Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - 35 TDI
Sub-$70k price tag, outstanding fuel economy, decent ride comfort, fit and finish, user-friendly technology, family-friendly packaging, understated good looks
Room for improvement
Interior décor lacks pizzazz, 40 TDI quattro is only slightly dearer, unrefined idle-stop system, portly kerb mass creates busy suspension feel
High mileage, low price; there’s little not to like about the front-drive Q5
24 Jun 2022
By MATT BROGAN
AUDI Australia has introduced its ultra-efficient Q5 35 TDI Down Under this month, with the sub-$70k mid-size SUV offering a single-70-litre-tank driving range of more than 1400km and most of the glitz and glamour found in higher-grade variants.
Considering it is positioned as the entry-level offering in the Q5 range, the 35 TDI wants for very little. Sure, the monotone cabin décor might lack the pizzazz of higher-grade variants, but it is equal parts comfortable and practical, and features most of the big-ticket technology items one would expect to experience in a premium SUV.
Priced from $68,350 (plus on-road costs), the 35 TDI offers a theoretical cruising range of over 1400km; its ADR combined cycle fuel consumption is listed at just 4.8L/100km. To save you the suspense, we managed 6.1L/100km on test without really trying, which was wonderful – considering the test unit spent most of its time doing the inner-urban hustle.
The Audi Q5 35 TDI isn’t meagrely specified either. It comes equipped as standard with niceties such as 20-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels (with a space saver spare), privacy glass and an interior LED lighting package on top of a long list of safety and technology items.
Externally, there are LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights, as well as cornering and all-weather lights, Audi convenience key, electric tailgate with gesture control, heated side mirrors, -washers and -windscreen, plus aluminium-finish roof rails.
Inside, the 35 TDI benefits from leather-appointed upholstery, electrically adjustable front seats (with four-way lumbar support), a leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel (with shift paddles and hands-on detection), tri-zone climate control, an auto-dimming frameless rear-view mirror, floor mats all round, plus a useful 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat.
On the infotainment front, the 35 TDI is equipped with a 7.0-inch high-resolution instrument display, Audi’s 10.1-inch MMI navigation plus system with Audi connect plus, Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto (wired) connectivity, digital radio reception (DAB+), an eight-speaker/100W audio system, as well as dual USB outlets front and rear.
Like all Q5 variants, the 35 TDI features numerous standard safety and driver-assistance technologies, such as Audi Pre-sense city with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) including pedestrian detection, Audi Pre-sense rear and -basic, active land assist and lane-change (blind-spot) warning, exit warning, rear cross-traffic assist, cruise control with speed-limiter function, high-beam assist, Audi parking system plus with rear camera, hold assist, hill descent control, tyre-pressure sensors, Audi Drive Select and eight airbags.
Like all Audi vehicles, the entry-level Q5 is backed by a five-year warranty. Five-year service plans are available for purchase at any time during the first 12 months of ownership and are priced from $3140.
To our eyes, the Q5 is an understated, but nonetheless attractive car that needs very little to spice it up. In the case of the 35 TDI, the BBS-style wheels certainly do the trick, and even when finished in plain-white paint, we think the model is a bit of a stunner.
But the 35 TDI’s beauty is certainly more than skin deep. This medium SUV has a lot to offer for the money (as we’ve noted above) and is an absolute pleasure to drive.
Power comes from a 120kW/370Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged and 48V mild-hybrid diesel powerplant that drives the 35 TDI’s front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Audi claims the variant will accelerate from standstill to 100km/h in 9.0 seconds, which feels about accurate in real-world scenarios.
The engine is neither a powerhouse nor a slouch, and while acceleration times are not the 35 TDI’s raison d'être, we had no issues keeping up with the cut and thrust of city traffic, or executing overtaking manoeuvres on the highway, for that matter.
In no small part, that flexibility comes courtesy of Audi’s silky smooth and quick-witted S tronic transmission. This seven-speed automatic unit always feels one step ahead of you in selecting the right ratio for the on-road scenario, and seldom needs provocation from the shift paddles or a quick jolt into Sport mode. As well as being smart, the transmission is wonderfully resolved with none of the dual-clutch hesitation early units were known for.
The 35 TDI’s idle-stop system is not as quick-witted though – if anything, it’s laggy and gruff. There’s a momentary hesitation and a shudder as the engine fires back to life, which, after spending in a week in a rival German model – one from closer to the Austrian border – the contrast could not have been starker. As much as idle-stop may save a modicum of fuel, we found ourselves reaching for the off switch habitually.
The Mexican-made 35 TDI isn’t light by contemporary standards. Tipping the scale at 1955kg (before passengers and fuel), it is 287kg heavier than a comparable BMW X3, 143kg portlier than Mercedes-Benz’s entry-spec GLC and 285kg heavier than a Lexus NX. That means the Q5 certainly keeps its suspension busy in controlling its mass while at the same time removing any real sense of connection between the driver and the road.
For most buyers, that “remoteness” will make for something of a pleasant driving experience at the ‘wheel as the 35 is light to steer and, despite its weight, quite comfortable. But when it comes to feeling for the road through the tiller – or the seat of your pants – the front-wheel-drive Q5 is far from what you might call “involving”.
Of course, the entry-level Q5 offering is not a driver’s car and, in delivering a relaxed at-the-wheel experience that most prestige buyers prefer, the Audi hits the mark rather well. The cabin is quiet and the outward visibility excellent. The high-riding outlook offers the driver an excellent view of their surroundings and of the road ahead – which is a good thing, considering the 35 TDI doesn’t feature adaptive cruise control as standard.
We found the brake pedal to be well assisted and the braking action strong, an obvious nod to the higher speeds the Q5 would face on the autobahns of Europe. There’s ample modulation for achieving that chauffer-like “soft stop”, too, which only adds to that feeling of “polished refinement” for which Audi models are renowned.
There’s also a familiar ease of use to the cabin controls with the infotainment array and instrument panel being incredibly easy to comprehend. For a base-level car, the level of technology offered here is more than acceptable… the wireless Apple CarPlay, for example, is a boon to those who want to keep the cockpit free of untidy cables.
The Q5’s climate control system is, likewise, a treat – it maintains a comfortable cabin temperature with aplomb. What’s more, there’s very little fan noise and the ventilation outlets are all well positioned. We also like the analogue-style HVAC controls, which are logically laid out and easy to use without requiring lengthy gazes away from the road.
If the Q5 35 TDI has one major failing, it’s the variant’s list price. While it does a terrific job of packing a lot into its sub-$70k premium, it is only $4350 cheaper than the more powerful and more capable Q5 40 TDI S tronic quattro (from $72,700, +ORCs).
When one considers that the 40 TDI offers the surety of all-wheel drive, a gutsier engine and still-reasonable fuel consumption over and above the 35 TDI’s list of talents – for not all that much extra capital outlay – the argument in favour of the latter is no longer very compelling... Most buyers are likely to regard the pricier 40 TDI as a stronger proposition.
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