Audi Q5 hybrid review
|Car type||Electric range||MPG||CO2|
|Plug-in hybrid||26 miles||109mpg||49g/km|
It has been a weird few months for plug-in hybrids, with sales of these dual-powertrain cars dropping drastically despite the general drive towards electrification in the mainstream market. What the tabloid coverage hasn’t considered is that the sensible buyers out there are waiting for the new crop of plug-in models. And why wouldn’t they, when one of the key protagonists in the swarm of next-gen PHEVs about to arrive is this – the Audi Q5 TFSI e.
The Q5 is already well established as one of the most popular, posh family SUVs. Rightly so given the blend of practical yet plush interior, brand swagger and tidy balance of comfort and handling. This plug-in hybrid version adds further appeal with its intriguing blend of tax-dodging electric efficiency and sports-SUV performance, putting it in direct competition with the Volvo XC60 and Mercedes GLC plug-in hybrids.
Two plug-in hybrid Q5 models are on offer; both get a 14.1kWh battery and 141bhp electric motor that offers an official pure-electric range of 26 miles. Petrol power comes from a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which sends power through a quattro active four-wheel-drive system, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox also features in both. Combined with the electric motor, the petrol engine brings power up to 362bhp for the 55 TFSI e that we’ve driven, and 295bhp for the cheaper 50 TFSI e.
In pure-electric 'EV' mode, the Q5 TFSI e is seriously quiet, with well insulated suspension and tyre noise and – of course – virtually no noise from the electric motor. You can do motorway speeds in electric mode, and as usual the constant stream of power is great for easing through awkward traffic. We did mostly motorway miles on our test drive and saw some 20 miles of electric running, so in good weather and around town you could well see 25 miles or so.
As with any plug-in hybrid, charging the Q5 is critical if you’re to get the money-saving and environmental benefits of the powertrain: if you don’t plug it in, then you’ll still be enjoying a powerful SUV but it’ll be doing more like 40mpg on a good day or mid-30s in varied use.
So at least charging is easy. Cables for a three-pin domestic socket, a three-pin industrial socket often used on campsites, and a Type 2 cable for charging at public AC chargers or home wallboxes, are all provided. A normal three-pin domestic socket will deliver a full charge in around six hours, while a 7kW home wallbox will do the same in some two hours.
Hybrid mode is a better choice for long journeys when you’ll be relying heavily on the petrol engine. Put your destination in the rotary-controlled sat-nav system, and it automatically selects Hybrid drive mode and flicks between electric and petrol running as it deems best. It's particularly clever, as it knows to save the electric running for about-town stuff and use petrol power elsewhere. There's also a battery hold function if you want to make that decision yourself.
You’ll struggle to notice when it’s switching between the two powertrains, too. There are no hesitations or odd changes in throttle response, so it all feels pretty seamless and you can forget all about it. The petrol engine itself is quiet, too, so it can be quite hard to even know whether you’re running on petrol or electricity if you’ve got the DAB radio or your music on even a moderate volume.
Ride comfort is good: the Q5 trim range has had a shake-up with the addition of the plug-in hybrid, but it’s worth noting that only range-topping Vorsprung specification gets air suspension – it’s not available on any other Q5 plug-in hybrid. We haven’t tried the air suspension yet, but our S line Competition 55 TFSI e on 20-inch wheels was impressively composed, feeling cushioned and well controlled even over big potholes. So air suspension seems unnecessary.
The whole package in the Q5 TFSI e gels really well. It’s not fun or engaging, as some might hope it would be, but it’s neat, precise and predictable to drive, and squirts down the road with serious zeal if you want it to. Not bad for a car that also gets free entry into London (until October 2021, at least) and cheap company-car tax, with all but the big-wheeled Vorsprung models coming in under the crucial 50g/km of CO2 mark.
Passenger and boot space are right up there with what you’d want from a big family car. There’s 95 litres less luggage space than in a standard non-electrified Q5, but at 450 litres (with the rear seats up) it’s still great if you’ve got a chunky buggy or big dog to lug around. It’s a shame that you can’t add a space-saver spare tyre, and the large cable case that hooks onto a lashing eye in the boot will get in the way if you do carry large loads regularly. If you can leave the cables at home or at work and still charge regularly enough, it’s worth doing.
Cable storage aside, the other thing that’ll annoy you about the Q5 TFSI e is its price. The cheapest 50 TFSI model starts at just under £50,000, while the 55 TFSI e comes in at just under £55,000 – around £6,000 more than an equivalent non-electrified diesel or petrol Q5. And while the TFSI e does get LED headlights, heated and power-adjustable front seats, Audi’s impressive navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging and more, you’re still likely to want to add a number of options.
Go for metallic paint for a start, then you’ll want keyless entry, which means adding the Comfort and Sound pack, while getting adaptive cruise control and traffic-jam assistance means forking out for the Tour pack, which of course you can only have if you also add the expensive Parking pack including semi-autonomous parking. Before you know it, you’ve got a £60,000 car.
On that front, the Volvo XC60 T8 twin Engine looks better value given its more generous standard equipment, although arguably the Q5’s better residual-value forecast and superior efficiency with the petrol engine running could make up for it.
Overall, the Q5 manages to be almost any car for any person. It’s fast, roomy, quiet, cheap to run if you plug in regularly, and has enviable brand swagger to boot. Provided you don’t want something that excites on a good road, it’s got every other aspect of the modern family sports-SUV nailed. It’s not cheap, but it’s good enough that you won’t feel short-changed.