New Audi Q5 (2017) review: A small SUV that’s big on tech

Price when reviewed

Remember when SUVs were simple? They were all quite rugged looking, around two tonnes heavy and had between 5 and seven seats. And although they were supposed to be made for jagged cliff faces and treacle-like mud, every knew they’d only ever be used for the school run. However, in the last few years that formula has become seriously diluted. In 2017 an SUV isn’t always a tank, it can also be a small something like the Kia Stonic, the tank-like Volvo XC90  – or even Audi’s brand new Q5. 

Audi got things pretty much spot on with the first Q5. The mid-sized SUV offered car-like style and handling, but also a good amount of room, in a fairly robust package. Fast forward to 2017, and Audi says the new Q5 is even better, but is it right? I tested it on everything from Mexican highways and dirt roads to find out.

New Audi Q5 (2017) review: Design

Like most manufacturers, Audi has decided to give extend the same design language across its range, but unlike the A5 – the Q5 looks a little too similar to the rest of the range. From its imposing front grill to its distinctive headlights and indicators, it’s clear the Q5 is part of the Audi family, but you’d be forgiven for thinking its a Q7 in the distance. The Q7 is a great looking car on its own, but it’d be nice to see the Q5 get its own identity – much like how the Q2 has.

Inside, the theme of deja-vu continues. The Audi’s interior looks a lot like one you’d find in an updated A4 or A5, with the only difference being one or two buttons that have been lifted from the Q7 instead.

And that’s completely fine, because Audi has kitted out its cars with some of the best interiors I’ve sat in. While they might not always have the most features in their class, their design and overall execution makes everything easy to find, and even easier to use.[gallery:4]

New Audi Q5 (2017) review: Interior

Once you’ve stepped up into the Q5’s cabin, one of the first things you’ll notice is the Virtual Cockpit System. We’ve already seen this on the Audi A4 Avant, the A5, the smaller Audi A3 and the much larger Audi Q7, and it’s just as impressive here. With a huge 12.3in display replacing the standard analogue dials, the virtual cockpit system is one of the best infotainment systems available – partly because it’s so easy to customise.

Whether you want to select songs from a paired phone, add a new destination to the satnav, or get a better view of your route, it can be done on the 1,440 x 540 pixel screen.  But it will display speed and revs more prominently, too; all it takes is a few clicks on the steering wheel.


The virtual cockpit system isn’t a standard feature on the Q5, and costs around £1600 depending on which model you’re adding it to, but it’s worth shelling out for. Simply put, it’s one of the best systems on the market, and a big differentiator between the Q5 and its competitors.

The car I drove was also fitted with a heads-up display (HUD), part of the £1,150 Vision pack – something you can only spec with the Technology pack, which costs £1,100 or £1,600. Although this feature isn’t quite as impressive as the virtual cockpit system, I still found it extremely useful. After adjusting its position via buttons on the steering wheel, the HUD projected route instructions and speed information onto my field of view, so I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road.


Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support

As you’d expect, the Audi Q5 also comes with support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and although I didn’t get to test the latter, CarPlay worked as exactly expected. After connecting my iPhone 7 via USB, it took just a few easy steps to enable the system.

There is one area open to debate here: just like its stablemates, the Audi Q5 doesn’t have a touchscreen, so you need to use a dial and physical menu buttons to navigate a system that has been designed primarily for touch. It works, though, and once you’ve learned how to get around, you’ll soon forget about the lack of touchscreen.

What’s slightly more annoying, though, is that although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto look great on the Q5’s navigation screen, there’s no way of moving them over to the virtual cockpit system display.

And there’s one final caveat to mention for Apple CarPlay. The feature worked on my up-to-date iPhone 7 just fine, but it won’t work for those who have an iPhone 4s or older.


Satellite navigation

As well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the Audi Q5 comes with its own tailormade software, and as you’d expect, it’s pretty good. In Baja California, the car didn’t have the up-to-date data or signal it needed to give us accurate routes, but maps and terrain were well presented and easy to read.

After prodding the satnav for a while, it was clear it was pretty much the same as what’s available in the A5 and A3. In those cars, the satnav system can produce succinct routes quickly and accurately and displays each step in good time.

General connectivity

Pairing my phone via Bluetooth was simple, but if you’re after further methods of connectivity, Audi has you covered. The Q5 has two USB ports so you can charge your devices, or connect to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but it’s possible to add a wealth of extra options if you’re prepared to shell out.

Audi offers a one-stop shop in the Q5 called the Audi Phone Box, which pretty much does everything you’d want in the way of connectivity. Placing your mobile phone in there will see it automatically connect to the Q5’s hands-free system, and it will also use the car’s integrated antenna to boost its signal. If you own a compatible phone, the Audi Phone Box will also wirelessly charge your phone, although this feature isn’t available on Apple iPhones just yet.

If you’d rather use physical media or wired charging, you’ll find 2 USB charging ports in the Q5, as well as one auxiliary port. There’s also space for 2 sdxc cards, and I was happy to find a CD player in the Q5, too.  

Audi Connect

If you’d like to remain connected as possible, you can also sign up to Audi’s Connect service. Much like MMI services from BMW and Mercedes Audi Connect uses your phone’s data connection to update you on everything from the weather to fuel prices. If you’re a heavy social media user, you’ll also be glad to know it can connect to your Twitter account.

Again, due to signal issues this isn’t something I got to try first hand in the Q5, but I’ve used it in the UK before. The Sport version and upwards of the Q5 comes with a free, three month subscription to Audi Connect – so you can see just how useful it is before you subscribe. Interestingly, Audi includes an embedded sim card with this mode, and it includes all data charges.


The Audi I was driving also came with the optional Bang & Olufsen sound system. With 19 speakers rated at a total of 755 watts, the Bang & Olufsen system is part of the £1,500 comfort and sound pack, and on the whole, I’d say it’s worth the money. Whether it was churning out the latest album by Justice, or something more rough and ready, the system sounded composed throughout, offering a balanced sound even at very high volumes.

However, while its performance was good, I wouldn’t say it was on the same level as something like the Burmester system in the Mercedes S Class or the B&W set up in the Volvo XC90. Music was delivered clinically and accurately, but it didn’t have the jaw-dropping scale, detail or richness of something like the Mercedes system.

Despite that, this system provided a good step up compared with the standard system, and it shone with atmospheric tracks like Matt Lange’s “Lying to Myself.”

New Audi Q5 (2017) review: Driving Assistance

The Q5 also uses technology to make driving less stressful. Although we didn’t get to test it due to the fast open roads, my Audi Q5 was equipped with traffic-jam assist. Designed to take the hassle out of driving in traffic, this system has the car automatically follow cars ahead at speeds up to 40.4mph. It does this using data from ultrasound sensors in conjunction with a front-facing camera, and it’s probably one of the most useful autonomous systems on the Audi Q5 you can order. The price? A one or two thousand pounds depending on the model you’re adding it to.

The Audi Q5 I drove was also fitted with something called Quattro Ultra, a more thrifty version of Audi’s four-wheel drive system. Simply put, Quattro Ultra monitors the grip levels of the car and the amount of power you want to put down and intelligently switches the car’s all-wheel drive system on or off depending on the conditions. The process takes milliseconds and means that you only use four-wheel drive when you really need it. The end result is a significant increase in fuel economy without a reduction in performance.

During my time with the Q5, an Audi engineer was able to tell me when I was in two- or four-wheel drive. When pulling away fast, or driving at speed through tighter corners, drive was diverted through all four wheels. But when cruising, the car switched to front-wheel drive instead. The system is standard on the SE models upwards, but it’s only available on certain Q5 models at the moment.

The Audi Q5 is also capable of taming dirt roads, thanks to Audi’s Quattro Ultra and “intelligent” suspension system. For Audi Q5s with active air suspension, it’s possible to adjust it for a variety of conditions, from sand to gravel and mud. And it works. When tearing across some of Baja California’s dirt roads, the car was surprisingly composed, with the suspension keeping the car higher than normal and Quattro Ultra managing power transfer. The average Q5 probably won’t see anything worse than a pothole, but it’s nice to know that it’s capable of much more.

New Audi Q5 (2017) review: Verdict

The Q5 is another well-put-together car from Audi. After that, there’s almost very little to say, and that’s not a criticism. Audi is slowly refreshing its range and bringing impressive features such as the Virtual Cockpit to the entire model range. With near enough the same cabin as the larger Q7, and the same fit and finish as cars like the new A5 and A4, the only real USP for the Q5 is its more compact and city-friendly size.

But then there’s the price. The Audi Q5 starts at £37,000 and while that might seem expensive, it’s £11,000 less than the larger Q7 – and in 2017 it’ll have similar tech to its larger sibling. Therefore, if you’re after a fully featured SUV, but don’t want to shell out even more money for an XC90-like tank, the Q5 could represent a new sweet-spot of size, price and tech.

For another take on the Audi Q5, check out our sister site Auto Express’ review here

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

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