Audi’s mid-size SUV returns after an 18-month sabbatical without its excellent TDI diesel engine. Should it still be on your shortlist?
This updated Q5 feels like it’s been a long time coming. Yes, Audi discontinued the majority of its product line-up in April 2020 with the advent of BS6, and it’s slowly grown the range back to the point that it now has nine models on sale. However, most of these are still niche or low-volume models operating in the upper echelons of the luxury car market, with only the A4 and A6 (and the imported, limited-run Q2) propping up the ‘bread and butter’ segments. But now that the Q5 is back, having been delayed further still by the pandemic, things finally feel like they’re closer to where they were two years ago; SUVs, after all, used to account for 45 percent of Audi India’s sales.
2021 Audi Q5 facelift exterior, interior and features
Let’s get this out of the way right at the start – both on the surface and underneath, the updates to the Q5 are few and subtle. Outside you’ll find new designs for the LED headlamps and tail-lamps, a wider, flatter, now-octagonal grille with aggressive brushed metal vertical slats, a metallic strip between the tail-lamps, new bumpers, a bit of silver trim under the doors, and that’s it. They’ve also upped the wheel size from 18 to 19 inches, in keeping with the segment trend, but the design is a bit too plain. Overall then, the change isn’t dramatic, and this remains a sharp, tidy, albeit safely styled SUV.
LED headlamps get new DRL design.
Inside, the changes are even fewer, with the only visible one being the move from an 8.3-inch infotainment screen to a 10.1-inch unit. The bigger news here, like in the A4, S5 and RS5 that also got facelifts this year, is the move to a touchscreen interface, and Audi’s new generation of MMI software. It is a cleaner UI that’s far smoother than before, and unlike the more expensive Audis, you still get physical controls for the AC, which is welcome. The Virtual Cockpit digital dials are also updated, with higher-resolution imagery and slicker animation.
10.1-inch touchscreen the biggest update to the cabin.
It also remains a very practical luxury SUV, with a spacious back seat and a large, 550-litre boot. Just wish they added some USB ports for rear passengers; all you get is a 12v socket. The cabin now uses piano black rather than conventional brown wood trim, and the features list gets the notable addition of a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system on the top Technology trim. It always was pretty well equipped though, and returning this time are wireless phone charging, a panoramic sunroof, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, park assist, adaptive dampers and 8 airbags.
Back seat offers plenty of head and knee room.
2021 Audi Q5 facelift engine, gearbox and driving impressions
Incredibly refined and smooth, the now-discontinued 2.0 and 3.0 TDI diesel engines were synonymous with Audi, and their absence is felt particularly in an SUV like the Q5. Luckily, the returning 45 TFSI petrol engine is pretty impressive too. The 2.0-litre unit produces 249hp (3hp down after the move to BS6) and 370Nm, both numbers that are par for the segment, and as before, it’s all channelled via a seven-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox and Quattro AWD.
Q5 now rides on larger 19-inch wheels.
It's a smooth and refined experience, as before, with a good amount of punch when you need to get a move on. It’s not as exciting as some rivals’ petrol engines, but at least the gearbox is quick to kick down, or respond to tugs at the paddles when you’re in a hurry. And, unlike a lot of other dual-clutch ’boxes, in regular auto mode, it doesn’t feel too clunky when you’re plodding around at low speeds.
2.0-litre turbo-petrol packs good amount of punch.
There are, once again, Drive Select drive modes, including Off Road, which sets you in lower gears and auto-engages hill-descent control. With more than enough ground clearance, we were able to have a quick play with this setting on a broken path up and down a hill, and it performed admirably. Likely more important to owners, however, is that across the various ‘on road’ modes, the firmness of the dampers is also altered. This works well to add a bit more control to body movements in corners, in Dynamic mode, but as before, sharp handling and aggressive driving is not the Q5’s thing. The steering is still a bit too un-engaging for this to be an outright fun car. Incredibly, the ride quality, despite the move to larger wheels and lower profile tyres, remains excellent at any speed, and a highlight of the Q5. It’s nice and cushy at lower speeds, and even left in Comfort mode, endows the SUV with plenty of composure as you go faster.
2021 Audi Q5 facelift price and verdict
Once the luxury market leader, Audi India’s shrunken model range over the last 18 months and the loss of diesel have put it at a distinct disadvantage against its two main rivals, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The Q5, however, heralds a turnaround for the brand, one that will be bolstered by the return of the Q7 later this year, and even more mainstream models in 2022.
Revised bumper and new tail-lamps are subtle changes at the rear.
Yes, things have not changed much with this update to the Q5, but did they really need to? Our reviews of the older car praised it for being a jack of all trades (and a master of a few), and that seems to be the case once again. What we don’t have yet is the price, but Audi knows it simply has to get this one right. Both the A4 and A6 – the only other CKDs in the range – are priced very aggressively in their segments, and we expect a similar story for the Q5, at around Rs 58 lakh-62 lakh (ex-showroom) for the two variants, Premium Plus and Technology. If that’s enough to put it back on the driveways of the Indian luxury SUV buyer, we’ll have to wait and see.