Our road time was behind the wheel of the range-topping Prestige trim level, which was nicely outfitted with everything you’d expect at a price point somewhere in the mid-$50,000 range (pricing hasn’t been announced). Nicely grained leather is standard across the line, while our tester added in goodies like Bang & Olufsen speakers, glossy wood trim, heated front and rear seats, air conditioned seats up front, and enough tech upgrades to merit their own sub-headline…
…and here it is. For starters, Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit has become available in the Q5, replacing conventional analog gauges with a multi-configurable LCD screen in the instrument cluster. The system works here as it does across the rest of the company’s lineup via some convenient steering wheel-mounted switches. From the information (near) overload of a high-resolution Google Earth map on one end of the spectrum to digitally rendered analog-esque gauges on the other, it offers something for just about everyone at the press of a switch.
High on the Q5’s dashboard, which could have been plucked directly from the company’s A4, sits a display operated via what looks like a laptop touchpad integrated into the center console. Though menu-intensive, the automaker’s infotainment system requires a relatively limited acclimation period compared to some rivals and it’s aided by a terrific touchpad that allows users to spell out commands with their fingers.
Naturally, a full complement of safety tech nudging toward autonomous driving will be available when the Q5 arrives next spring. Audi hasn’t yet detailed the Q5’s packaging, but items like adaptive cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a halt and start it up again in traffic will be on the options list, as will a system that can steer the crossover on its own without any driver input for limited periods. It’s all trickle-down tech from the company’s larger vehicles like the Q7, but it’s overdue on the Q5.
But we traveled all the way to the southernmost tip of Baja California to drive the Q5 ourselves, not to have it automatically motor along Mexico’s delightfully smooth Highway 1 on its own.
For now, all American Q5s utilize the 4-cylinder seen, more or less, in everything from the Volkswagen GTI up to the Audi Q7. Tasked with moving about 4,000 pounds of Q5 (its weight is about the same as last year), the 2.0 feels more than up to the job. What most impresses us most is how little engine, road, or wind noise makes its way into the serene cabin.
Turn up the wick and the Q5 remains poised through corners, but its steering is light and delivers limited feedback. It’s clear from the first curve that this is not a corner carver, though its handling is safe, confidence-inspiring, and about what buyers in this segment have come to expect. Available adaptive dampers do little to tighten up the car’s dynamics significantly, though even left in their firmest mode with the available 20-inch wheels, they silently isolated the outside world’s imperfections. The Q5 won’t offer an air suspension, at least not until the sportier SQ5 comes online in a year or so, but it’s not something we really missed on the standard model.
As enthusiasts, we’re eager to see Audi make the most of this especially stiff platform with a follow-up to the frisky SQ5. Yet for a someone interested in quiet, effortless driving, they’ll find a giant leap forward with the latest Q5.