What changes will make the 2018 Audi Q5 different?
A full redesign, including a new body on a new underskin structure, along with updates to powertrains, safety, and technology. These sweeping changes mark the model-year 2018 debut of the second-generation of the German brand’s most popular vehicle.
When it premiered for model-year 2009, the Q5 took the burgeoning premium-compact crossover SUV market by storm. It became Audi’s top-seller virtually overnight as shoppers flocked to its compelling combination of passenger and cargo room, top-notch driving dynamics, and an interior design that would be at home in a much more expensive vehicle.
Despite being a comparatively old design, the Q5 continues among the top performers in its competitive set. Demand was down a significant 20 percent through September 2016, but this five-seater still manages to outsell rivals such as the BMW X3, Lincoln MKC, and Volvo XC60. The Acura RDX, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, and Lexus NX are more popular, but not by much, which is a testament to the staying power of the Q5’s design and engineering.
Why should I wait for the 2018?
To get a premium-compact crossover SUV that’s slightly larger yet more powerful and lighter than its predecessor. The Q5 again slot into Audi’s crossover lineup between the subcompact Q3 and the bigger, seven-passenger Q7. More extensive use of aluminum for the hood and liftgate and numerous underbody components cuts curb weight about 200 pounds, contributing to better performance, handling and fuel economy.
Most versions of the ’18 Q5 will again be powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, though with more power. A high-performance SQ5 variant with a turbocharged V-6 should be available a few months after the standard model settles in showrooms. A turbodiesel version could also return to the lineup, provided parent-company Volkswagen overcomes the emissions-tampering scandal that affected diesel engines sold in its VW, Audi, and Porsche vehicles.
Choosing an ’18 will get you the exterior appearance that’ll look fresh for years to come, plus a revised cabin that continues as a segment benchmark for materials and design. It’ll also give you access to first-time-Q5 technology, such as a continuously adjusting suspension and Audi’s dazzling Virtual Cockpit instrument cluster.
Should I buy a 2017 model instead?
The outgoing Q5 is still worth considering, especially since dealers will likely be offering clearance discounts to make way for the redesigned model. And with a detuned version of the SQ5’s V-6 available in 3.0T models, the ’17 represents your last chance to get a six-cylinder engine without having to pony up an extra $5,000 or more for the high-performance model. Even after nearly a decade on the market with only subtle changes, the current Q5 is still a good-looking crossover with the solid driving dynamics expected from a German-brand vehicle. One other thing: the 2018 Q5 will be built at a new Audi factory in Mexico. The ’17 is imported from Germany. We’ll leave it to you if such a distinction influences your purchasing decision.
Will the styling be different?
Yes, but not drastically, despite the all-new body. The most obvious change is the more sharply defined front end, where the Q5 adopts the sterner design language of other recently revamped Audis, including the 2017 A4 compact sedan and 2017 Q7. The look is clean and simple, but aggressive, which should make it appealing to upscale buyers across all age brackets.
Exterior dimensions are almost identical to the first-gen model, though a half-inch-longer wheelbase (distance between front and rear axles) and a .9-inch longer body contribute to slight increases in rear leg room and cargo volume, both of which were already above average for the class. The rear seat now slides fore and aft and the power liftgate now features hands-free opening via a foot swept below the rear bumper.
Also mimicking that of the A4 and Q7, the new Q5’s control layout incorporates the latest version of Audi’s MultiMedia Interface (MMI) infotainment, but with upgraded hardware to make its operation faster and more responsive. Using a crisp 8.3-inch dashboard screen, the system employs a touchpad that supports tablet PC-style gestures and handwriting recognition. An optional Virtual Cockpit replaces the Q5’s standard analog instrumentation with a 12.3-inch LCD screen. The display can be configured in a multitude of ways, including the showing of traditional gauges and even a full-screen map view of the available navigation system.
Any mechanical changes?
Yes, to engine, all-wheel-drive system, and suspension. As with its basic engineering platform, the 2018 Q5 2.0T range’s new engine is on loan from the 2017 A4. It’s again a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, but now with 252 horsepower and 272 pound-feet of torque, increases of 32 and 14, respectively. Instead of an 8-speed automatic transmission, it now pairs with a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
No longer available is the supercharged V-6 that was available in 3.0T models with 272 horsepower and in the outgoing SQ5 with 354 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque. The new SQ5 will again have a 3.0-liter V-6 but now one that’s turbocharged. Used in the S4 performance version of the A4, this same engine has 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque and should be rated the same or similar in the SQ5. This hot-rod crossover will continue with a conventional 8-speed automatic transmission.
The Q5 continues to be based on a chassis with roots as a front-wheel-drive platform. But as before, Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive (AWD) system is standard, but it’s the next-generation setup designed to improve both handling and fuel efficiency. Instead of channeling power to the rear wheels via a center differential, it employs two clutches, one inside the transmission, the other in the rear axle. In addition to being lighter, it allows the rear wheels to be disengaged from the drivetrain when they don’t require power. Computer control engages the rears – sometimes anticipating actual tire slip — to provide extra traction on slippery surfaces or during acceleration or cornering.
Also newly available as an option will be Audi’s Continuous Damping Control that automatically adjusts suspension firmness to maximize ride comfort and control and reduce body-lean in cornering. Audi may also make available the air-spring suspension it offers in overseas markets; it allows drivers to lower the vehicle for easier passenger and cargo loading or raise it for additional ground clearance.
Will fuel economy improve?
Almost certainly. EPA ratings for the outgoing Q5 2.0T models was toward the bottom of the competitive set at 20/27/22 mpg city/highway/combined. Expect the redesigned 2018 model to achieve figures closer to the 2017 A4’s 24/31/27 mpg.
The new SQ5 should also do better than its predecessor’s 17/24/19 mpg city/highway/combined ratings. Expect 19-20 mpg city and 26-27 highway, which would result in a combined rating of 22-23 mpg.
Will it have new features?
Yes. The outgoing Q5 was out of date in terms of offering safety features that have been common on many mainstream and luxury rivals for years. Audi will remedy this for 2018 with feature updates that should, again, mirror those of the A4. The model roster should follow brand convention with 2.0-liter models available as the base Premium, volume Premium Plus, and flagship Prestige. The SQ5 would offer Premium Plus and Prestige variants.
Expect leather upholstery, three-zone automatic climate control, a power sunroof, and power rear liftgate to be standard. Heated front seats would likely be optional on the Premium and standard otherwise. Depending on model and trim level selection, other options will likely include a sport suspension, summer-only performance tires, high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
On the safety feature front, the 2018 Q5 should be available with a full suite of fully up-to-date features, including blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, forward-collision alert, forward emergency braking, and lane departure warning with automatic steering correction. These items are available on the A4, and vehicles so equipped have received the coveted “Top Safety Pick+” award from the influential Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Expect a comparably featured Q5 to achieve the same.
How will 2018 prices be different?
It’s hard to say at this point. The 2018 Audi Q5 is a new design, and normally this translates to higher starting prices. However, moving assembly from Germany to Mexico, where production costs are lower, could mean base prices will hold steady. Regardless, expect the ’18 Q5 to be among the more expensive entries in its competitive set.
For comparison, the 2017 Q5 2.0 Premium starts at $41,850, including $950 destination fee. The volume-selling 2.0 Premium Plus begins at $44,100. The outgoing Q5 Prestige checks in at a rather hefty $54,150, but keep in mind that this model includes a V-6 engine. With all ’18 Q5 models being four-cylinder only, the Prestige could check in anywhere from $50,000-$52,000. The ’17 SQ5 starts at $54,250 for the Premium Plus and $61,750 for the Prestige; the ’18 edition will likely be a bit more expensive.
When will it come out?
Look for a 2018 Q5 2.0T release date in early-calendar 2017, followed by a few months with release of the redesigned SQ5.
What change would make it better?
A fair solution to the emissions-rigging situation so Audi and the VW Group can reinstate sales of the corporation’s diesel engines. That would likely mean a Q5 available in the U.S. with a turbodiesel V-6 similar to the smooth-running 3.0-liter offered overseas. That engine generates 282 horsepower and a stout 457 pound-feet of torque. Audi was forced to suspended sales of the outgoing Q5 TDI model, which made 240 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque and rated 24/31/27 mpg city/highway/combined.