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Tested: Audi Q5 proves that refinement comes with age

Published Jan 17, 2020


Long-term test update: Audi Q5 40 TDI Sport Quattro

JOHANNESBURG - Audi is on a new-model offensive, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. In the coming year, you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of new models from the boys and girls at Ingolstadt. 

From the highly anticipated e-tron electric SUV that arrives later this year to the manic RS Q8 hyper SUV, there’s so many Audis to choose from that, depending on your budget, it can be difficult to decide what’s the best model.

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If money is no object, the run-of-the-mill Q8 and mighty RS Q8 is appealing. At the bottom of the line-up for the more thrifty there’s the recently introduced A1 Sportback and Q3 compact SUV.

In the mid-size department, though, Audi’s Q5 soldiers on, often forgotten as one of the brand’s gems. 

With this in mind, I asked Audi to throw me into the middle of its model mix, with a Q5 that’s powered by a 2-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine. I wanted to find out if it is a good car for small families and longhaul drives. 

The last time Audi updated the Q5 was in 2017, bringing sharpened styling and an enhanced interior package to the table. Options aplenty, you can spec your Q5 to the rafters when it comes to cool gizmos and technologies, including full on-board satellite navigation with voice control and a full colour LCD gauge cluster that offers extended information of the vehicle, destinations or in-car entertainment. 

My car, however, was limited in terms of options added to it, as I wanted to see what you would get in a base model, but the options boxes were ticked for larger 20-inch alloy wheels, as well as the large tilt and open panoramic glass roof. 

The car was also optioned with the electric folding tow-bar, ideal if you’re into motorcycling or polo, enabling you to hook your trailer with ease.

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Three-zone climate control was also fitted to the car as standard, and as I mentioned in a previous update, it’s one of the most effective ventilation systems fitted to any new model on sale, able to instantly cool the car in case it has been standing in the sun, or warming it on those cold snap mornings. Heated front seats help during cold morning journeys too. 

Packaged just right

The first generation Audi Q5 was notably, for many years, the world’s best-selling SUV in its class since its international launch in 2008. 

Audi has sold more than 1.6 million Q5 units worldwide, and since it arrived in South Africa in 2009 more than 13 000 units have found homes locally. 

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What makes it so popular, in my opinion and according to feedback from Q5 buyers, is its big-on-the-outside presence, combined with a practical interior that works well with babies and young children, while remaining sharp, honed and sporty to drive. It doesn’t feel too big from the driver’s seat, and it feels planted when you’re on the move, giving you the confidence to make decisions when it comes to safely overtaking and changing lanes.

Its size hits the sweet spot in terms of styling, and it is easy to park and move around the city in. 

Design wise, the latest Q5 offers a flared grille (ours is finished in aluminium, but you can opt for black) with a solid frame that dominates an “aerodynamically-flat” front end. I would have liked to fit the optional Matrix LED lights to the car, but the budget was not there, and I really wanted the 20-inch wheels. The car’s standard LED lights are excellent nevertheless, able to illuminate dark dirt roads with ease. Standard fitment of a high-beam assist type function would be nice at this level though, especially as it’s easy to blind oncoming traffic with the brights on.

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Moving around the side of the vehicle, you get a distinctively curved and strongly undercut shoulder line. It looks butch and muscular, without looking like something out of a science-fiction novel. Pronounced wheel arches hint at its quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, and the roofline tapers back down early, almost giving it a look of a Sportback but retaining the practicality of being able to transport tall adults at the back.

Like the front and side of the vehicle, the horizontal style lines at the rear add a feeling of width and presence. Our car came with LED rear lights (standard on Sport models), while dynamic turn signals provide a cascading effect when you flick the indicator stalk – similar to what you get in high-end Audis and Volkswagens. The bootlid wraps around the C-pillars in a sort of clamshell design and a diffuser (for style) integrates the exhaust tailpipes. The only thing missing on the car at the rear is the automatic-closing tailgate function. When you buy, tick this box as the Q5’s bootlid isn’t the lightest to operate on the market. 

Measuring 4.66m in length, 1.89 metres in width and standing 1.66m tall with a 2.82m wheelbase – compared to the previous model, the latest Q5 has grown in nearly all its dimensions. 

The interior offers generous space for five people, or you can add two baby seats in the back, thanks to ISOFIX anchor points. 

For added functionality, if you want to carry your expensive mountain bike inside the vehicle instead of attaching it to a carrier for instance, the rear seat back of the Audi Q5 is split into folding segments. This means, depending on the rear seat position, the basic volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 550 to 1 550 litres with the seats folded flat. 

More than enough shunt

The Q5 is fitted with a four-cylinder TDI boasting a displacement of 1968cc, which is good for 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque (the latter available between 1 750 and 3 000rpm). With some testing equipment strapped to it at the coast, it achieved a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.1 seconds. Not bad for a hefty 1.7 ton block of granite. 

Top speed is a dull 218km/h, not that you’ll be travelling that fast anyway, but its between 80km/h and 130km/h where you really want to be as the vehicle makes use of its smart double-clutch auto transmission and high torque to keep you effortlessly gliding along. Audi claims 4.9l/100km in a combined cycle. However, the best I could achieve in real-world conditions with a full trunk and a couple of passengers was 5.9l/100km, which is respectable. 

One of the reasons the Q5 is able to be dynamic when the power is applied in the bends yet frugal when driving Miss Daisy is its quattro drivetrain with ultra technology, also known as “quattro on demand” according to Ingolstadt. The quattro with ultra technology disengages the rear-axle drive whenever it is not needed, and if necessary it can instantly re-engage it. 

Other nifty treats

The Q5’s MMI (in-car entertainment) operating system is based on similar coding as used in smartphones, which means it offers intelligent search through natural-language voice control functions. Push the button on the steering wheel and interact with the car as needed. It’s not as advanced as the latest BMWs or Mercs, but it does the job. 

Additionally, the Audi’s phone box connects smartphones to the vehicle’s antenna for optimal reception quality; it also charges smartphones inductively according to the Qi standard. 

Other items you can fit to the vehicle include a Bang & Olufsen Sound System with innovative 3D sound and an Audi smartphone interface that also unlocks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. 

You can also opt for driver assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control (ACC) including traffic jam assist that can handle some of the steering work in slow-moving traffic. 

Additionally, optional Audi active lane assist makes it easier to stay in lane while the distance warning alerts the driver when the distance to a vehicle drops below a safe distance. There’s also an optional cross traffic assist function for the rear, handy if you’re dropping kids off at school, which prevents the rear doors from being opened if the Q5 detects traffic approaching. 


After spending a few months behind the wheel of the Q5 and putting on 2 000km in the past month, it’s proved to be a genuinely entertaining and practical vehicle to live with. Yes, it’s pricey, especially if you start ticking the options list, but it is built with a premium feel, similar in hand and to the touch when you compare it to high-end electronics such as the latest iPhones for instance. 

There’s this sense of quality and solidity that you don’t get in cheaper alternatives, and combined with a smooth drive and excellent after-sales in the form of a five-year maintenance plan (extendable to 10 years), there’s little reason to fault the vehicle as the ideal car for small families. 

As a dad, I enjoyed the easy nature of fitting the baby seats. Its roomy cabin and thumping audio system made it a nice place to be when stuck in traffic and on the open road. The addition of the glass roof was well worth the money as it provides light and air and it also serves as good entertainment for kids. 

I’d have opted for the smaller wheels in retrospect to fit the electric tailgate and a few other interior items, but as it stands, this is one vehicle that won’t disappoint you for the next five years if you’re looking to commit to a vehicle for the next half-decade. 

Prices start at R762 000 and while there are several new Audis coming and other new models from competitor brands to choose from, it’s important to note that the Q5 is at a stage in its life-cycle where the kinks have been ironed out. Yes, there will be a new model in the near future, but if you want something that’s been honed through the years that won’t skip a beat, then this is the model you want in the garage in 2020.


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