Review: Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid

Motoring correspondent Mark Gallivan test drives the all-new Audi Q5 TFSI e plug-in hybrid and finds it to be a very enjoyable drive.

It’s a stretch to position this new hybrid version of Audi’s Q5 mid-tier SUV as a brand new appraisal. Most of us are already familiar with the current generation Q5 that’s been on sale for the last three years. For 2020 Audi has added this plug-in hybrid petrol version to the range from €64,200.

Why then, does it merit a review now? Obviously, the core of the Q5’s strengths are preexisting: five seats, comfortable, a conservative design that has aged well, rock-solid construction inside and out, good refinement that soothes with low road noise and an impressive reduction of wind noise. Fact – every Audi Q5 bodes well a longer-term experience irrespective of which one you choose.

“Anybody who claims hybrid battery technology is killing driving enjoyment needs to reset their own compass and prejudices”

The Q5 TFSIe PHEV claims 40km of pure electric driving. I managed at best 34km and only when driven very gently at low speeds in traffic. The performance numbers themselves deserve further inspection.

Power and performance

Audi says this Q5 achieves a combined fuel consumption of 2.4–2.1 l/100 km. During this real-world fuel consumption test the figures fluctuated between 4.8-5.3 1/100km. (49-45 mpg). You may well come close to Audi’s claims but the battery will need to be replenished often to maximize the e-range.

In tagging an e abbreviation onto the Q5’s 2.0 litre petrol engine amasses a useful 299 bhp. This is made up of 252 bhp and boosted by 105 kW from electric power. Yet, the carbon emissions figures drop to CO2 53-46 g/km. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h takes 6.1 seconds. The performance orientated SQ5 TFSI with a bigger 3.0 litre V6 engine pushes out 349 bhp with a thumping 700Nm torque. These are big numbers from a mid-sized SUV and achieves a tyre-shredding getaway in 5.1 seconds.

I have driven that version of the Q5 too and while the acceleration surge feels greater and more linear it only beats this hybrid Q5 in a 0-100km/h dash by around a single second. The downside of the dipsomaniac and mighty entertaining SQ5 diesel-engined performance is fuel economy. It dives to around 35mpg and I occasionally saw a lowly 22mpg on my test. Mind you, it remains one of the best mid-side performance SUVs on sale. That the Q5 TFSIe manages to surf a 49mpg/6.1 seconds acceleration plateau is quite remarkable. Anybody who claims hybrid battery technology is killing driving enjoyment needs to reset their own compass and prejudices.

If you have a typical 7.4kW home charger fixed to wall it’s possible to charge this Q5 in around 2.5 hours. Using a domestic three-pin socket you’ll need to leave it charging for up to 6 hours. That’s sufficient to fully charge up overnight. If you keep your commuting distance low, which we have been doing all year the frequency which you’ll visit a petrol station promises to be massively reduced.

Driving range and executive credentials

The Q5 TFSIs uses two clever systems to help you maximise your driving range – Predictive Efficiency Assistant and Predictive Operating Strategy.

Both of these systems electronically modulate the petrol and electric power and adjusts coasting regenerative power to recover kinetic energy and its conversion to electric battery power based on the navigation data. The Drive Select which usually offers Offroad and Dynamic modes now adds an EV button that gives three main options – EV (battery only drive), Battery Hold (electric drive storage) and Hybrid.

Apart from the supplementary flap to plug in the battery there’s precious little externally to suggest this Q5 is the hybrid. Standard equipment on the S-line version includes 19” alloy wheels, Audi Drive Select, 3-Zone climate control, electric folding mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, Audi pre-sense, Audi Smartphone interface and power tailgate. Audi fits a tiny 7” infotainment screen as standard and nowadays with rivals using larger screens it maks it look like a screen from a previous generation. The upgrade already offered in the facelifted A6 and A5 Sportback cannot come soon enough.

By placing the battery in the rear of the Q5’s floor the boot loses around 155 litres off the typical Q5’s 550-litre boot space and the charging cables also gobble up precious space.

In the UK 2019 What Car? reliability survey the Q5 achieved average results. It was placed 20 out of 31 cars surveyed. More crucially, in cars surveyed over five years, Lexus is the outright winner with Audi placed 22nd place. Land Rover languished at the bottom with a 78.2pc reliability rating.

The verdict on this PHEV version of the Q5 depends on the type of driving you undertake.

If your weekday involves short hops like school runs or the shops then there is a strong case for this Q5.

The only benefit for company car drivers facing long commutes is the lower CO2 emissions and taxation. But if your workplace or business territory is relatively local then the Q5 TFSIe should be strongly considered. The Q5 is a mid-tier five-seat SUV that pleases a driver with Audi’s USP of burnishing out everyday driving irritations. In that realm it sits up with the best on sale. If you’re also insisting that your premium SUV must be a hybrid as too, the Q5 TFSIe makes a properly good PHEV choice.

You’ll like: Impeccable credentials, five-seater Q5 now with hybrid flexibility. Hushed, smooth, pleasing, high build quality.

You’ll grumble: Puny infotainment screen.

By Mark Gallivan

Published: 17 December 2020