2021 Audi Q5 review: The popular kid


The Q5’s exterior styling was mildly tweaked for 2021.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Audi Q5 is popular, like really popular. Audi moved more than 50,000 of them in the US last year, enough to make the Q5 the brand’s best-selling product. In fact, Audi delivered nearly twice as many Q5s as it did Q3s, its next most-popular model. You can blame today’s SUV-obsessed motorists for this lopsided showroom performance, but that’s only part of the story, because from refinement and features to luxury and performance there’s plenty to like about the 2021 Audi Q5.

LikeRefined and potent powertrainExcellent infotainment systemSuperb refinement

Don’t LikeMiddling leather qualityLethargic transmissionTight backseat

This crossover’s looks have been refined for 2021, though the changes are subtle. The prominent Singleframe grille is slightly broader than before and its outer trim is slimmer. Flanking that conspicuous opening are standard LED headlamps. The Q5’s sills have been reworked and it has a new rear diffuser insert and accent strip on the hatch. Improved as it might be, it’s still debatable whether the Q5 is more attractive than the BMW X3, Lincoln Corsair or Volvo XC60, three of its primary rivals.

Tug on one of the Q5’s exterior door handles and you’re greeted with a very nice interior. The dashboard’s layout is attractive and functional, angled slightly toward the driver so nearly everything is within easy reach. Aside from its leather seating surfaces, which neither look good nor feel nice, the Q5’s material quality is generally excellent, with plenty of attractively grained soft plastics. Still, in this example, a little contrast would be nice. Dark-brown, open-pore wood accents on the black dashboard and door panels look a little dour. Like in other Audis, the Q5’s various switches and knobs feel great, with all the buttons making the same pronounced clicking sound when pressed.

Front and center on the dashboard is a new 10.1-inch screen, home to Audi’s MIB 3 infotainment system. Extremely responsive and easy to use, this is one of the better multimedia arrays on the market today. For added convenience, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, with the former smartphone-mirroring system able to connect wirelessly to the Q5. If you’re rocking a Google-powered phone make sure to bring a cable. One nifty available feature is Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus, which puts a vibrant 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster right in front of the driver. This setup offers a lot of functionality yet is still exceedingly easy to use.

Enhancing the Q5’s safety, this SUV comes standard with blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, parking sensors at both ends and even rear cross-traffic alert, which can be a godsend in crowded parking lots. My tester is also fitted with a crisp 360-degree camera system and adaptive cruise control, both of which work well. Other goodies included in the $4,800 Premium Plus package are a panoramic sunroof, auto-dimming mirrors and lane-keeping assist; that last feature is mostly effective, though sometimes it does get confused when one lane splits into two. Audiophiles are sure to appreciate the available 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, which delivers great audio quality for just $950. 

While not quite a masterpiece, the Audi Q5’s interior is still superb.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

The Q5’s front seats are broad and firm, and far more comfortable than they look. Unfortunately, the back bench’s 38 inches of legroom is merely OK, being a bit of a squeeze for 6-footers. The X3 and Corsair both have a slight advantage in this area. But no matter your height, the Q5’s relatively narrow rear doors can make ingress and egress a bit of challenge.

In the cargo hold, Q5s fitted with a sunroof offer 25.6 cubic feet of storage space. Fold the backrests down and that figure grows to 53.5 cubes. Again, both the X3 and Corsair have an edge, though there’s still plenty of luggage space in this Audi.

Q5 45 TFSI models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-four. Smoother than buttercream frosting and quieter than a child that’s up to no good, this refined engine delivers a potent 261 horsepower (an increase of 13 for 2021) along with 273 pound-feet of torque. The engine also gains a 12-volt mild-hybrid system, which is used to smooth out start-stop events, and indeed they’re nearly imperceptible. That hybrid hardware does not, however, do anything to improve performance. Rounding out this utility vehicle’s under-hood bits is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive with Ultra technology, which engages the rear axle when extra traction is needed and leaves it disconnected in normal conditions for enhanced fuel economy.

This Audi’s engine is silky-smooth and nearly silent. 

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Speaking of efficiency, the standard Q5 stickers at 23 miles per gallon around town and 28 mpg on the highway when burning premium fuel, which is what’s recommended. Combined, it’s rated at 25 mpg, a dead-accurate estimate; in mixed use I managed to average 25.5 mpg according to the trip computer.

Economy be damned, if you bury the accelerator this Audi’s drivetrain is saucy enough to get you to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. Acceleration is strong thanks to abundant midrange torque, the dual-clutch gearbox shifting promptly and smoothly. If only it were more responsive at low speeds. Off the line, this transmission is annoyingly lethargic, behaving almost like it’s not reacting to throttle inputs. This sluggishness makes the Q5 feel slow and unresponsive until it’s moving at double-digit speeds, at which point it’s quite enjoyable. Switching to Dynamic mode improves things a bit, but unfortunately, doesn’t completely rectify the problem. If you want even greater performance than this version offers, the plug-in hybrid Q5 and SQ5 models are also available.

Despite rolling on optional 20-inch, five-spoke wheels, this Q5’s ride is surprisingly supple. Only the biggest impacts transmit any harshness to the passenger compartment. Even though its ride is smooth, the vehicle’s body remains well controlled while cornering, not that it’s a canyon-carver. Typical for an Audi, the Q5’s steering is featherlight at parking-lot speeds, which makes it a snap to maneuver around pedestrians or shopping buggies pedestrians were too lazy to stow in a cart corral. The wheel’s weight increases nicely at higher velocities for enhanced stability.

There’s plenty to like about the 2021 Audi Q5.

Craig Cole/Roadshow

Underway, the Q5’s cabin remains incredibly refined, with almost no discernible wind or road noise breaching its NVH defenses. The way it carries itself at speed is equally impressive. It feels like you’re doing about 55 mph when the speedometer needle is pointing at 80 mph. On more than a few occasions I’ve had to dial things back because I was inadvertently driving significantly faster than the posted limit.

Another thing that’s significant is the Q5’s price — significantly less than you might expect, that is. This vehicle kicks off at an exceedingly reasonable $44,395, a figure that includes requisite destination charges, which come to $1,095. The Premium Plus model shown here with optional navigation, the upgraded sound system, 20-inch wheels and a couple other extras buzzes the cash register for $53,040, an entirely fair price.

Aside from some iffy leather inside and the transmission’s regrettable low-speed performance, the 2021 Audi Q5 is a worthwhile luxury SUV, one you should consider if you’re shopping for a vehicle in this segment. After my time in this one, it’s easy to see why the Q5 is the four-ring brand’s bestselling model.


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