match the S line's looks, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel might fit the bill. Its 282bhp is enough for a 0-62mph time of just 5.8 seconds, which is close to sports-car territory. The 3.0-litre is an extremely smooth and quiet engine, too – just the job for fast, relaxing motorway travel. The 2.0-litre petrol is also powerful; with 249bhp, it'll take the Q5 from 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds, but its 39.2mpg fuel economy can't match the 3.0-litre diesel's 45.6mpg, let alone the 50.4mpg that the 2.0-litre diesel can return.
What's more, with 0-62mph in a claimed 7.9 seconds, the 2.0-litre diesel doesn't hang about, which means you can make the most of one of the Q5 S line's greatest attributes – the way it goes around corners. Unlike many SUVs of the past, which would wallow and lean when driven enthusiastically, the Q5 S line corners with the enthusiasm of a hot hatchback. Aside from the raised driving position, there are few reminders that you're not driving an Audi A5 Coupe, so stable does the Q5 feel on a country road.
What's also great news is that the Q5's ride quality, which is impressively smooth over bumps in the entry-level SE with its 17-inch wheels, is barely affected by the bigger 19-inch wheels of the S line trim. That's because both versions use the same 'comfort dynamic' suspension system. A word of warning, though – a firmer S line suspension setup is available as a zero-cost option and, while this makes the Q5 even tidier in corners, it introduces a rather hard edge to how potholes and imperfections are felt through the car.
Sadly, for all its agility, the Q5 still doesn't quite have the measure of the Range Rover Sport, Jaguar F-Pace or BMW X3 when it comes driver involvement. The Audi just doesn't feel quite as fun as its rivals, no matter how powerful an engine you choose. For that reason, we suggest that the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel is the best choice of the bunch. It's relatively quiet at motorway speeds and will prove a lot less costly to run than the 3.0-litre diesel or 2.0-litre petrol.
The distinctive bodykit of the Audi Q5 S line may look like an exercise in style over substance, but for once we can confidently name it the best of the bunch. As long as you don't opt for the sports suspension, it's barely any less comfortable to travel in than the Q5 SE, has far more standard equipment and doesn't lose out on practicality or economy. Perhaps the best news, though, is that the sheer desirability of the S line means you'll find it easy to sell when the time comes, and it's likely to hold on to a good proportion of its value, too.