2021 Audi Q5 PHEV first drive review: A powerful, premium plug-in

Four years on from its second generation, it’s time for a mid-cycle revamp for Audi’s Q5 compact SUV. That means optimized front and rear fascia designs with new head and tail lights, updated technology, and most interestingly, more attention to the new member of the family: the 2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI E Quattro – which I’ll just call. the Q5 plug-in hybrid for short.

The Q5 PHEV sits between the base Q5 45 TFSI and the high-performance SQ5, offering a flexible balance of power, economy and refinement.

Like the base Q5, the PHEV is powered by a 248-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine. It works with the same independent multilink suspension as the standard model, although its components are slightly retuned to compensate for the extra weight of the hybrid system. Aside from the presence of two filler ports – one for gasoline on the passenger side and one for the electric charging socket on the driver’s side – the PHEV is virtually indistinguishable from its more conventional counterparts.


The Q5 PHEV uses the SQ5’s larger 13.8-inch brakes to compensate for the extra weight when stopping.

Antuan Goodwin / Roadshow

The petrol engine of the plug-in hybrid is coupled with a 141hp electric motor that increases total output to 362hp, surpassing the SQ5’s 349hp V6 and making the PHEV the most powerful Q5 variant in the range. However, its curb weight of 4,619 pounds – about 331 pounds more than the SQ5 – means it’s less agile than the S model, and therefore slower at 60 mph. The PHEV takes the action in 5.0 seconds, compared to 4.7 ticks for the SQ5. The PHEV’s 2,000-pound towing capacity is also less than the 4,400-pounds that other Q5 models can pull.

A seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sends the PHEV’s 369-pound-feet of torque through the Q5’s Quattro With Ultra all-wheel drive system – Audi speaks for front-biased AWD with rear axle engagement upon request. This setup balances traction when you need it, but returns better fuel economy when you don’t need it. And for snowy or unpaved conditions, the Quattro system has selectable off-road programming that engages the rear axle more freely.

By connecting the Q5 PHEV to a Level 2 (240 volt) charger, its 14.1 kilowatt-hour battery pack shuts down in approximately 2.5 hours. Connecting to a regular 110 volt outlet extends to a night charge. With a full battery, the Q5 boasts 19 miles of electric range.

Unlike many plug-in crossovers in this class, the Q5 PHEV’s battery doesn’t cut into the cargo area – all 25.85 cubic feet behind the rear seats are intact. The gas tank had to shrink, however, to make room for hybrid components, so it now holds 14.3 gallons versus 18.5 for the other Q5s.

The Q5 PHEV compensates for its smaller tank with a significant improvement in fuel economy over its siblings. Taking into account the electric range at the front, Audi estimates 43 miles per gallon equivalent in the city, 64 MPGe on the highway and 50 MPGe combined. This is more than double the combined 25 mpg for the base model and 20 mpg combined for the SQ5.

Traveling the road in EV mode with a charged battery, I’m able to achieve exactly 20 miles of electric range thanks to a light foot and smooth driving style, even with a couple of steep hills in my path. In its EV mode, the PHEV is extremely quiet, with only a slight hum from the powertrain becoming a more prominent touch during regenerative deceleration. There’s plenty of power in EV mode to run errands, and electric acceleration is strong and smooth. Two thumbs up.

Like any good hybrid, the combustion engine doesn’t stay on once it wakes up; it shuts off when coasting and idling to save fuel, which is great. Rolling on the throttle, the electric motor handles the first few feet of acceleration as the gas engine fires, so the two motors work together seamlessly as the Q5 hums. As long as your inputs are relatively fluid, you won’t even notice.


The included charging cable includes adapters for 110 and 240 volt home connections. The use of the latter is highly recommended.

Antuan Goodwin / Roadshow

Pressing the accelerator pedal in hybrid mode results in the full increase in electric torque during acceleration, followed by a momentary drop in power as the gasoline engine picks up. By repeating this experiment in Sport mode, the gasoline engine stays on most of the time and there is no transition during the electric motor handoff – the SUV just starts without the odd snort.

So, always leave it in sports, right? Well no. This transition hiccup is noticeable only during full throttle acceleration. The remaining 99% of the time, the hybrid SUV is perfectly smooth and confident in its acceleration. Then drive like a normal person or activate Sport mode before your endurance race at the stoplight – and you probably will avoid this problem. Furthermore, Sport mode somewhat negates the Q5 PHEV’s biggest advantage over its siblings: fuel economy.

On paper, the 50 MPGe Audi looks less efficient than the 60 MPGe BMW X3 xDrive30e and the 68-MPGe Mercedes GLC350e. In fact, the 2020 Q5 PHEV model with the exact same powertrain boasted an EPA-rated 65 MPGe – quite close to that of the GLC – and Audi tells me it just adjusted how it estimates fuel economy for 2021. updated Audi says the new numbers should be more realistic, which is good, as I’ve always found the PHEV SUV numbers a little upbeat anyway.

As is often the case with PHEVs, your mileage will vary depending on the charging frequency and distance traveled. On shorter trips with a charged battery, for example, I can see over 100 MPGe. On longer trips that drain the battery, however, I only average around 30.1 MPGe. All in all, I ended up averaging around 41.3 MPGe after a few days of testing, which included a lot of time in Sport mode on hilly roads. You could end up anywhere in that range, but I imagine most Q5 PHEV buyers who charge daily and commute around 15-30 miles a day will end up roughly in line with Audi’s 50 MPGe estimate.


Many small improvements to the Q5’s already excellent cabin technology make the whole experience much more enjoyable.

Antuan Goodwin / Roadshow

Cabin inspections and technical safety

The MMI Touch dashboard infotainment gets a new 10.1-inch central screen and now has specific menus for monitoring and adjusting the PHEV charging schedule. Overall, the updated cabin technology is faster and more responsive than before, with a new generation of silicon powering the Audi-designed intelligent interface. Drivers can use Audi’s in-vehicle navigation software or connect their phone via USB to Android Auto or wirelessly for Apple CarPlay.

The Q5 is also available with Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit Plus instrument cluster, which puts on-board navigation, audio source information and advanced trip computer monitoring close to the driver’s line of sight and within reach. but no. A color head-up display is also available.

From a safety perspective, Audi Pre Sense City collision mitigation is standard for all Q5 models, as is rear cross-traffic detection with automatic braking, lane departure warning, automatic high beams and parking sensors. My example included the optional Adaptive Cruise Control with traffic jam assistance, lane keeping steering assistance with practical wheel detection, and overhead camera system that helps with safe and accurate parking.

The Q5 PHEV will face stiff competition over the next year, but it feels up to the challenge.

Antuan Goodwin / Roadshow

Prices and competition

The 362hp Q5 PHEV is more powerful than the 288hp BMW X3 PHEV and 315hp Mercedes GLC PHEV, but comes at a slight cost of efficiency. Other plug-in alternatives coming out next year include Lincoln’s Corsair Grand Touring and plenty of premium all-electric crossovers for drivers ready to fully embrace EV driving, like Audi’s E-Tron.

The 2021 Audi Q5 45 TFSI starts at $ 44,395 (including a $ 1,095 destination tax) for the base Premium model. The Q5 55 plug-in hybrid goes up to $ 52,995 at the same trim level, a $ 8,600 price increase. Audi estimates the PHEV qualifies for up to $ 6,712 in federal tax incentives, which should soften the blow a bit. Plus, depending on your charging and driving habits, there’s huge savings potential at the pump that could make the PHEV even cheaper over time than the base model.

My top-trim Navarra Blue Metallic Prestige Tester packs all the upgraded cockpit technology, driver assistance gadgets, a premium Bang & Olufsen sound system and more, and plays for $ 63,190 before incentives. That’s about $ 3,000 more than a comparably equipped X3 PHEV, but on par with the cost of the GLC350e plug-in.

The Q5 core has always been a solid choice in the compact luxury space, and model year 2021 updates make it more compelling. Electrification and hybridization just make the Q5 PHEV more luxurious, muffle the powertrain and add effortless smoothness to the experience.

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