2018 Audi Q5: Performer on Highway, Off-Road, Sand Washes

By Sue Mead, September 30th, 2017

The Baja, Mexico, was a great place to test the 2018 Audi Q5. This location offered off-road tracks and sand washes to try out Audi's "new era of traction technology."

Audi says its new Q5 luxury crossover will raise the bar for the segment. It presents a fresh look to the distinctive Audi "Q" sport utility vehicle design language, starting with its more sleek and powerful profile. The five-seater is available in three trims: Premium, Premium Plus, and top-of-the-line Prestige.

The exterior is an updated blend of classic and contemporary looks -- minus the over-the-top, bold, and audacious styling on many vehicles in its class. The restyled midsizer is penned with enhanced lines; a flat, coupe-like roof line coupled with a strong, wave-design shoulder line, appealing lighting design, and pronounced wheel arches are meant to emphasize its standard all-wheel-drive mission.

Under the hood is a more powerful engine -- a redeveloped 2.0-liter four-cylinder produces 252 horsepower (up from 220) and 273 lb.-ft. of torque (up from 258). Coupled to a seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission, the Q5 sprints from 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, 1.1 seconds faster.

We drove the crossover that rides on Audi's lighter MLB 2 platform along small highways, narrow-track dirt roads, and in washes to evaluate its overall performance and its lightning-quick and highly efficient updated quattro with ultra technology. The new engine is downsized but has more horsepower and torque to move its mass quickly, plus well-mannered brakes allow it to stop in a measured fashion.

Notable is excellent steering and little-to-no body roll on a chassis that is tight but not rigid. Our test models were set up with 20-inch wheels; 18-inchers are standard.

The biggest impression made on us is the improvement to Audi's already-talented AWD and how quickly it engages and disengages. This brings the safety of four-wheel traction, precisely when needed, and with that comes a significant improvement in fuel economy.

We also tried out Audi Drive Select, now standard on all Q5 models; its five different modes -- comfort, auto, dynamic, off-road, and individual -- allow drivers to dial in what's best for their driving needs and/or handling preferences.

The redesigned front five-link suspension offers an available comfort adaptive suspension set-up that uses continuous electronic damper control to enable various suspension and damping combinations in support of each drive select mode; the system adjusts ride height, counteracts body roll, and provides auto-leveling that can aid with towing.

In the Lift/Off-Road mode, it gives the Q5 a laudable 9.0 inches of ground clearance that can drop to 6.5 in Dynamic mode. Standard steel springs have a ride height set at 8.2 inches, which is slightly higher than the previous model.

Although essentially the same size as the previous generation -- an inch longer and slightly narrower -- the sportier exterior proportions give it a wider and more muscular look. Adding emphasis are sculpted three-dimensional headlights that flow into the distinctive Singleframe grille, clamshell hood, short front and rear overhangs, and standard aluminum roof rails and rear spoiler.

Also outside are power-folding, power-adjustable, heated exterior side mirrors with memory (standard on Premium Plus models), standard Xenon plus headlights with LED daytime running lights or available full LED headlights, standard LED taillights with dynamic rear turn signals, available parking system with front and rear acoustic sensors, and a standard hands-free power tailgate.

Inside is a cabin bedecked with lux-level craftsmanship appointed with a host of standard and available features, along with more rear legroom and headroom. The half-inch-longer wheelbase increases cargo capacity to over 60 cubic feet with second-row seats folded down. For comfort and convenience, the 60/40-folding rear seat reclines and can be adjusted front-to-rear, as needed.

The wing-design wraparound dashboard and asymmetrical center console create a driver-centric cockpit that uses smart technology like the Audi virtual cockpit, MMI touch, and standard Audi smartphone interface; a small number of controls offer expanded functionality for greater ease of operation.

The virtual cockpit features a 12.3-inch display that enhances infotainment viewing and adds to the navigation experience with large Google Earth images on the color display.

The three-spoke multifunction steering wheel has paddle shifters; other features include standard three-zone automatic climate control, standard eight-way power front seats and four-way power lumbar adjustment for the driver with available twelve-way power front sport seats, available panoramic sunroof (standard on Premium Plus and Prestige trims), and standard ambient LED lighting or available ambient LED lighting plus package with 30 color settings.

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