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2018 Audi Q5: Right Tool For The Right Job

Automakers love luxury crossovers. For many manufacturers, a platform is shared across one or more brands so the costs can be spread out. Add to the reduced unit costs, the price premium the consumer is willing to pay for a “premium” brand and you start printing money hand over fist. Or, you print enough money to subsidize your electric and hybrid cars being mandated across the globe.

Since we are going to be talking about the Audi Q5 here, let’s look at this as an example. The underpinnings of the Q5, the MLBevo Platform, are used on the following:

  • Audi Q7 (Typ 4M) (from 2015)
  • Audi A4 B9 (Typ 8W) (from late 2015)
  • Bentley Bentayga
  • Volkswagen Phideon (Typ 3E), 2016-present (Chinese Market)
  • Audi A5 B9 (Typ F5) (from 2016)
  • Audi Q5 (Typ FY) (from 2017)
  • Audi A7 4G9 (from 2017)
  • Audi A8 D5 (from 2017)
  • Audi A6 C8 (from 2018)
  • Lamborghini Urus (from 2018)
  • Volkswagen Touareg (2018)
  • Audi Q8 (from 2018)
  • Porsche Cayenne (2019)

A look at that list and you can see why VAG is one of if not the most profitable auto companies in the world.

Back to the Q5 specifically. While most people who frequent this site are all about “driver involvement” we are the 1%. For the other 99%, they want a vehicle that they can enjoy, take them, their family and their stuff, to destinations in comfort. Anything after that is a bonus.

While the Q5 handles well for a mid-sized crossover, it’s no sports car, nor is any other vehicle in its class. Oh sure, we can have pretensions of being a “SPORTS” Utility vehicle, see, Audi’s SQ5, Porsche Cayenne, Merc GLE AMG and BMW X5M. Pretenders, all of them. Let’s call them what they are, tall wagon hot rods. Good in a straight line, capable in corners, but take them to a track or an aggressive run on a canyon road and the brakes will be cooked in no time.

The Q5 came in for review at the perfect time for me. I had a trip to take from my home North of Detroit to Roanoke, VA for my Aunts funeral. My Aunt Melina had been battling cancer for a couple years and finally succumbed to it. It’s close as makes no difference 600 miles each way and given short notice, plus Roanoke being a small town, flights were going to be $800, so drive there it was.

When you are pounding miles on the highway you want something that is comfortable, quiet, has a good stereo and will deliver you to your destination not feeling like you went three rounds in The Octagon. It’s here that the Q5 stands out.

From Detroit to Toledo it’s pretty straightforward on the interstates. Getting across Ohio to West Virginia and then Virginia to more interstates is not so direct. In fact, it’s about a forty-five degree down angle across the state of Ohio on a number of two-lane and a few four-lane divided State Highways of greatly varying quality.

Down through Ohio and beginning in West Virginia, the weather was fine, overcast but no rain. Once into West Virginia and into the mountains, it rained off and on for the rest of the trip. The Q5 kept pounding the miles effortlessly. Rarely did it see more than 2,000 RPM’s on the highway and this paid a pretty big dividend, which we will get too in a minute. Did I mention that the ride was well controlled and quiet? Right, I did. Well coming down a mountain (sing it Perry Ferrell!) in West Virginia I glanced down at the speedometer to see just shy of triple digits! Whoops! A Manufactures plated vehicle in rural West Virginia, best to pull that speed back and do it quickly!

I had been driving for a number of hours when it occurred to me that I hadn’t needed gas yet and I was well over 400 miles into the journey. I actually got almost to Virginia before I needed gas. Turns out I was pulling down just shy of 30 mpg without trying. Once I got back home and looked at the spec sheet I saw why. While a 5.30:1 drive gear helps get the 4,050 pound Q5 moving off the line (0-60 in 5.9 seconds according to Audi) the .368 seventh gear helps control the revs at highways speeds. In fact, the seven-speed is very aggressive in upshifting to maximize fuel economy. If you want the transmission to shift more the way in which you think it should, just pull the shift selector back once and engage “Sport” mode. Not only does the transmission hold gears longer, it also defeats the Start/Stop functionality.

I pulled into my hotel just shy of nine hours after I left my house, and I have to tell you the drive was effortless. The seats were comfortable for hours at a time and I was not fatigued from the length of time behind the wheel. Driving through heavy rain at times, on unfamiliar roads nearing dusk, was a non-event. THIS is what you want from a road car that you will do big miles in.

While the interior dimensions of the Q5 are not class leading, there was more than enough back seat room for driving family members around town to various functions we had to be at, and everyone enjoyed and complemented the Audi. These are all people who themselves have various German and Japanese luxury vehicles, so take that for what it’s worth.

My take in the interior is that it’s good, but it falls just a little shy of the Audi standard. Within a few weeks of the Q5, I also spent a week with the TTRS and S5, so that’s why it stands out. Not up to Audi standards is still better than pretty much everyone else, but it needed, say another five percent to have that magic Audi interior that tends to set the standard for the industry. What was that missing piece? A few bits of trim and interior materials that while fine, were a little lacking in a $65,000 luxury crossover.

The drive back home a few days later was much the same as the drive to Virginia, effortless. Driving it for a few more days around Detroit once back home, it handled the bomb craters roads around here with aplomb. It was even flexible enough to swallow a gazebo I bought at the Home Depot, the box being just shy of nine feet in length and bring it home. If the styling on the rear hatch was about two inches longer I would have been able to close the tailgate all the way.

While you may think $65,000 for is Premium trim Q5 is a bit steep, understand that something north of 80% of the people who purchase the Q5, don’t, they lease it. At a lease payment of $600-650 a month, the Q5 is excellent value for money. It’s a handsome vehicle, for a crossover, a nice interior, excellent fuel economy, a quality ride and a flexible interior, what’s not to like?

I’ll never be a fan of modern crossovers, I think there are better options. It’s my belief that people buy these vehicles in numbers because that’s what everyone else is doing, with little thought to other options that would be better suited to their day to day needs. That said, if I were to spend my own money in this category, the Q5 would be in the top two or three finalists along with the new Volvo XC60 and maybe the Jag F-Pace.

  • outback_ute

    Nice review Eric, I have not read of having such a low final drive ratio with a hugely tall overdrive before. I wonder if there are engineering or packaging advantages compared with a taller diff ratio and much shorter first gear like others use?

    Long distance comfort is a good test of a vehicle. I remember speaking to a retired Holden engineer who said there was a model released just over 20 years ago that was the first one where he didn’t feel shattered after a 12 hour drive to visit relatives for the holidays.

  • I don’t know a satisfactory translation of “Baukasten” – kit, toolbox, collection of building blocks? Just be clear, the MQB/MLB are not platforms in the sense of Chrysler K, but a step further.
    Think of it more like a CAD library for the elements underneath the outer shell, where you can still tweak many size parameters, but not all of them. You can for example change the track width and parameters of the firewall, but the foot of the A-pillar (the most complicated part of a body in white) is fixed.

    There are also “bauk√§sten” for electrics, infotainments, drivetrains, and auxiliary aggregats, streamlining the entire production process. One may scoff that VW is producing less than 1k eGolfs a week in Dresden (a pure assembly site with ~400 employees in two shifts, bodies in white are stamped and welded elsewhere and shipped there by tram), but boy is that fabrication process tuned.

    Apologies, slightly OT.

    • Vairship

      I guess the best translation for ‘baukasten’ would be ‘modules’. A drivetrain module, infotainment module, suspension module, etcetera can be assembled into many different bodies.

      • Generally, yes, but here we would have “modular modules”, which makes interpreters wince. The core Idea is that some drawers of your toolkit/toolbox are modular, i.e. can be exchanged against others.

        • Monkey10is

          Some other manufacturers refer to this overall concept as a vehicle ‘architecture’ which makes sense when paired with Vairship’s ‘modules’; A ‘modular architecture’ (or ‘architectural modules’) are ideas that we can all picture.

          It’s great to see your clear explanation of the concept. Everyone falls too easily into the easy generalisation of ‘platform sharing’ — often paired with the even more hated ‘badge engineering’ — but what many of these manufacturers have done is much more clever than that.

          Often more hidden from view is the extent to which many of these ‘modules’ are third-party engineered (Bosch, GKN, Magna, Lear etc.) and themselves shared across the ‘architectural concepts’ of multiple different manufacturers…

          • Monkey10is

            Also worth noting that the opaqueness of modern automotive engineering is often contributed to by the corporate abbrevations and acronyms that are used and then regurgitated without explanation in much of the motoring press.

            I remember a few years ago as Aston Martin emerged out from Ford’s PMG they announced the development of an innovative system to fabricate and assemble key frame and structure assemblies for all of their forthcoming models in aluminium; the called it the ‘V/H’ architecture.
            “So all of your new cars will be platform sharing?” asked the press.
            “No! Our V/H is much cleverer than that.”
            “So what does ‘V/H’ stand for?”
            “The V is ‘vertical’ and the ‘H’ is horizontal.”
            Journalists; “Errr?…”
            So it was typically reported then (and still repeated now) as a platform sharing initiative. Even today you will see commenters on Pistonheads etc. saying “Why would you want to pay that much for a Vanquish? It just the same chassis as the DB9 with different bodywork…”