2021 Audi Q5 First Drive: Is this the new benchmark?
The 2021 Audi Q5 is back after a hiatus and aims to be a bestseller like its predecessorShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2021 Audi Q5 First Drive: Is this the new benchmark?

Is the revised styling and newer tech sufficient for the 2021 Audi Q5 to measure up against its rivals, the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the BMW X3?

Yet another flavour added to the luxury mid-size SUV range? The facelifted 2021 Audi Q5 feels like a revived taste to savour rather than a new selection, one that’s refreshed to further soothe your palate. Because sometimes it’s not about trying out new dishes, but rather just indulging in what you enjoy the most. Over the years Audi India might have left a masterly mark with the bigger Q7 but in terms of numbers, it’s always been the Q5 that’s done extremely well and the same is expected of this facelifted model. Adding to this is the year-long wait before Audi could relaunch their strongest product in the Q lineup, making it a highly anticipated comeback in the mid-size luxury SUV space.

Why exactly, you might sensibly wonder, did Audi take so long to bring back its volume seller? With all fingers pointing towards the virus, I think it’s the adaptation of the assembly line at the Group’s Aurangabad facility that's delayed the launch. Yes, this version of the Audi Q5 will be locally assembled so if you’re wondering if it’s been worth the wait, the possibly aggressive pricing might just be the answer, along with the host of newer kit that comes with it.

The 2021 Audi Q5 gets a marginally larger grille that adds to the SUV's road presence
The 2021 Audi Q5 gets a marginally larger grille that adds to the SUV's road presenceShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2021 Audi Q5 Exteriors

In classic German premium-brand style, Audi has aimed the updated Q5 directly at its rivals with absolute precision. Based on the MLB Evo platform that’s also shared with the A4, the 2021 Audi Q5 is very much on the same theme but adds more sophistication thanks to styling tweaks and newer tech. The headlamps are now sleeker, giving it a sportier facia as compared to the model it replaces. Both the trim levels on offer, the Premium Plus and Technology, make use of LED illumination. And how could Audi have missed the mandatory ‘more-grille’ styling? It’s (marginally) larger and wears some chrome on the vertical slats for that added sense of opulence. Not to everyone’s liking but they look much better when viewed in person.

Dimensionally, the facelifted Q5 remains similar to the model it replaces. Not much has changed on the sides except a newer design for the 19-inchers. You’ll also notice how Audi has blended aluminium with its crisp design lines, very prominently so on the side sills and the roof rails. Just like the front, the tail lamps get revised lighting elements and continue to get the likeable dynamic turn signal. A chrome garnish between the tail lamps resembles the refreshed Q7 that’s been showcased globally. Overall, the 2021 Audi Q5 is quite a looker and retains its unimpeachable image.

The cabin of the Audi Q5 features a tried and tested layout with high quality materials used
The cabin of the Audi Q5 features a tried and tested layout with high quality materials usedShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2021 Audi Q5 Interiors

Sometimes you’d like Audi to inject a bit more sparkle into the Q5’s cabin but, when it sells like it has in the past, it’s hard to argue with the approach. So, you continue to get the same dual-finished dashboard that’s horizontally split by a glossy wooden garnish.

The MMI infotainment can be accessed via a responsive 10.1-inch touchscreen
The MMI infotainment can be accessed via a responsive 10.1-inch touchscreenShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

The most prominent addition stares right at you, Audi has introduced their latest Multi Media Interface (MMI) that interacts via a snappy and responsive 10.1-inch touchscreen unit. The rotary dial has been given a miss which means more smudges on the screen, but it does open up a little space on the centre console to place your belongings. What I like is — unlike the Q8 and the A6 this doesn’t have a touch screen climate control – you still have physical controls and there’s that oh-so-lovely feedback from the knobs.

The Audi Q5's virtual cockpit is nicely done
The Audi Q5's virtual cockpit is nicely doneShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

I also adore how Audi’s do their instrument cluster, the virtual cockpit is a fine piece of work that displays information digitally without pretentious animation or graphics. Features match what its rivals have to offer but Audi has gone one step further by accessorising a top-flight 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system to this cabin. Crikey!

The 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system sounds really good!
The 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system sounds really good!Shot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

Accommodation in the cabin remains plentiful, and the Q5 is comfortable to shuffle between the mundane chauffeur driven duties as well as family excursions over long distances. What also helps its case it the luggage bay dimensions that have presumably been rubber-stamped somewhere with the Ingolstadt equivalent of ‘requirements met’.

The 2-litre TFSI petrol engine on the Audi Q5 is extremely refined
The 2-litre TFSI petrol engine on the Audi Q5 is extremely refinedShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2021 Audi Q5 Driving and Performance

But how does it perform on days when you’re in the mood? Let’s just say that the Audi Q5 doesn’t fall through the trapdoor of being too sporty or aggressive. Nope, I’m not marking it down because what the Q5 offers is an excellent ride quality; there’s plenty of suppleness to the way it moves and gulps down bad sections of roads. As compared to the rivals, the springs have much more give to offer and their behaviour can be slightly tweaked by the onboard drive selector. But to make things clear, the Audi Q5 still rides on steel springs which means its ride height cannot be altered. What changes with the drive modes is the suspension dampening which does introduce a fair bit of firmness when switched to Dynamic. Also, the throttle response is evidently sharper, thus making it slightly more eager. Still, it doesn’t boast of the driving chops that the BMW X3 has to offer.

Under the hood is a creamy two-litre turbocharged unit with plenty of grunt for the size of SUV that it is – 245bhp and 370Nm of torque. Need it better translated? 0-100kmph comes in a brisk 6.3 seconds. In typical Audi fashion it’s ultra-refined, silent and doesn’t mind being spun all the way to the redline. Body control is predictable, but the steering does feel numb and slightly disconnected. Still, there’s the quattro all-wheel drive system coupled with the 7-speed S tronic transmission that lets you power through bends and curves without sending a care in the world.

The 2021 Audi Q5 is a well-rounded package that suits every occasion
The 2021 Audi Q5 is a well-rounded package that suits every occasionShot by Rohit G Mane for evo India

2021 Audi Q5 Verdict, Pricing

Quiet, comfortable, spacious and well-built, these are words that best describe the 2021 Audi Q5. Unlike its rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace and the Volvo XC60, the Audi Q5 doesn’t come across as a remarkable car in any one aspect, but it is quite good in a few ways, making it a well-rounded thing. In its newest iteration it succeeds as a traffic-soother, comfortable highway cruiser and a luxurious family tool that suits every occasion that you could throw at it. Is the lack of a diesel engine a concern for prospective buyers? Only time will tell, but the way Audi sees it, it used to offer the choices of two powertrains with a petrol and diesel and now, it still offers two choices with petrol and electric powertrain. Overall, it’s not difficult to see why customers may like the 2021 Audi Q5, but it’s hard to imagine being excited by it. Pricing is instrumental for the Q5’s success and with the brand’s newfound aggression, we just might see a very competitive approach. Our guesses? ₹56-60 lakh (ex-showroom) for it to drive more customers into Audi dealerships.

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