by Gabe Beita Kiser
Originally released in 2008 as an SUV based entirely on Audi's MLB platform, the first-generation Q5 was built exclusively at Ingolstadt for the booming SUV market. Twelve years - and numerous updates - later, the popular midsize German Sport Utility Vehicle cruises into 2020 with a trunk full of upgrades, still boasting cultured styling, an impressive powertrain, and the all-important Audi pedigree. However, with almost forty percent of the world's passenger car market currently made up of SUVs, it's no easy task to stay ahead of rivals such as the BMW X3, Volvo XC60, and the Mercedes-Benz GLC. Still dragging cargo limitations and a bland driving experience behind it, can the latest iteration of the Q5 shoulder ahead of rivals to stay in the upper ranks of the SUV segment and maintain its title as the best-selling Audi model?
For 2020, Audi has packed the Q5 with more equipment, as well as expanding the optional features list. The entry-level model boasts brand-new 18-inch turbine design wheels and high-beam assist as standard, while the two upper trims receive 19-inch five-spoke dynamic design wheels with all-season tires. Available packages have been reshuffled too, and the Driver Assistance package can now be equipped from the mid-tier Premium Plus trim which adds adaptive cruise control, active lane keep assist, and traffic jam assist to the Q5. The Convenience Plus package, which comprises Audi phone box, parking assist, and front and rear parking sensors, has been added to the menu as well.
Carrying over the same suave styling from the previous model year, the Q5 maintains its prominent grille, angular headlights, and color-keyed exterior mirrors to present a stylish, contemporary overall package. However, it rolls in on new wheel choices - 18-inch designs on the entry-level model, and partly-polished 19-inch wheels for the upper trims. LED daytime running lights are standard on all models, with full LED headlights and a sunroof included from the mid-range model upwards.
With one of the shorter wheelbases in the segment, the Q5's 111 inches adds to its agility, although the 4,057 lbs of curb weight it has to lug around offsets this somewhat. An overall length of 183.6 inches and a height of 65.3 inches put the Q5 generally on par with its core rivals, albeit fractionally shorter than the X3. With a ground clearance of 8.2 inches, the Q5 offers better off-roading potential than most, though, with only the Volvo XC 60 besting it at 8.5 inches. Comparatively, the Merc GLC sits only five inches off the tarmac, although it weighs in at almost two hundred pounds less.
No changes in exterior colors for 2020 mean the eleven-hue palette carries over as is, with Brilliant Black and Ibis White as starting points without cost implications. Metallic colors include Florett Silver, Glacier White, Manhattan Gray, and Monsoon Gray carry a surcharge. Similarly, more vibrant color options like Azores Green, Matador Red, Navarra Blue, Moonlight Blue, and the deep Mythos Black come at the same cost as well.
Fitted with the same powertrain as the 2019 model year, the Q5 has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine under the hood. Making 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, the Q5 can get to the 60 mph mark in just under six seconds (5.9 if we are being pedantic). The limited top speed of 130 mph can easily be achieved in the Q5; acceleration is managed by a seven-speed S tronic transmission's snappy shifts, while the standard quattro all-wheel-drive system helps transfer available power rapidly to the tarmac. This puts the Q5 only marginally ahead of both the GLC and the X3, which need 6.1 and six seconds to get to 60 respectively. Both rivals are also equipped with rear-wheel-drive as standard, needing all-wheel-drive to be optioned on additionally.
Producing good torque for this segment, the Audi Q5 can tow a maximum of 4,400 lbs, matching the X3's capabilities, and leaving the GLC far behind. With only one powertrain option for the Q5 range, buyers will have to be satisfied with what they have - which, admittedly, is not a bad deal at all.
248 hp and 273 lb-ft are produced by the 2.0-liter four-cylinder TFSI engine across the Q5 range; the turbocharged powerplant is mated to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission that smoothly moves the hefty SUV up to speed. Ample power means satisfying acceleration in the Q5, and taking off from standstill is as easy as passing maneuvers on the highway are. The Q5 seems unperturbed by any requests to crank up the throttle, and with such a compliant powertrain, makes for driving that seems almost second-nature. Whether in urban environments, cruising between traffic lights, or out on the open road, the Q5 responds well to throttle inputs; with good ground clearance, the Q5 could tackle some harsher road conditions too, although its not fully equipped for proper off-road trails - we advise unleashing the Q5 in the urban jungle instead.
While it has the capacity to excite the driver with good acceleration, the Q5 suffers from a rather bland steering feel. Although pointing the vehicle in any one direction is easy enough, and the Q5 is compliant in doing what you want it to do, there's no real feedback from the wheels. So, while driving it feels second-nature, it doesn't quite give you any goosebumps. Switching to the Dynamic drive mode gives a little more weight under your fingertips, but it still lacks any real organic feel. Still, the Q5 excels at absorbing road undulations and bumps, offering a well-damped suspension and a quiet, comfortable cabin. Optional adaptive suspension can be added for an even better experience, but the stock Q5 is perfectly fine without it. The quattro system ensures good grip and throwing the Q5 down winding roads results in a stable, confident ride with minimal body roll. Although some competitors offer a bit more engagement and make for a livelier, more thrilling joy-ride, the Q5 seems like the perfect gentleman on the road, never overstepping the boundaries and getting you home safely before curfew.
Effective engineering allows for the Q5 engine to be both thrifty and energetic at the same time, and while the EPA estimates of 22/27/24 mpg city/highway/combined are average for this segment, the X3 does a little better at 23/30/26 mpg. The Volvo XC60 only manages better fuel economy for highway driving, while Merc's GLC offers the same as what the Audi does. An 18.5-gallon fuel tank means the Q5 can go 444 miles between refueling using premium unleaded gas.
A strong suit for Audi is the interior quality and build of their vehicles - the Q5 is a prime example of this, boasting a well-appointed cabin with effective dampening to keep it tranquil, and a host of top-end features to keep it relevant. While marketed as a five-seater, four is a more realistic number to settle for if comfort is a priority. Cargo space isn't the best, though, but a thoughtful dash layout with a minimalist approach to controls and dials, easy ingress and egress, and comfortable seats that are heated even from the base model onwards mitigate the trunk-space negatives. Featuring Audi's brilliant virtual cockpit and easy operations for both driver and passengers, the interior of the Q5 has pretty much ticked every box needed to stay in the top ranks of the SUV segment.
Tipped to seat five, the Q5's rear seat realistically is a bit tight for a third passenger in the middle. With restricted foot space, it's better to offer only two pals a ride in the back, and even then, hope they aren't overly tall. Still, seating is comfortable and well contoured to make for enjoyable road trips; the driver is treated to an ideal driving position with a lot of adjustability in the seating and steering column to make even the really tall, or really short, feel at home behind the wheel, thanks to eight-way power adjustability and four lumbar settings for the driver. Front headroom is better than most rivals at 41.7 inches, and legroom is well up in the ranks too. In the back seat, the same remains true, with much more headroom than others (as long as you do not spec the sunroof) and sufficient legroom for six-footers behind each front seat. Slipping in and out of the cabin is easy, due to tall doors that aren't overly wide.
Leather is the name of the game on the inside of the Q5, with Black, Rock Gray, Nougat Brown, or Atlas Beige color schemes as standard options to choose from. Perforated leather - in any of the above colors - can be had when equipping the Warm Weather Package additionally. High-gloss Burl Walnut Wood decorative inlay is standard on all models, with optional upgrades to Aluminum Rhombus, Gray/Brown Natural Ash Wood, or high-gloss Gray Oak Wood.
The trunk on the 2020 Q5 has a total volume of 25.1 cubic feet available behind the back seats. While this is substantially less than the 28.7 and 29.7 cubic feet in the X3 and XC60 respectively, it is almost six cubes more than what Merc's GLC has to offer. Folding down the 40/20/40 split rear seats opens up a total of 53.1 cubic feet, which is well below the segment leaders. Still, a family of four could happily go on a week-long vacation and fit their luggage behind the rear seats.
For smaller items, the Q5 continues along with the thoughtful-design trend, with plenty of little bins and cubbies for your keys and coins, and a narrow slot for your phone. Door pockets are adequately sized, and the center armrest console houses a moderately sized bin. Cupholders are available up front, but aren't well-placed (a strange oversight in an otherwise conscientious design) and can hinder your access to the infotainment system.
Right from the base model, the Q5 comes well-equipped with a tilt and telescoping steering column, paddle shifters on the wheel, heated front seats that are power-adjustable and boast lumbar settings, and full leather interior as standard. A potent three-zone climate control takes care of in-cabin temperature settings, while ambient LED interior lighting, a panoramic sunroof, and leatherette-covered armrests are fitted from mid-range upwards. With keyless entry and start, the Q5 also has cruise control, hill descent control, a rearview camera, and the Audi pre-sense basic and city bundles installed, which includes numerous active driver aids such as collision avoidance and pedestrian detection.
Equipped with the respected MMI infotainment system, the Q5 scores highly for being a user-friendly, intuitive setup. With a seven inch display and ten-speaker stock sound system on the base model, the Q5 supplies a great foundation for on-board tech superiority in this class. The infotainment system includes the Audi music interface, featuring two USB ports, smartphone integration for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth streaming, and a seven-inch driver information display. On the Premium Plus trim, two additional USB ports are added in the rear for charging, navigation gets added, and the infotainment screen is upgraded to an 8.3-inch monitor. Also from mid-range, the brilliant virtual cockpit is made available, incorporating a 12.3-inch LCD digital instrument cluster with two modes, either Classic or Infotainment; touch-pad inputs via handwriting-recognition, SiriusXM, and Audi connect are also equipped. On the top-of-the-range Prestige edition, the audio setup is replaced with a premium Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker sound system including a 16-channel amp and 3D sound.
As a brand new model year release, the 2020 Q5 has no history of recalls or problems to note. However, the 2019 model year was affected by three recalls, ranging from electrical malfunctions in the brake system to wheel arch linings detaching, and finally, instrument panels dislodging during collisions. J.D. Power rated the 2019 Q5 as having a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average for the segment. We assume, with the upgrades for the 2020 model, the results will be the same, if not better.
The Q5 is covered by a limited four-year/50,000-mile warranty, four-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty and a complimentary maintenance plan for one year/10,000 miles.
The NHTSA evaluated the 2020 Q5 and awarded it full marks of five stars for overall safety. All other tests resulted in five stars, with the exception of the four-star rated rollover evaluation. The IIHS has not yet rated the 2020 model; however, with the safety features being the same as the previous year model, we expect the rating to carry over. For 2019, the IIHS awarded the highest possible scores of Good for all evaluations, with only Xenon headlight-equipped trims scoring Poorly in one category.
The Audi pre sense basic suite, as well as the pre sense city bundle, are equipped from the entry-level model and up. This incorporates preventative measures such as electronic stability control, seat belt pretensioners, hazard warning light activation, automatic sunroof closure, and automatic braking. Making use of cameras and sensors, the pre sense city bundle also preempts collisions and will warn the driver with visual, auditory and even haptic cues when imminent hazards are detected. Additionally, the Q5 is equipped with cruise control, hill descent control, and a rearview camera on the base model, which is upgraded to side assist and pre sense rear systems on the Premium Plus model. This adds rear cross-traffic warning, vehicle exit warning, and acoustic parking sensors. The top-tier Prestige model boasts the full directory of safety features, with adaptive cruise control, park steering assist, a head-up display, traffic sign recognition, active lane assist, and a top-view camera. Two sets of LATCH car-seat tethers on the outboard rear seats, as well as a center-seat upper tether are also included on every model and rank highly for ease of use. Front, side and rear airbags are standard.
With awards such as "Best Car for Families" and "Compact Luxury SUV Best Buy" for 2018 and 2019 respectively under its belt, the Audi Q5 has got it's own big shoes to fill with this latest model. It remains the best-seller in the Audi line-up with its eager-to-please powertrain and no-mess-no-fuss driveability. The sublime interior is positively charming, and although cargo space isn't particularly impressive, the comprehensive list of safety features and intuitive infotainment combine to make this a competent family carrier. Safety scores are high, and the quiet, comfortable cabin ride seems to round off the Q5 as a perfect package. So what are the negatives? If we had to nitpick, we'd only really highlight the cramped rear-seat space for a fifth passenger and the tasteless driving experience. This still isn't enough to discourage us from recommending the Q5 to potential buyers, though. It's a brilliant vehicle for those who want to play it safe and travel in comfort and class.
Entry to the range is through the Premium trim, which is priced at $43,300 for 2020 - an increase of $350 from the previous year. If you opt for the mid-tier Premium Plus, expect to pay $49,950, which is the same price charged for the 2019 variant. The top-end Prestige will have a sticker price of $53,700, although these are the suggested retail prices, which may be adjusted by dealerships; these prices also exclude licensing, taxes, registration, and the $995 destination charge.
For 2020, the Q5 range comprises three trims: the Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige. All models share a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot and quattro/all-wheel-drive mated to an S tronic DCT.
As the base model, the Premium sets the tone for the range on 18-inch wheels and features LED daytime running lights and taillights. Headlights are xenon but have high-beam assist as standard. A power liftgate, paddle shifters for the S tronic transmission, a three-zone automatic climate control, heated eight-way power front seats wrapped in leather, and the seven inch MMI infotainment make up the core in-cabin features. A rearview camera, hill descent assist, cruise control, and keyless entry are also standard.
The mid-range Premium plus upgrades to 19-inch wheels and full LED headlights. A panoramic sunroof is fitted, as are front and rear parking sensors and more safety features. This trim boasts the inclusion of the Audi virtual cockpit, featuring a 12.3-inch LCD digital instrument cluster, navigation and Audi connect services.
Topping out the range is the Prestige model, where power accessories are standard, ambient lighting is added, and a stainless steel trunk sill rounds out exterior enhancements. A premium Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker sound system is equipped to the infotainment suite, and adaptive cruise control, park assist, a head-up display, and various driver aids are added. As the most comprehensively equipped model, the Prestige is the culmination of all features on the lower trims, plus a few smatterings of added exclusivity.
Part of the updates for the 2020 year include newly arranged optional packages. The Convenience Plus package is all-new and adds front and rear parking sensors, 19-inch wheels, and Audi phone box with a signal booster and wireless charging capabilities.
For mid-level trims and up, the Driver Assistance package will equip adaptive cruise control, stop/go technology, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist.
Cold Weather and Warm Weather packages are also available and are trim specific, installing either a heated steering wheel and rear seats, or perforated ventilated front seats and sunshades to the Q5.
Standalone options remain the same, with various wheel options, sound-system upgrades and exterior enhancements available.
Although even the base model is well equipped, the mid-tier Premium Plus is the ideal compromise between the top and bottom rung. Featuring a full array of LED lights, a panoramic sunroof, the brilliant Audi virtual cockpit with navigation, and a handful of additional driver aids, it makes sense to opt for this trim and equip the Driver Assistance package, which - aside for the premium sound system on the range-topper - pretty much evens the two top trims out. Admittedly, the difference between the two is less than $4,000, so if jamming to a playlist is a must-have for you, rather opt for the top trim. You won't be disappointed with any of the available trims though, so the investment is worthwhile no matter which trim you choose.
Two German SUVs in a neck and neck battle for top honors seems like a motoring cliche, yet the Q5 and the X3 are so evenly matched that one has to be mentioned when discussing the other. Both are equipped with 2.0-liter inline-four engines and produce the same 248 horsepower. The Q5 kicks out more torque though, managing 273 lb-ft as opposed to the X3's 258 lb-ft. It stands to reason that the Q5 would be able to tow more than the X3 does, yet both manage 4,400 lbs. With EPA estimates of 23/30/26 mpg, the X3 proves to be more efficient than the Q5, which manages 22/27/24 mpg. Additionally, the BMW variant has much more cargo space than the Audi does, although when it comes to ground clearance and cabin space, the Q5 fares much better. The one drawback of the Q5 is the numb driving experience, and the X3 has solved that problem by offering a nimble, engaging drive that surpasses what the Audi is capable of. Still, SUV's were built for comfort and class, and the Q5 certainly has nailed this down by presenting a polished, ergonomic, comfortable and stylish interior, drawing it into the lead - but only by the smallest margin.
Boasting a recent redesign, the Volvo XC60 saunters into 2020 with a high-performance model and improved fuel efficiency stats. Known for its sublime interior and plush comfort levels, the XC60 offers more cargo space at 29.7 cubic feet to the Q5's 25.1, and manages slightly better EPA estimates - but only for highway driving cycles (29 mpg versus the Q5's 27 mpg). Still, the Volvo's safety levels and standard features are far superior to that of the Audi. The 2019 variant was awarded a Top Safety Pick title by the IIHS, although it also achieved a rather average predicted reliability rating from J.D. Power, as the Q5 did. Two 2019 recalls for the Volvo also levels the playing field between the two rivals, leaving the tie-breaker up to driving and handling scores - and this is where the German SUV overtakes the Swedish offering. With better handling, performance that is more impressive than the similarly-priced, lower-tier XC60 offerings (higher spec XC60s offer more performance on paper), and a smoother ride, the Q5 proves to be the better choice between the two. While neither offer particularly engaging drives, it's the Audi that comes in tops here.