Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
With our sensible hat on, the 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel (badged 40 TDI) is the engine to go for. It’s not exactly quick, but it will match or better rivals with equivalent engines (such as the BMW X3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport) for straight-line pace. There’s enough oomph on hand to breeze you up to motorway speeds with little drama, even if the seven-speed automatic gearbox that comes with this engine can be a bit slow-witted when pulling away from junctions.
The 242bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol (named 45 TFSI) wouldn’t be our first choice, but it’s worth a serious look if you really don't want a diesel. This four-cylinder engine revs keenly and feels genuinely lively on the move. Being turbocharged, it’s flexible, too, and is happy to pull strongly from low revs, much like a diesel.
If you want seriously rapid performance though, only the SQ5 will do. You can read about it in detail on our website, but be aware that it's currently off sale while Audi tunes its V6 petrol engine to comply with the latest WLTP emissions regulations.
Suspension and ride comfort
There are no fewer than four suspension options on the regular Q5. Every trim apart from Vorsprung has comfort dynamic suspension as standard – this consists of conventional steel springs and regular dampers. The S Sport suspension that's a no-cost option on S line and Black Edition trims is essentially the same, just a little stiffer.
Both setups deliver a slightly firmer ride than we'd like along battered urban streets, with the S Sport suspension the bumpiest of the two. Still, things smooth out nicely on faster A-roads and motorways, where the Q5 feels supple but controlled – good news for anyone who suffers from motion sickness.
If you're prepared to pay extra, there's an adaptive air suspension system that allows you to stiffen or soften the suspension at the touch of a button. As well allowing you to adjust the stiffness of the ride, it allows you to vary the ride height; for instance, you can raise the car to give extra ground clearance or lower it to make lifting items in and out of the boot easier. It is a pricey option but, allows the Q5 to patter calmly over crags in the road and gently float over undulations.
With adaptive air suspension fitted, the Q5 is quite simply the best riding car in the class. However, whichever suspension you opt for, we advise you to stick with the smallest wheels possible if you really want to maximise ride comfort.
And what about the Vorsprung? Well, this trim comes with adaptive dampers that we've yet to try. You can still pay extra for air suspension, but be aware that the Vorsprung comes with whopping 21in alloys as standard which come at the detriment of ride quality even with air fitted. If it's the super-sporty SQ5 model you're interested in, click here for our detailed review of that model.
Of the suspension systems available, the firmer S Sport set-up keeps the Q5's body admirably upright through twists and turns. There's lots of grip, too, so it's easy to thread the car along country roads – and all versions have four-wheel drive that delivers plenty of traction when accelerating out of tight corners in slippery conditions.
The standard comfort dynamic set-up is slightly softer and allows a little more lean, but still allows the Q5 to handle in a far tidier fashion than the Volvo XC60 or DS 7 Crossback, and is a close match for the BMW X3. When the optional adaptive air suspension is fitted, the Q5 will wallow a bit in corners when Comfort mode is selected, but you can firm things up to improve agility at the touch of a button.
Yet, compared with rivals such as the Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan, the Q5 isn’t especially rewarding to drive quickly. This is mainly due to the steering, which doesn't give you quite the same sense of connection to the front wheels as the best large SUVs. It's precise enough to allow you to place the car accurately through bends, though.
Meanwhile, the SQ5 is remarkably capable for a big, heavy SUV, with grip and agility that will shame even a Macan. It still isn't as much fun to drive as that car, though – nor a BMW X3 M40i, for that matter. Read our Audi SQ5 review for more detail on that range-topping model.
Noise and vibration
This is a wonderfully relaxing car on long journeys. Wind noise is well stifled at high speeds, partly helped by the standard acoustic glazing on the windscreen and, on all but entry-level Sport versions, the front side windows, too. Road noise is more noticeable in cars fitted with regular springs and dampers than it is in the air-sprung models, but even in the former it’s far from deafening.
Every engine including the four-cylinder petrol (45 TFSI) is smooth and hushed, and the diesel engine is among the quietest in the class. Whichever engine you choose, the automatic gearboxes slip smoothly through their gears, but can be a bit jerky at parking speeds and in stop-start traffic.
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