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Can ultra-cool tech offset the subtly changed styling of the redesigned 2017 Q5?

Last Update August 6th, 2016

2017 Audi Q5

2017 Audi Q5

2017 Audi Q5 Buying Advice

This is the best SUV for you if you want a stylish and comfortable premium-compact crossover that’s available with one of the segment’s most potent powertrains. And this is your final chance to buy one in its first-generation form: an all-new second-generation Q5 is coming for model-year 2018. Today’s first-gen went on sale in the U.S. for model-year 2009. It was an instant success, helped fuel growth in what’s become a thriving market segment, and became Audi’s top-selling U.S. vehicle. For ’17, the slow-selling gas/electric Hybrid model is discontinued. It was preceded to the grave by the diesel version, a casualty of parent-company Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. Surviving ‘17 Q5s gain some standard equipment, plus a new “Black optic” package.

Read our 2018 Audi Q5 Preview for more information

Should you buy a 2017 model or wait for the ’18?

Wait for the ’18 if you fancy a larger, lighter, more powerful iteration of this five-seater. More about the next-gen below. But know it’ll cost more than a ’17, especially after dealers begin to discount the outgoing Q5 to make room for its redesigned replacement. Good news is the outgoing version is still a worthy competitor in this class. It’s roomy, solid, looks good, and has genuine German-grade road manners. The lineup consists of base Premium, volume-selling Premium Plus, and top-line Prestige trim levels. They feature a turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a supercharged V-6. Also back is the high-performance SQ5 and its high-output supercharged V-6. It’s available in Premium Plus and Prestige guise. All versions have Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive (AWD).

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Changes

Styling:

Unchanged for ’17, it’s a testament to Audi’s clean basic design that the Q5 still looks fresh and modern, despite being one of the oldest designs in the segment. Its last update was a subtle but effective freshening for model-year 2014. All ‘17s have standard LED daytime running lights and xenon headlights, which are steering-linked on Prestige trims. Subtle lower-body extensions, quad exhaust outlets, and badges on the grille and rear liftgate are about the only visual cues that distinguish the SQ5 from its siblings. As on most other vehicles from Audi, the cabin is a selling point, with design touches and materials quality that would do justice to a far more expensive vehicle. Overall, passenger space runs with the premium-compact-crossover pack, but the seats are very comfortable and supportive. Added bolstering on the SQ5 keeps you snugly in place during spirited driving. At 57.3 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, cargo capacity is on the small side.

Mechanical:

The discontinued hybrid actually was the 2016 Q5’s torque champ, its turbocharged four-cylinder-engine and electric-motor combo teaming up to generate 354 pound-feet. It also topped the range in fuel economy, but saw little demand, given low gas prices and a $53,000-plus starting price. Today’s conventional-powertrain lineup means that standard on Premium and Premium Plus models is Volkswagen/Audi’s corporate 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It gives those models a 2.0 TFSI designation and 220 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 with 272 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque is standard on the Prestige and a $3,250 option on the Premium Plus. These versions are called 3.0 TFSI. All SQ5 models also have a 3.0-liter supercharged V-6 but with 354 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission for all models is an 8-speed automatic. A turbodiesel V-6 was available, but it had to be pulled from the market after the company was caught cheating on emissions tests. A software fix for this engine is in the works, but with a redesigned Q5 on the horizon, we would be surprised if the diesel returned before then.

The 2.0 TFSI is powerful enough to satisfy most buyers, and absent the diesel, it will be the most fuel efficient. The 3.0 TFSI is notably stronger, with a 0-60-mph acceleration time of 6.0 seconds (compared to 7.0 on the 2.0 TFSI), according to Audi. At the top of the performance heap is the SQ5. Its 0-60 mph run of 5.1 makes it one of the quickest SUVs out there. The four-cylinder can suffer from delays in throttle response during low-speed acceleration. As such, we would recommend the V-6 if your budget will accommodate. Audi’s quattro AWD provides an added measure of wet- and dry-road grip, and we appreciate the fact that it’s standard on every model.

Features:

You’ll have to wait for the 2018 Q5 to get key safety features expected in this segment. Today’s Q5 isn’t available with such driver aids as forward-collision warning, pre-collision braking, and lane-departure warning/assist. Added standard features for ’17 include striking 19-inch, “five-arm-star” design wheels for the 2.0T Premium Plus. Newly standard for 3.0T Prestige models is a 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, adaptive cruise control, and driver-adjustable powertrain calibrations via Audi drive select. SQ5 Prestige models now come with steering-response-enhancing dynamic steering and offer a new Black optic plus package that adds a matte-black rear diffuser and a high-gloss-black finish to the rear spoiler, door handles, and mirrors in high-gloss black. Even the entry-level Premium models come with a decent level of standard equipment, including leather upholstery, 12-way power driver seat, power panoramic sunroof, three-zone automatic climate control, power liftgate, and a sliding rear bench seat that can benefit passenger or cargo room. The Premium Plus adds heated front seats, driver-seat memory, keyless entry with pushbutton ignition, and power-fold exterior mirrors. Prestige versions include voice-activated navigation with Audi’s MMI control interface, Audi connect infotainment and telematics, blind-spot alert, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system with 14 speakers.

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Prices

Q5 is on the expensive side of the competitive set. At least Audi isn’t raising prices too much for model-year 2017. The 2.0 TFSI Premium increases by just $25 to $41,850, inclusive of Audi’s $950 destination fee. The other models are a few hundred dollars higher. The Premium Plus will check in at $44,100 for the 2.0 TFSI and $47,350 for the 3.0 TFSI. The 3.0 TFSI Prestige will start at $54,150. The SQ5’s base prices are $54,250 for the Premium Plus and $61,750 for the Prestige.

A full list of options was not available in time for the report, but expect availability and costs to remain steady. Going by model-year-2016 option prices, any paint color except white or black will be $550. Premium models can add heated front seats for $500 and the navigation system with MMI interface for $2,100. Q5 Premium Plus models offer navigation with MMI, Bang & Olufsen audio system, front- and rear-obstacle detection, and blind-spot alert as part of a $4,500 Technology Package. Available on the Premium Plus and Prestige are a variety of other packages. The $2,300 Luxury Package adds ventilated front seats, leather-wrapped armrests and instrument panel, and upgraded Milano leather upholstery. A $750 Sport Package adds a sport steering wheel and bucket seats, black headliner, and Audi drive select that allows drivers to alter throttle and steering feel for performance driving.

The $1,500 Black Optic Package adds 20-inch wheels with summer-only performance tires, a blackout grille, and matte black roof rails. The $1,100 S line Competition Plus Package provides a rear roof spoiler, sport bucket seats, and unique badges. An electronically controlled adaptive suspension is $1,000. Available solely on the Prestige is the $4,500 Audi Exclusive Line Interior Package, which adds piano-black interior trim and Nappa-brand leather upholstery. Most of the above packages are available on the SQ5 as well. Torso-protecting rear-side airbags are a $350 option across the board. At roughly $50,000, a 3.0 TFSI Premium Plus with Luxury Package and rear-side airbags would be our pick.

How does the 2017 Q5 handle in the snow?

With Audi’s well-regarded “quattro” all-wheel-drive coming standard, the Q5 is as capable as any compact luxury crossover SUV in the snow. Though only those who suffer severe winter weather and/or who live remotely really need AWD, for better or worse it does afford peace-of-mind for many consumers. However, Q5 buyers have no alternative, which tends to make it an unnecessary expense for those living in warn and dry areas of the U.S. At that, under normal circumstances the Q5’s quattro system sends 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the back wheels and 40 percent to the front help provide a nominal rear-drive bias for incrementally sportier dry-pavement cornering abilities than if it were running as a front-drive vehicle or with AWD and an even 50:50 torque split. Here, it can send up to 100 percent of the engine power to any one wheel as necessary to maintain traction. Among the car’s individual models, the base version with a 2.0-liter 220-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine and 18-inch wheels and all-season tires should be the best bet for handling the snow. The 3.0-liter-powered version puts 272 horses to the pavement and rides on larger 19-inch rims and rubber, which might not fare as well given the added muscle and larger/lower profile tires. If you must have the V6, avoid trading up the available 20-inch summer performance tires; even with AWD these would do a poor job of traversing even a light dusting without some slipping and sliding. A sporty SQ5 version is available with a speedier 3.0-liter 354-horsepower supercharged V6, but it only comes with 20- or 21-inch performance tires. Either way, be prepared to swap the summer tires for snow tires if you’re choosing either Q5 model that comes with high-performance rubber.

Among the Q5’s closest competitors, The BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class are close, with both coming in a rear-drive base model for those who either have no use for AWD or are looking to save a buck. Both cars’ AWD systems are normally rear-biased for a sportier feel. The biggest difference is that the GLC only comes with a standard 241-horsepower four-cylinder engine, while the X3 offers both a 240-horsepower turbo-four and a 300-horsepower turbo-six engine. Again, stick with the base 18-inch wheels and all-season tires in either model for the best performance cutting through the snow.

Fuel Economy

EPA ratings for the 2017 Q5 hadn’t been released in time for this review, but expect them to mirror those of 2016, giving Audi another opportunity to improve things with the ’18 redesign. Indeed, the outgoing generation rates near the bottom of the competitive set, at 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined with the four-cylinder engine. The 3.0 TFSI versions rate 18/26/21 and the SQ5 17/24/19. All require premium-grade 91-octane gasoline, but some versions of the four-cylinder can also use E85 ethanol-blended fuel. And to place the gas-engine ratings in context, the discontinued Q5 hybrid rated 24/30/26 mpg and the scuttled diesel 24/31/27.

Release Date

The 2017 Audi Q5 should go on sale in early summer 2016.

What’s next for the Q5?

Due during 2017, the redesigned 2018 Q5 will adopt Volkswagen’s new “MLB” modular architecture, which is used by Audi’s A4 compact sedan and midsize Q7 crossover. In fact, look to the clean, almost station-wagon-like lines of the just-redesigned Q7 for a clue to the next-gen Q5’s styling. The new Q5 will retain five-place seating and while it will likely be slightly larger than the outgoing model, the new MLB structure could result in weight savings of more than 200 pounds. Expect it to share the new A4’s 252-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Fuel-economy considerations likely mean the end of the 3.0 TFSI model, but we would expect Audi to resurrect the SQ5, this time with a 354-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6. If that’s not enough to whet your enthusiast whistle, take heart in rumor of an even more potent RS Q5 with a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 of more than 450 horsepower.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]