Refreshed 2021 Audi Q5 Puts New Tech Front and Center

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  • Revised exterior styling
  • Larger touchscreen with a new infotainment system
  • More powerful four-cylinder engine
  • Part of the second Q5 generation introduced for 2018

What is the Q5?

The Audi Q5 is one of our favorite small luxury SUVs thanks to its quiet interior, smooth power delivery and impeccable cabin materials. For 2021, Audi tweaks the Q5 to keep interest in its strongest-selling crossover from waning. Most noticeably, the refresh brings new headlight and taillight designs, plus sharper styling on the front and rear. The engine gets a slight boost to power and fuel economy thanks to a new 12-volt mild hybrid system. And on the inside, a new infotainment system debuts, and some features that were previously optional are now standard.

How does the Q5 drive?

On the road, the Q5 deserves praise for its taut handling and standard all-wheel-drive system that make it adept through curves. There isn’t much feedback from the steering wheel or brake pedal, but both are very responsive to driver commands for a luxury crossover. It makes you feel in control of the Q5 instead of the other way around.

For 2021, the Q5’s turbocharged four-cylinder engine is up to 261 horsepower (an improvement of 13 hp) and 273 lb-ft of torque. We didn’t notice a difference compared to last year. In some situations, such as going up a steep grade, the engine sometimes feels sluggish despite its additional horsepower for 2021. But we’ll know for sure once we perform our instrumented 0-60 mph test in the near future. In general, the Q5 gives you quick power off the line and is smooth for easy driving around town.

How comfortable is the Q5?

The front sport seats on our Q5 Prestige test car deserve recognition. All at once, they are cushy, supportive and snug with a wide range of adjustability. They also come heated and ventilated and are the single most premium aspect of the new Q5 cabin.

Elsewhere, the Q5 checks all the luxury feature boxes: The Prestige comes with three-zone climate control, heated rear seats, faux leather armrests, and plenty of aluminum and wood trim. But the execution is not flawless. The climate control requires frequent adjusting to maintain desired conditions inside. And the driving position feels odd — while the armrest on the door is almost too far away for a 6-foot-tall person’s elbow, the one on the center console nearly rubs against the driver’s seat.

In addition, the Q5’s ride quality — at least in the Prestige trim with its bigger 20-inch wheels that have less cushy tire sidewalls — is more rigid than perhaps a luxury SUV’s should be. The suspension makes for a choppy experience over cracks and ruts in the road, and while it quickly recovers, the Q5 does not glide over bumps like some competitors.

How’s the Q5’s interior?

Do you like your crossovers classy? Then you’ll enjoy being inside the new Q5. Our test vehicle came with a tasteful cabin characterized by its restraint — there are no shouty designs, gimmicky controls or tacked-on carbon trim. All of the controls feel nice to touch, with only small amounts of hard plastic or easily smudged gloss black panels. The slim three-spoke steering wheel looks great in its simplicity.

It’s easy to see clearly out of the Q5 as well. The windshield has an aggressive slope, but the rearview mirror and collection of cameras and sensors packaged near the ceiling stay out of your field of vision. The front pillars block your view around turns, but they are gracefully thin to minimize the problem.

How’s the Q5’s tech?

Audi’s new infotainment system has improved graphics and quicker responses to commands compared to the previous Q5 system. It’s displayed on a 10.1-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard. The system is certainly fast, and it’s easy to pick up and understand right away. The downside? Audi ditched its traditional dial control, meaning you’ll take your eyes off the road and reach to press the screen for every action. Voice recognition is improved but doesn’t allow for natural language, and it isn’t good enough to make up for the lost dial. At least wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The Bang & Olufsen surround-sound system is fantastic too.

Elsewhere, the driving technology leaves something to be desired. The backup camera lacks the resolution and multiple views that the cameras on some much more affordable cars offer, and the head-up display is so light it’s rendered ineffective in sunlight. Twice in one day, while backing up our Q5 test vehicle, the standard rear cross-traffic sensors incorrectly detected an imminent collision, bringing it to a sudden and alarming halt.

How economical is the Q5?

Efficiency is also up slightly thanks to a new 12-volt mild hybrid system. Unlike other hybrids, the electric motor does not contribute to overall power output in the Q5. Rather, it makes the engine’s automatic stop-start system work more quickly and smoothly. Estimated fuel economy improves for 2021 to 25 mpg in combined city/highway driving, up from 24 mpg combined in 2020 models.

We found the Q5 backs up its new rating. It posted 27.9 mpg during our 115-mile evaluation route that mixes mountain roads and freeway commuting, just a hair under the 28.1 mpg we observed in past models.

The Q5 also measures up well against other all-wheel-drive luxury crossovers, matching the BMW X3 xDrive30i at 25 mpg combined and beating out the Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 4Matic and Volvo XC60 AWD by an mpg or two. Audi also offers a Q5 plug-in hybrid that provides 20 miles of electric range and an estimated 27 mpg combined for normal hybrid operation. Those specs are similar to those of the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrids.

What are the Q5’s trim levels?

The Q5 is a five-passenger SUV, and it comes in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. For 2021, the base Premium trim includes the 10.1-inch center touchscreen, LED headlights, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Moving up to Premium Plus adds adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and a top-view surround camera. Finally, the Prestige trim comes with a 19-speaker sound system, head-up display, navigation and heated rear seats among other features.

Edmunds says

The Q5 is a strong all-around luxury crossover. However, we’re somewhat underwhelmed by the “improvements” made to this most recent version: The tech is outshined by competitors; the ride is bumpier than expected; and the engine sometimes feels overworked. Audi executives say the Q5 plug-in hybrid is the one everyone should want — and if it rides more smoothly and delivers consistent power, they’re likely right.

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