2018 Audi Q5 and Sport Q5 Luxury SUV: People Love This Car, So We Had to Find Out Why

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All the glass in the Audi Q5 is a real bonus; the panoramic sun roof and large rear window let in tons of light. Photo: Scotty Reiss

And yes, this 2-row SUV is all that.

In some neighborhoods the Audi Q5 is practically like wallpaper: it’s the background against which life is lived.

And it’s pretty nice wallpaper. Luxurious, capable, up to rudimentary jobs like school drop off, but also well-suited for unloading your Tumi luggage at a Four Seasons or filling it with shopping bags from Neiman Marcus.

The Q5 sends the message that you’re sophisticated and discerning, that luxury matters, but so does engineering and capability, all at a reasonable price for a luxury SUV . 

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The front of the 2018 Audi SQ5 has been completely updated with more chrome, front air curtains on either side of the grille, new headlinghts and new wheels. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who This Car is For

  • Singles, couples or small families
  • Owners who want a luxury SUV
  • Owners who value a finely engineered SUV
  • Buyers who may want to accommodate a dog (or two)
  • Drivers who need to accommodate a child safety car seat
  • Drivers who want or need all wheel drive
  • Drivers who don’t need a third row
  • Drivers who want a sportier, performance-focused drive experience should look at the SQ5 rather than the Q5

What the Q5 Costs

  • Q5 Base price, which includes a 4-cylinder turbo engine, Quattro all wheel drive, leather seating, sliding split fold rear seats and power tailgate: $41,500
  • Premium package, which includes panoramic sunroof, spare tire, parking system plus heated front seats: $4,000
  • Navigation package with Audi virtual cockpit: $2,600
  • Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system: $950
  • Cold weather package, which includes heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel: $500
  • Destination charge: $975
  • Price of the model we drove: $52,700

What the SQ5, the Performance-Tuned Version, Costs:

  • SQ5 base price, which includes V6 twin turbo engine, Quattro all wheel drive system, power folding heated side mirrors, spare tire and heated front seats: $54,300
  • Prestige package, which includes color head up display, Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system, navigation with virtual cockpit, top view camera system: $4,200
  • Upgraded quilted leather upholstery: $1,250
  • Carbon fiber accents: $500
  • Destination charge: $975
  • Price of the model we drove: $65,800
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The 2018 Audi Q5 luxury SUV. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Who Is This Car Really For? Women

Audi asked women what they wanted when the Q5 was redesigned recently. The answers were translated into features found in this car including:

  • Headrest that adjusts for a pony tail. Just push a button on the head rest and it adjusts forward (for no pony tail) or backward. This means you don’t have to adjust the entire seat when you’ve pulled your hair back.
  • Wide opening doors for child safety seats. Just try to get a 30 pound car seat into a car with doors that don’t open wide enough. You’ll see.
  • Air suspension height adjustment. Buttons in the rear cargo area allow the car to lower about 2 inches for loading and unloading strollers, luggage and dogs.
  • Apple Car Play/Android Auto. Just plug your phone into the USB port and Car Play comes up as an option on the infotainment screen. Use your own map, destinations, talk to Siri, get your messages and play your iPod or Spotify. Love it.
  • Motion-activated lift gate. With your key in your pocket or handbag, just kick your foot under the bumper and voilá, the gate opens or closes.
  • Improved MPG: 23 MPG city/27 MPG highway in the Q5. The Sport edition SQ5 doesn’t fare quite as well, with 19 MPG city and 24 MPG highway. But it’s more like typical SUV fuel economy in a more highly powered engine.

Here is how the pony tail head rest works:

Not ready to upgrade to Audi luxury? Check out the VW Tiguan’s elegant approach to affordability

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Driver information on the center cluster; buttons on the steering wheel let you customize your view. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Automated Driving Features Take the Stress Out of Traffic

And who doesn’t sit in stressful traffic? We didn’t get to try this out, but these are features that I would definitely buy in this car (they’re available in newer models, which should be on the market now). The Driver Assistance package includes adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and speed limit display on the information cluster.

While we are huge fans of adaptive cruise, traffic jam assist may take its place. Set it and the car adjusts speed in low speed traffic, even coming to a full stop and resuming when traffic picks up again. When traffic gets moving, adaptive cruise takes over, keeping you up to speed. Not having to keep your foot on the brake and constantly brace for braking or catching up when traffic starts up again really, really, takes the stress out of driving.

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All the glass in the Audi Q5 is a real bonus; the panoramic sun roof and large rear window let in tons of light. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Oh, That Light. That Light!

The panoramic sun roof has become a popular feature in new cars in the last few years and I can completely see why. Spanning the length of the roof, the light, airy feeling it creates is freeing and pleasant. The Q5 also has wide side windows and a large rear window, adding to the open, spacious feeling. Everyone looks better bathed in natural light. Everyone.

A fabric screen retracts to reveal the window, or extends to cover it. I can see in places where the summer sun is oppressive that you might not want all that light during the day, and for that the screen is a handy feature.

Don’t miss this: See how the SQ5 compares to BMW’s X4 M 40i

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The back seat in the Audi SQ 5 is ample for a child car seat and the doors opened wide enough to get it in and out easily. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Comfortable, Larger Rear Seats Keep Back Seat Passengers Happy

And that’s what matters when you’re on the road, right? Audi was able to increase passenger space without making the Q5 any larger on the outside. This means more leg room and more hip room, accommodating a child car seat (or two), or three passengers comfortably. 

As for rear seat amenities, heated rear seats are available and climate control and a 12V power port are standard, but no USB ports. The car’s two ports are inside the center console arm rest, so front seat passengers may have to help back seat passengers plug in their devices. However, if they do, they can contribute their playlists to the sound system.

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Infotainment display on the Audi Q5 SUV. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Premium Infotainment System Worthy of a Luxury Brand

This is something we see more and more in luxury cars: an innovative infotainment system with a bit of a learning curve. The Q5 was no exception.

I found it easy to use and liked that the screen is not a touch screen so no fingerprints. The system has a touch pad marked with numbers at the top (for radio presets!) and a menu selector at the bottom. Users can write out instructions or quick-navigate to the menu with the touch pad. The dial selector scrolls through screen options including radio, car settings, navigation and more.

Luxury comparison: See how the Audi SQ5 compares to the Jaguar F Pace.

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The rear view camera in the Audi S Q 5 offerd a nice wide view and guidelines that adjust as you turn the steering wheel. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Head up Display and Virtual Cockpit Keep Your Eyes On the Road

These two features together ensure you have key information in view at all times. Head up display is a premium feature that we can’t wait to become mainstream. It projects key information onto the windshield in front of you, so you don’t have to glance away to find information such as speed, navigation and the song that’s playing on the radio.

Audi’s virtual cockpit feature allows drivers to set up the driver display however you’d like. You can fill the screen with navigation, or with the speedometer and odometer, or with other driver information. It has a clear, crisp look that makes it easy to see and read. 

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A larger phone fits into this sliding tray in the center console. The arm rest is suspended over the console to leave room for charge cords to thread into the two USB ports inside. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Drive Experience: Q5 vs SQ5

So, clearly the SQ5 is the beefier, more muscular car, right? I wasn’t prepared for just how much this would be true. The Sport edition adds 102 horsepower, taking it up from 252 HP in the Q5 to 354 in the SQ5. And you feel it every time you hit the accelerator. Every time. If this is for you, it’s probably worth the extra $12,800, which also adds paddle shifters and some fun drive mode selections to further enhance the drive.

If you don’t care about high performance and just need confidence merging onto the highway, keeping up with traffic and getting out of a snow-slicked driveway in winter, the Q5 is ample and plenty satisfying.

The SQ5 model we drove was fully outfitted with luxury features, while the Q5 model we drove, the Premium base model, was impressive for the price. And many of the luxuries that can be found in the SQ5, such as head up display, premium leather seats, adaptive safety features and premium finishes, are available in the Q5’s higher level Premium Plus and Prestige models.

Overall, while I preferred driving the SQ5, I found the Q5 to be fun and comfortable, with ample space and cargo room. And, I loved the pony tail head rest adjustment. But even more, I love that Audi’s designers thought to ask the question and add the feature. And now I understand why so many people love this car. It’s built for them. 

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A spare tire is hidden beneath the cargo area floor in the Audi SQ5. Photo: Scotty Reiss

What We Loved

  • The pony tail headrest
  • The panoramic sun roof
  • Lots of luxury, even in the base model
  • Fuel economy in the Q5; 23 city/27 highway; I averaged about 24MPG
  • The touchpad-and-dial driver infotainment system
  • Powerful drive experience in the SQ5
  • Plenty of cargo space (26.8 cubic feet) behind the second row
  • Larger rear seat that accommodates adults and child car seats
  • The quilted leather seats; these are superior to the standard leather seats
  • Head up display
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The center console has a nice ergonomic design; you can drop your wrist on the gear shift and use the touch pad and the dial controller for the infotainment system

What You Need to Know

  • Only 2 USB ports, both located under the center arm rest
  • Infotainment system can take some time to learn
  • Adaptive driving features not available on models built early in the model year
  • SQ5, with a bigger engine, gets lower fuel economy (19 city/24 highway)
  • 4 year/50,000 mile warranty
  • 4 year roadside assistance included
  • Regular gas is fine but premium may be preferred to get the optimal performance from the SQ5

What We Listened to in the Audi Q5

We were inspired by the idea that Audi listened to women when they redesigned this car, so we listened to women too (mostly).

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Disclosure: Audi provided the Q5 and SQ5 for our test drive; all opinions expressed are my own.

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss