Review and road test of the Audi Q5 (2016 - 2020)
By Jonathan Crouch
Audi's understated Q5 continued its subtle conquest of the premium mid-sized SUV sector in this second generation 'Type 80A' form. This MK2 model is lighter and more likeable than its predecessor, with a more sensible quattro system, loads of advanced technology and a beautifully practical interior crafted in Audi's own inimitable style. In short, if you can afford it, you'd like one.
5dr SEV (2.0 TFSI, 2.0 TFSIe, 3.0 TFSI petrol / 2.0 TDI, 3.0 TDI) [S line, Black Edition,Vorsprung, SQ5])
For some time, Audi has effectively owned the premium part of the mid-sized SUV segment with their Q5 model. At launch in 2016 though, this second generation version faced a much tougher task in maintaining that sales superiority, though was well prepared for the challenge.
Just as its predecessor was. That model, originally introduced back in 2008, established a benchmark for cars of this kind and eventually found over 1.6 million global customers, with sales continuing to grow throughout its eight year production run, especially in markets like China, who now buy more Q5s than the whole of Europe and the US combined. To keep pace with this kind of demand, Audi had to do more than just re-design this model second time around: it also had to create an entirely new production plant to build it - in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico.
The lower production costs of this facility were an important factor in enabling Audi to keep this car competitive in a market sector now demanding Luxury segment technology at Executive segment prices. In facing a growing sector of premium competitors, Audi sent this Q5 to the fitness studio and it returned leaner, tauter and more athletic, having shed over 90kgs in comparison with its predecessor, despite the fact that this MK2 model is slightly bigger. Even more significantly, this car got a completely new on-demand 'quattro with ultra technology' 4WD system that was quite a bit more efficient than the old permanently- activated set-up. And this design was based around the much more sophisticated 'MLB Evo' platform that by 2016, had already done wonders for Audi's larger Q7 SUV.
Add to that a classier cabin, stronger safety standards and hi-tech media connectivity and it was clear from the moment this model was launched that there was plenty of plenty of potential here. This MK2 Q5 sold in its original form until mid-2020 when it was facelifted; it's the original 2016-2020 models we look at here.
What You Get
If at first glance, you're tempted to conclude that this second generation Q5 is merely a mild evolution of its predecessor, we'd understand. And then we'd ask you to look again. This MK2 model is significantly longer than its predecessor and slightly taller too. Perhaps more importantly, it's a leaner, tauter, more sophisticated-looking thing - an SUV with a sense of purpose.
Getting into the front seat is predictably easy, thanks to the raised ride height you get in this kind of SUV and once inside, what's delivered up is a masterclass in interior quality and ergonomics. The cabin's larger than that of the MK1 model too: Audi claimed this Q5 to be class-leading in terms of shoulder width and elbow room and you'll absolutely feel that, especially if you come to this car familiar with its predecessor.
Anything you can't see through the steering wheel will almost certainly be covered by the slimline MMI infotainment display that dominates the top of the dashboard. A little disappointingly, it doesn't rise out of the fascia in the way the screen does on a cheaper Audi A3 from this period, but in compensation, the thin tablet-style display is now touch-sensitive with neat 'pinch and swipe' functionality and comes presented in a classy silver-coloured magnesium frame. As standard, it comes in a 7-inch size and includes the useful 'Audi smartphone interface', with 'Apple Car Play' and 'Android Auto' smartphone connectivity.
As for the rear seat, well in your perusal of used MK2 Q5s, you should insist on finding the option every second generation Q5 should have come with: what Audi calls its 'Rear bench seat plus' feature. This lets you slide the base back and forth by 12cms to increase either legroom or luggage space and also alter the backrest angle through three stages for greater long distance comfort.
The boot is accessed via a standard powered tailgate, the rising height of which can be tailored to suit your garage ceiling. Plus you can operate it with a wave of your foot beneath the bumper if you've a car whose original owner opted for the extra cost 'Advanced Key' package. Thanks to this second generation model's 34mm of extra body length, it was possible for Audi to increase carriage capacity by 10-litres this time round, so a 550-litre space is on offer. Completely flattening the rear bench frees up 1,550-litres of total storage space.
What to Look For
Most owners in our survey seemed happy. The most reported faults related to problems with the alarm system and the central locking. And issues with rattly interior trim and non-engine electricals. Look out for bodywork scrapes and kerb damage to larger-spec alloy wheels. There were a few issues with the car's infotainment system, with phones not connecting properly and flickering screens being the main problem. The DSG automatic gearbox should be checked to make sure it's had a regular oil and filter change, as should the quattro four-wheel-drive system. Many Q5s will have been company or lease cars and, as a result, you should check the condition of the bodywork carefully. The high-quality fit and finish of a Q5 also makes it an ideal candidate for clocking, so ensure the history is absolutely verified.
(approx based on a 2016 Q5 2.0 TDI 190PS - Ex Vat) An air filter costs in the £25 bracket. An oil filter costs in the £7-£11 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £16 to £37 bracket for a set; for a rear set, it's in the £78 bracket. Front brake discs sit in the £53-£130 bracket; for a rear pair, you're looking at the £98-£152 bracket. A thermostat costs around £12 and a water pump is around £102. A radiator is around £150. And a headlamp is in the £482 bracket.
On the Road
So what's this Q5 like on the move? There is after all, plenty that's different here over the previous 'Typ 8R' model: the new 'MLB Evo' platform underpinning fresh petrol engines, a revised range of transmissions and fresh semi-autonomous driving technology. There was also a completely different 'on-demand' 'quattro with ultra technology' 4WD set-up for most models and, for those original buyers wanting it, even an optional air suspension system that does wonders for this car's off road ability. Even ordinary models get an extra 'offroad' setting in the standard 'drive select' vehicle dynamics system that improves their 'off piste' prowess. In short, don't be deceived by the mildly-evolved looks into believing that things here are much the same as they were in the previous generation model. The lighter chassis certainly makes the car feel a little more agile through the corners, though to some extent, the dynamic improvements are somewhat masked by the same rather vague level of steering feel that characterised the old MK1 design.
Engine-wise, most will choose one of the four cylinder variants - probably the efficient 190PS 2.0 TDI diesel, which manages 56.5mpg on the combined cycle and 132g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). It transmits torque to the tarmac via a standard 7-speed S tronic auto gearbox mated to that 'on-demand' 'quattro ultra' 4WD set-up, as does the alternative four cylinder model, a 252PS 2.0 TFSI petrol variant. The prodigious power of the V6 derivatives requires a different approach. For these, Audi stuck with the previous permanent quattro system and paired it with a beefier 8-speed tiptronic auto gearbox. Here, there are two 3.0-litre options, a 286PS 3.0 TDI diesel or a 354PS 3.0 TFSI petrol unit, the latter powerplant reserved for the potent flagship SQ5 model. That SQ5 swapped to a 3.0 TDI diesel in 2018. A 2.0 TFSIe plug-in hybrid model was introduced in late 2019.
The Q5 has always been a top seller on merit. Nothing's changed here. It's simply very good at almost everything. If you want the ultimate driver's car or the ultimate off roader in this sector, well no, this isn't it. But is this the best all-rounder in the class? Many would say so. There are many reasons why. Cabin quality that set a fresh segment standard. Sharp looks. Meticulous build quality. Unbeaten efficiency readings. Class-leading residual values. Cutting-edge safety technology. We could go on. Rivals of course, offer many of these things too, but nobody packages them up quite like Audi.
In summary, whether your destination is Sainsburys or the annual family skiing trip to Chamonix, it's likely that you'll feel better about doing it in an Audi Q5. A Jaguar F-PACE might better reward the frustrated racer in you. And a Land Rover product might better suit your inner Ranulph Fiennes. Ultimately though, it's hard to escape the conclusion that a Q5 simply does a better job of the whole business of ticking every really important need you'd want to meet when buying a premium mid-sized SUV. It isn't a car for extremes but if you're looking for a contender in this segment, it's extremely difficult to ignore.
Audi Q5 (2016 - 2020) review by Jonathan Crouch