There are good reasons the Audi Q5 has been a perennial best-seller in its segment: it delivers what every compact luxury crossover SUV shopper seeks. It has good handling and acceleration coupled with very good gas mileage—and does it all while delivering more ground clearance and a higher driving position than a comparable sedan or wagon.
Less of a shrunken Q7 than a more spacious Audi wagon, the Audi Q5 has pretty proportions and a cabin that's cleanly styled and trimmed to a high standard. The cohesive look fits snugly alongside Audi's car lineup, blending in easily with the Allroad wagon and even the A4 sedan, which all share its tall grille and slim LED-outlined headlamps.
Its cockpit sets a high watermark for simplicity and for fit and finish, particularly with the optional layered-oak trim, though we might wish for more recognizable buttons while we fumble to control the lush-looking non-touchscreen display.
We're happy with any of the Q5's powerplants, especially the base 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4—it's lighter and almost as quick as the Q5 3.0T; the 3.0T has a 272-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 and is plenty of fun. The efficient Q5 Hybrid blends the power from the 2.0-liter four with that of a 54-hp electric motor fed by lithium-ion batteries for 245 hp net.
Audi sold a diesel-powered Q5 in the U.S. up until 2015, when the automaker announced its engine polluted beyond legal limits. The company has said that it is working to fix those engines, but haven't announced when those cars might return.
We're also fans of the SQ5, which comes with an upgraded suspension, as well as a 354-hp version of the 3.0-liter supercharged V-6. All-wheel drive is now standard on all Q5 crossovers, as is an 8-speed, paddle-shifted automatic.
In all its non-hybrid drivetrain versions, the Q5 excels at passing maneuvers, and out of corners, and it truly handles like a car, with the lean, responsive feel of a lower-riding wagon. We'd pass on the user-adjustable driving inputs of Drive Select and stick with the stock suspension and steering setups.
Passengers sit relatively high in the Q5, with more than enough head room and leg room in front, and the seats are firm and adjustable to a wide range of sizes. Even in back, there's enough leg room for most adults, thanks to a rather long wheelbase. Cabin materials are about the best they come in this class, with a rich, unified feel throughout and nice detailing. The Q5 has excellent build quality and a tight, refined feel overall—although road noise can be an issue.
The Audi Q5 has one of the most complete sets of safety features in this class; rear thorax airbags, which aren't broadly offered, are optional here. A rearview camera is available, but only in an expensive bundle of features. Bluetooth is now standard.
The Q5 can be equipped with a wide range of features, and choosing several can quickly raise the sticker price. Standard equipment includes a 10-speaker sound system, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, power front seats, tri-zone climate control, Sirius satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and an SD card slot that can manage up to 32 GB of music.
Premium Plus and Prestige models load on the luxuries, and a Q5 3.0T can easily top $55,000. The Q5 also now offers as optional equipment Audi Connect 3G wireless internet service, Google Earth mapping, adaptive cruise control with full braking at speeds of up to 19 mph, and a rear-seat entertainment system.
The 2016 model year brings a few additions to the standard-equipment list as well as some new package contents and options. All Q5s now include a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and the panoramic sunroof, while Audi connect is now available as part of the Navigation Plus package. Premium Plus models with the available Technology package now include a Bang & Olufsen sound system. An adaptive damping suspension is now available as a stand-alone option on Q5 Premium Plus models, which is available with the 3.0T engine.
The base Q5 offers the best compromise for both value and gas mileage. At 20 mpg city, 28 highway, 23 combined, according to the EPA, it's competitive in its class. We've seen about 24 mpg in a mix of spirited city and highway driving. The Hybrid model is rated at 24/30/26 mpg.