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2018 Audi Q5: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Jason Fogelson December 2016

At first glance, the 2018 Audi Q5 doesn't seem all that different than its predecessor. But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the new Q5 -- the first entry in the vehicle's second generation -- is bigger, sleeker, faster, lighter and just plain better than the first-generation version we've been admiring since its debut for the 2009 model year.

What It Is

The Q5 is a premium compact crossover, which puts it at the heart of the hottest vehicle segment right now. Consumers have discovered that crossovers deliver almost all the capability of a traditional SUV along with the comfort and drivability of a sedan, and the compromises are few. In fact, the Q5 is Audi's best-selling model, so a makeover is a high-stakes undertaking. The brand promises that the Q5 makeover is spearheading a comprehensive reworking of their entire portfolio.

Sharper on the Outside

On the outside, the Q5 still looks like the Q5, though it's taken on some of the crisper aspects of the latest Q7. The bends and folds are sharper, and the body somehow looks more modern and streamlined. The figures bear this out, as the Q5's coefficient of drag has been reduced from 0.33 to 0.30 (lower numbers are better). The vehicle has grown by a few inches in almost every direction, to 183.6 inches long, 65.3 inches tall and 74.5 inches wide with an extra 0.5 inches in wheelbase (111.0 inches). Despite this expansion, curb weight has decreased by 45 pounds to 4,045 pounds.

Sharper on the Inside

Audi has built a reputation for cutting-edge interior design, and Q5's sharp interior lives up to the expectations. The dash has a strong horizontal line that makes the cabin feel even wider than it is. The 8.3-inch center display has moved from an inset unit in the center stack to a pod at the top of the stack, an arrangement that puts the screen more in line with the driver's view of the road, which is a very good thing. The available Audi virtual cockpit, a 12.3-in display that replaces the traditional analog instrument panel, is a very cool feature that allows the driver to customize the panel to display virtual gauges, Google Earth mapping and other vehicle information on a very crisp full-color screen.

The Q5 seats five, so long as the center rear passenger doesn't mind a rather inferior perch. The other four passengers get comfortable, supportive seats, with leather seating surfaces and heated power seats in the front row (ventilated available). Rear legroom has increased by nearly half an inch to 37.8 inches. Luggage room is down slightly to 28.7 cu ft., but folding down the 60/40-split second row brings cargo capacity up to 60.1 cu ft., accessible via a standard power lift gate. That's one of the reasons sedan buyers keep trading up to crossovers.

Engine and Transmission

When it launches in the U.S., the Q5 will come with just one engine choice, a redeveloped 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder gasoline direct-injection unit. Previously, the Q5 came with a 2.0T that produced fewer horsepower and less torque (220 hp versus 258 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque versus 273 lb-ft), a 3.0T 6-cylinder or a TDI diesel engine. According to Audi, the new engine delivers faster 0-to-60 times and improved fuel efficiency over the outgoing power plants, so only one variant has been deemed necessary. A dual-clutch 7-speed S tronic automatic transmission, replacing the outgoing 8-speed Tiptronic, keeps the standard quattro all-wheel drive humming smoothly. Fuel-economy numbers have not yet been released, but Audi promises that the redeveloped engine outdoes the previous version.

Suspension and Handling

The Q5's suspension has also been redesigned, with a 5-link setup in front and available adaptive damping in the rear with continuous electronic damper control. This setup works in conjunction with the five settings on Audi drive select, allowing drivers to customize their ride in response to road and driving conditions. With quattro and drive select, the Q5 delivered a comfortable ride on a wide variety of surfaces during our test drives, including a 20-plus-mile stretch of dirt road and even a fun romp through some deep sand in a dry riverbed wash. Don't worry -- we were following an Audi engineer in a caravan of Q5s, so the fun was fully authorized.

Technology and Infotainment

Audi has plenty of standard and available technology for the Q5, especially in the area of driver assistance. Audi pre sense basic is standard, as is pre sense city. Side assist, pre sense rear cross-traffic alert, turn assist, vehicle-exit assistant, adaptive cruise control with Audi stop & go, traffic-jam assist and traffic-sign recognition are all standard on Premium Plus and Prestige models with the Driver Assistance Package, and Audi active lane assist is also available.

When it comes to interface and infotainment, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard. Audi Connect is available with a subscription; it uses a 4G LTE connection and allows for a Wi-Fi hot spot. Audi's MMI with All-in-Touch technology is also available, bringing a cool handwriting-recognition feature to the center console that lets you spell out your commands and inputs with your index finger while driving, along with pinch/zoom and swipe actions. The icing on the cake is an available 19-speaker 755-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system that turns the Q5 into a concert stage.

In Conclusion

Pricing hasn't yet been announced for the Q5, but when it arrives in spring of 2017, it will probably be competitive with the class, which includes the Lexus RX, the Infiniti QX50, the Lincoln MKX, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the BMW X3 and others.

The Q5 was already a very good premium compact crossover, and the 2018 Audi Q5 is even better.

In order to gain access to the vehicle reviewed, Autotrader attended a launch event sponsored by the manufacturer.

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2018 Audi Q5: First Drive Review - Autotrader