Dual personality

On the road in the new Audi Q5 55 TFSI e quattro.

The latest addition to the Q5 range brings a new dimension in versatility while doubling down on the features and characteristics that have made the Q5 such an enduring success.

James McRory

Camber Collective

7 August, 2023

Everything that has made the Q5 such a success is there plus the flexibility of hybrid drive

The new Audi Q5 55 TFSI e quattro has arrived Down Under. For the first time in Australia it features a plug-in hybrid drivetrain made up of a 2.0 TFSI petrol engine and an electric motor, which can work independently or in tandem. From a standing start it will comfortably hit 100/km/h in 5.3 seconds, yet it can also provide 50 kilometres of all-electric, emissions-free driving and in terms of fuel figures, it’s capable of 2.0L/100km. 

So, is the focus on performance or on being environmentally conscious? Yes. Or rather – both.

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand why Audi’s Q5 range has been such a success in all its iterations since it was first introduced internationally in 2009. Its combination of refined luxury and performance in a mid-sized SUV were a first for the segment and it has continued to offer leading-edge technology, Audi trademark appointment and finish in a vehicle that also offers genuine practicality ever since. Along the way, models like the SQ5 TDI have tended more to the performance side of things, but still the combination of size, luxury appointment and practicality have underpinned the offering.

With this latest incarnation of the Audi Q5, the presence of hybrid drive adds another dimension to the range, but again the essential elements that make the Q5 so successful remain at the very core of the vehicle.

With this latest Q5, all of the attributes and elements that have made the Q5 the brand’s best selling vehicle are there, so that current or previous Q5 owners will be greeted with a sense of familiarity, but featuring the very latest in-car technology, infotainment and connectivity. There is a choice of SUV style exterior or Audi’s Sportback design depending on your personal taste, and while both body styles also feature the Audi S line bodykit as standard equipment, save for the badging on the right rear flank – Q5 TFSI e quattro – there is nothing externally to indicate the complex duality of the vehicle’s drivetrain.

Behind the wheel too, this is pure Audi Q5, with clean, open design elements, leather upholstery throughout and intuitive control layout. The finish is classic Audi, and while the Sportback variant also gets an S line interior package in fine Nappa leather, both are finished to the highest standard.

The presence of the dual powerplants can be monitored in the additional graphics that can be viewed in the virtual cockpit or on the central touchscreen, that indicate the state of the battery’s charge, range potential and what percentage of battery verses engine power you’re using. You can also look at the percentage of travel you’ve done over a given period using electric, petrol or a combination of both.

Selecting between a Hybrid driving mode, EV, Charge and Hold modes is as simple as pressing a button and the Q5 does the rest.

Behind the wheel too, this is pure Audi Q5, with clean, open design elements, leather upholstery throughout and intuitive control layout

Different modes allow you to tailor the drive to best suit the conditions and the situation

In EV mode, this allows you to drive completely on electrical power, drawing on the 17.9kWh battery (14.4 net kWh) for up to 50 kilometres. If more power is suddenly required – say a need for evasive action or quick overtake – and you push the accelerator past a certain point, the TFSI engine is automatically and instantly employed.

As the name suggests, the Hybrid mode uses both power sources, and can either be selected manually from the menu or is automatically engaged when you use the route guidance in the navigation system. Here the battery charge is automatically distributed across the route you’ve chosen, to keep fuel consumption down to a minimum. Around town, the Q5 will go with pure electric power as much as possible in this mode, but will imply the TFSI engine as and when required – all smooth and seamless.

The Hold mode literally maintains the battery at its current level, while the Charge mode uses the combustion engine to actively charge the battery during the drive.

In fact, despite the fact that this is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Q5 is able to recoup considerable energy in the course of driving, with the electric motor used for braking duties up to 2 g, recovering up to 80kW of electrical power in the process, only using the actual brakes for heavier braking duties. Again, this all happens seamlessly, and I would challenge anyone to be able to feel the difference through the brake pedal.

Likewise the quattro all-wheel drive with ultra technology, switches between driving just the front wheels to driving all four wheels so seamlessly that even deliberate attempts to ‘catch the four-wheel drive system napping’ are fruitless. First introduced in the Q5 range in 2017, quattro with ultra serves to save fuel by driving only the front wheels in optimal conditions, but as a predictive system, it has engaged all four wheels before traction limits are reached, giving the Q5 PHEV that planted, surefooted feeling you want on fast twisting roads or slick surfaces.

With this handling feel and its healthy turn of speed, the Q5 PHEV delivers a spirited drive when the roads allow, its combined electric motor/petrol engine outputting 270kW of power and a stump-pulling 500Nm, which in fact makes it the most powerful Q5 model ever. The fact that it is just 0.2 seconds behind the mighty SQ5 TDI to 100km/h is impressive to say the least – the latter generating 255kW of power but a massive 700Nm of torque from its 3.0-litre V6 powerplant.

Of course these are different animals from the same genetic bloodline, but it does illustrate what you can do with the Q5 PHEV should the mood take you and you find yourself on the right stretch of road. Even on a less inspiring piece of road, the Q5 PHEV delivers a smooth ride for all onboard, and when most forward progress is all but lost during the daily commute, its comfort and appointment go along way to alleviating the frustration of peak hour.

With this handling feel and its healthy turn of speed, the Q5 PHEV delivers a spirited drive when the roads allow

And really that’s the beauty of this Q5 PHEV variant – the seamless way it goes about its business, regardless of the situation

Like all Q5 models before it, the Q5 PHEV is perfectly at home in the ‘everyday’ of driving. Depending on your level of engagement, you can choose to be as involved in the engine decision making process as you like or allow the Q5’s advanced systems to settle on the most appropriate combination for the prevailing conditions and driving style, leaving you to enjoy the drive. Aside from plugging it in at home to charge the battery, living with the Q5 PHEV requires no practical change in routine or approach and yet the benefits are significant. Even the charging process is straightforward, requiring an overnight eight hours plugged into a standard 2.3kW household outlet, or 2.5 hours with a 7.2kW outlet.

And really that’s the beauty of this Q5 PHEV variant – the seamless (there’s that word again), unfussed way it goes about its business, regardless of where you find yourself, driving-wise. That you have the choice of running on pure electric power, conventional combustion power or both gives you tremendous flexibility and with fuel figures of 2.0/100km and just 45 grams of CO2  per kilometre in hybrid mode, it’s green credentials are impressive.

But that the same vehicle can deliver such performance and handling adds another dimension that means that that ugly word ‘compromise’ doesn’t apply. One vehicle, with very much a dual personality – a car for all occasions, road types and situations if you like.