When I first drove my sparkling Q5 out of the dealership, my first thought was “they`ve nailed it”. In other words, it felt perfect, right down to the details. Over the next couple of years, the question of whether or not this was the car I wanted to keep became somewhat of a conundrum. From a purely business point of view it should – as any vehicle which is doing very low kms – be reevaluated. And at the end of the day, this is and was the official reason I sold my Audi Q5: as a business asset it wasn`t generating sufficient value to warrant keeping it. The spiralling coronavirus outbreak, (and not least the looming interstate travel restrictions) reduced the need for the car even further, and tipped the balance in favour of selling the Q5, for the right price. I figured it would be easier to get a reasonable price for it while it was still under warranty.
But besides the cold commercial considerations, there was also a niggling and ever-growing conviction that this Q5 was not the car I wanted to drive for the next 5 – 10 years.
With almost 40,000km down, and my Audi Q5 well out of hearing range, here`s my take on the 2017/2018 Audi Q5 Sport 2.0 TFSI.
Let’s start at the very top – the things that impressed me the most about my Audi Q5.
Incredible AWD Performance Handling
I’m not an engineer or automotive specialist in any shape or form. I’m just a critically thinking driver who appreciates performance and comfort for what it’s worth. Audi`s renowned “quattro” is nothing short of incredible. There are of course different types of 4WD / AWD. To state that it’s almost impossible to lose control of an Audi Q5 on a wet and slippery road, would sound like a serious overstatement. And it does warrant a disclaimer – of course any car travelling and cornering at speed will, at some point, lose traction and slide off the road or into oncoming traffic. So that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we`re talking about is the extraordinary ability of the Audi Q5 to assist the driver with remaining under control, even under the most challenging circumstances.
With any new car (new as in new to me, even if it`s an old car) my preference has always been to get to know the car before you are forced to find out – in an emergency situation – how it handles. For example, every front wheel drive (FWD) vehicle has a point – a certain combination of speed/acceleration, road surface and turning angle – at which it will understeer. What does understeer mean? The vehicle begins to plough forward regardless of the way the wheels are turning. It can be useful to know approximately where this point is, and (under legal/controlled conditions of course) to experience how the car will respond. That way, if you are suddenly forced to turn to avoid an accident, you may stand a better chance at recovering and remaining in control of the car.
Similarly, practically every rear-wheel drive (RWD) vehicle will have a point – a certain combination of acceleration and steering, at which the rear wheels will lose traction, and the rear end of the car will spin out in the opposite direction to the steering direction.
Do AWD vehicles handle better than FWD and RWD? If the only difference was that the power was distributed over 4 wheels instead of just 2, then you’d expect reduced symptoms of both the front and rear wheel drive vehicles. You’d expect less of a tendency to plough forward, and less of a tendency to drift out behind. When pushed hard, you`d expect the car to plough slightly forward, and the rear to drive slightly at the same time. The Audi Q5 does more than that.
How Does Quattro Work?
If the wheels on one axle start to lose traction, the drive force is distributed almost instantly to the axle or wheel with better grip, helping the driver to stay in control of the vehicle. Cornering forces are more balanced which enhances safety as well. That’s the theoretical summary. But how does it work in the real world? What’s so special about Audi quattro? I tested it, pushing the Q5 to its limits in wet, slippery conditions. The split second the tyres began to slip on the bitumen, the Audi Q5 basically took over. It felt as if all four wheels, the brakes, the accelerator, the suspension and the steering mobilised – almost instantaneously – to quickly and gently bring the car back “under control.” The moment this was achieved, I was “permitted” to start driving normally again.
The Audi Q5`s Pre-sense Safety Warning System
In addition to the exceptional handling – which I found almost impossible to fault in any way – the Audi Q5 had a stack of other safety features. I probably didn`t appreciate all of them for what they were worth, but the standard Pre Sense was also excellent and warrants a special mention.
How Does Audi Pre Sense Work?
Another car pulls out unexpectedly in front of you, or otherwise behaves in a way which increases the risk of an accident. Clearly my Audi Q5 could “sense” almost immediately whether I had noticed it, and if it was in any doubt – the distinct warning “bell” would sound, together with a flashing warning within the display. I found Pre Sense to be genuinely reliable and useful in helping to ensure that I was always wide awake when I was behind the wheel. I also put this to the test a few times, briefly “pretending” that I hadn’t noticed e.g. a parked car. Often this wouldn’t trigger any warning whatsoever – somehow my Audi Q5 could “sense” that I was aware of whatever the obstacle was. Pre-Sense wasn`t without fault of course. Passing through one particular roundabout in my local area would consistently trigger the warning tone, ostensibly because there was a car parked safely next to the kerb on the opposite side, well clear of the roundabout.
Whisper Quiet Audi Q5 Cockpit
When you close the door on the Audi Q5, you feel like you’ve settled into a corporate lounge – or cockpit, as Audi prefers to call it. It has a certain futuristic feel to it, enhanced not least by the variable display, which lets you turn the entire front dash display into a map, a fuel economy tracker, a media player etc. etc. When I ordered the Q5, I asked for the darkest legal tint, and was therefore a bit disappointed to find that the rear windows were tinted the same as the front windows. Upon further enquiry, I was told that although it wasn’t illegal to tint the rear windows any darker, the dealer wasn`t permitted to sell it with any darker tint. So I decide to go all the way – a deep black tint immaculately applied onto all of the rear windows. This certainly added to the mystic feel of the car.
What I Couldn’t Fully Reconcile Myself To..
The Bluetooth was simply not reliable enough. Apparently this is a known issue, and it just got to me – if you’re going to design, build, promote and sell a luxury car, surely it must be possible to get this right?
Is Auto Stop Start Bad For Your Car?
A lot of people love the Auto Stop/Start feature, but I frankly couldn’t stand it. In my opinion there’s something just plain unnatural about a car that abruptly switches itself off when you stop even momentarily at an intersection, and then “wakes” to life again when you release the brake. It`s all in the name of fuel consumption reduction of course, but I couldn’t help asking myself what level of extra wear and tear is this effecting on the starter motor and other engine components? Thankfully it was easily disabled with the push of a button, but there was no way to “Save” this as default. When I contacted the Audi Service Centre and asked how I might permanently disable this feature, I was advised that this could not be done (at least not by Audi).
Are Audi Q5 Seats Comfortable?
Personally, I found both the front and rear seats to be a bit on the firm side. I couldn’t fully reconcile myself with the high edges on the sides of the driver`s seat. Clearly designed to keep you centered in your seat during cornering etc., on long drives I found it created a slight pressure point along my thigh.. Interestingly, I discovered later that this seat design is not unique to the “Sports” package, leaving me to wonder how it was ever justified as a normal seat. On the plus side, the extendable front section of the seat did help to compensate for any incidental and slight discomfort on the longer drives.
Automatic rear door
The push of a button on the outside of the rear door, or a pull of the small lever near the driver`s side arm rest, each activates the automatic rear door. The Audi Q5 boasts an additional feature – by swiping your foot briefly underneath the rear of the car, the automatic door is also activated – super helpful (when it worked, which it usually did, but not always). There`s a certain satisfaction about coming up to your car with an armload of shopping, discreetly slipping your foot underneath, then stepping back as the door gracefully rises out and up. There was one problem however: the foot swipe worked both ways! So.. as I`m leaning far into the boot space attempting to recover that errant piece of fruit or roll-away bottle of soft drink, not realising that I`ve just stepped into the sensor zone… yep, you’ve guessed it. Beep – Beep! The rear door is closing in. Quick, back out to safety or risk being squashed like a rat in a trap. Ok: in the interest of full disclosure, the automatic rear door won`t kill or maim you. It merely pins you down for a second, before reversing course and Beep-Beeping its way up again. All in all, a nifty feature, providing you operate it with care, and be aware where you place your feet…
Audi Q5’s Keep-Your-Distance Cruise Control
I can almost hear that auto tech fanatics gasp – what is there not to love about Adaptive Cruise Control?
ACC is not unique to Audi, and to give credit to Audi – in the Audi Q5 Sport model I reckon it works as it should. For those not familiar with this feature – Adaptive Cruise Control maintains not only a fixed speed, but also a minimum distance between your vehicle, and the vehicle in front. This is great when driving in stop and go traffic, the Audi will pretty much drive itself, without exceeding the speed limit. So what was my issue with ACC? There are 3 in total.
Issue 1: Cornering and oncoming traffic
The Audi Q5`s hyper-sensitive sensors are constantly reading the forward landscape, prepared to activate any number of Audi’s self-preservation features within a fraction of a second. On numerous occasions when coming around a bend, an oncoming vehicle would momentarily appear in the line of sight of Audi’s sensors. Clearly interpreting this as a vehicle “in front” rather than “vehicle in opposite lane” my Audi Q5 would abruptly stop accelerating, only to then recover a second later (the oncoming vehicle having then passed by).
Issue 2: Highway driving
There’s no question that Audi`s Adaptive Cruise Control can and probably has saved lives. A fatigued driver who might otherwise ram ahead into the banked up traffic, may be woken up by the sudden braking, and be able to regain control of his or her vehicle. However, for the alert driver, who simply wants to keep the optimal speed along a dual carriage highway… there’s a subtle downside. I often found myself un-alerted to the fact that the adaptive feature had engaged. Only when other road users would start to overtake me in quick succession, would I glance at the dash and discover that I was now cruising at e.g. 95 km/h instead of the ~110 km/h…
I wonder how many Audi drivers would (if given the choice) also prefer the traditional cruise control, where, as you approach the vehicle ahead, you can glance in your mirrors and over your shoulder, and make an informed choice – change lanes and overtake at the current speed, or apply the brakes, and drive normally. Each to their own.
Issue 3: No opt-out of the adaptive feature
I guess this one sums it all up – if it was purely optional, I would probably love the Audi Q5`s Adaptive Cruise Control, and use it from time to time. But being as it were, I won’t be missing it.
And Finally.. The Transmission
In Australia, all new models of Audi Q5 (and indeed practically all new Audi`s) are available only in automatic. Yes, the option is there to drive in “manual” mode utilising either the shifter stick on your left, or the paddle shifters tucked being the steering wheel. But as any true manual driver will tell you, it just isn’t the same.
If you’re considering buying an Audi Q5, I would highly recommend you look into how to rent a luxury car and rent a Q5 for a day. Drive it in all sorts of areas, including on highways and busy roads. That way you’ll see what you like and dislike, how the car handles, and whether it will meet your standards.
Information and advice in this article is general in nature and current at the time of publication, and no warranty is offered as to its accuracy or completeness.