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First Drive: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

Who said you can't have it all? Audi's next-gen Q5 exists to prove them wrong

Audi’s newest Q5 has the makings to be the premium crossover that all others will be compared to.

Crossovers have the unenviable position of being the car that everyone wants everything from. Consumers want utility, style, versatility during the winter, sportiness, and more — even if many of those things are mutually exclusive. None can do each thing perfectly, but some get closer to this lofty goal better than others. Fortunately, Audi has been fine-tuning its Q5 since 2008, and its second generation is about to hit the road.

The 2017 Audi Q5 is all new, as nearly no parts carry over from its predecessor. It packs a 2.0-liter TFSI engine that generates 252 horsepower and sends it to all four wheels by way of a seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox.

Related: The biggest changes to Audi’s all-new Q5 go beneath the surface

If the new Q5 lacks any familiarity with the old one, that’s on purpose. The body has been redesigned so that it looks different from every angle. The wheel arches are more emphasized and the whole package has a wider, more purposeful stance. From the grille to the tail, the Q5’s new look puts it in line with the current Audi design language, bridging the gap between it and its big brother, the Q7.

It’s not all for looks, though. A lightweight, mixed-material construction — including high tensile strength steel as well as aluminum — has helped the Q5 shed around 200 pounds of weight compared to the previous model.

Slim fit

The Q5’s cabin is comfortably spacious for four people, with decent enough room to spare for cargo. It isn’t cavernous, but it’s a decent fit for people traveling light. Seats in the rear can be adjusted and depending on where they’re positioned, there’s around 19.4 to 21.5 cubic feet of cargo volume to be had. If you’re hauling more stuff than people, the rear bench folds down to increase that volume to 54.7 cubic feet.

Like the A4, the Q5 now has the Audi Virtual Cockpit available as an option. The 12.3-inch digital display cluster presents digital instruments as well as an information screen where the driver can access media, navigation, and other car systems. Tapping the “view” button on the steering wheel can even shrink the instruments down and pull up your menu of choice to prominence. A nice, 12.3-inch color map right behind the wheel is as nice as it sounds, believe me.

Audi’s 8.3-inch MMI display comes along as well, so passengers can access functions while the driver focuses on the task at hand, or they can split the difference and have a multi-screen setup at their disposal.

Where it counts

The 2.0 TFSI engine pulls the Q5 decently along and can handle most demands competently. On highways, the crossover is comfortable and quiet, but needs a bit of a kick for overtaking situations. Drive select allows the ride and engine responsiveness to favor comfort, efficiency, or dynamic driving. You can even leave it an auto and let the Q5 judge the best settings automatically or customize your preferences individually. Depending on your selection, the feeling is tangible and drivers can definitely feel the difference in settings through your hands, feet, and seat.

Related: Audi’s A4 is a smart car that your phone doesn’t put to shame

Speaking of efficiency, the Q5 can be fitted with Quattro Ultra, an update to the all-wheel drive system that disconnects the rear axle to increase efficiency. The car senses when it’s on a stretch of road that doesn’t need all four wheels pulling it along, so it intuitively becomes front-wheel drive until you need all-wheel drive again. This is always on and doesn’t pop-up on any displays. Like the old Apple adage “it just works.”

Can’t have Q5 without Quattro…

When I took the Q5 off the pavement for some rural rambling, it did indeed work as it should. The dirt paths I took weren’t an incredible challenge, but they were different parts boney and muddy enough to be difficult. Throw in some elevation changes and deep ruts, and the road ahead would prove annoying to an ill-equipped ride. Thankfully, the Q5 made it a drama-free experience and, even when things got choppy, there was enough poise to keep the erratic terrain from greatly disturbing the passengers. Between the ride and sound dampening, myself and the other three people in the crossover continued to hold our conversations without the need to shout over jarring bangs and bumps.

The 2.0 TFSI engine pulls the Q5 decently along and can handle most demands competently.

I suspect, however, that much of this had to do with the air suspension the Q5 was fitted with. Sadly, we in the States aren’t getting that as an option. The system cushions the ride when comfort is key, and can inflate to increase the ride height when needed. Audi claims there’s not enough demand thing, so if enough voices are heard, Americans may see it down the line.

Faced with some windy hillside roads, I decided to put the Q5’s sporty dynamics to the test. The seven-speed gearbox can be left alone or paddle shifted manually, which I found to be the best way to squeeze out every RPM as needed. There was enough grunt to get the Q5 up to speed, but what was most impressive was the control through the turns.

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No one’s going to mistake the Q5 for a sports car through sharp switchbacks, but it controlled decently enough to stir in some fun without overwhelming fear. The car’s lightweight build also came into play as the Q5 braked easily in the face of hairpins. I didn’t have to stand on the pedal and pray it wouldn’t barrel through my stopping point.

Our take

For all the things we ask of a crossover, the Q5 does its best to check each box – and succeeds remarkably well. It’s a great, versatile jack-of-all trades in a premium package that’s leaves little to be desired.

What are the alternatives?

We don’t have official US pricing, but the bottom line for the European version is said to be around $50,592. It’s a hefty number that puts it in swinging distance of other luxury brand offerings like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-benz GLC.

How long will it last?

The newest Q5 comes fresh out of its new assembly plant in San Jose, Mexico, so it’s going to be some time before it needs a refresh. Until then, there’s enough tech to keep drivers and passengers satisfied as well as safe before it starts to look long in the tooth.

Should you buy it?

From our initial time with the 2017 Q5, it seems to have all its bases covered, so we say yes. The sharp looks and utility make it appropriate for a bevy of occasions and if you end up on a twisty road, you can still have fun, too.

Highs

  • Stylish exterior
  • Comfortable, quiet cabin
  • Efficiency through engineering

Lows

  • Lighter, but maybe still too heavy for this engine
  • A host of options that are Europe-exclusive