Audi Q5 TFSI e: Audi's plug-in hybrid SUV delivers a smooth, comfortable, quiet ride

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Audi Q5 is a mid-range premium SUV with plenty of space for five people and their luggage. And now, in the shape of the Q5 TFSI e, it’s also a little friendlier to the planet thanks to its plug-in hybrid motor.

It means you can drive the Audi Q5 as a fully electric vehicle (EV) during short journeys, reducing petrol consumption (and cost) and harmful emissions. For longer journeys – and when you need a boost of power – the petrol engine can step in to deliver a powerful punch.

The Audi Q5 55 TFSI e starts at $52,900 / £49,735, but for this review we drove the quattro S Line Competition model, with features a host of extras (including the comfort and sound pack, parking assistance pack and tour pack), which brings the total up to £61,805 (around $80,000).

It’s not cheap then, with the price tag putting it out of the range of many families, but those families and business people who can afford the Audi Q5 are going to like what you find.

Audi Q5 TFSI e design and drive

We drove

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audi Q5 55 TFSI e quattro S line Competition
Engine: 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder
Power: 370hp
0-62mph:  5.3 seconds
Top speed: 148mph
Fuel efficiency: 108.6mpg
EV range: 26 miles
Price: £61,805 

The Audi Q5 is a good-looking car. It follows the design of Audi’s premium saloons, with a contoured hood and large grille giving it a powerful stance.

Open the door and slide inside, and you’ll appreciate the ride height of the Q5. Not too high as to be tricky to enter and exit, but high enough to provide an excellent view of the road ahead. In fact, visibility is good all round, with large windows and plenty of cameras to guide you in the areas you can’t see – more on those later.

Close the doors and the sound-proofing is instantly noticeable. The cabin is spacious, comfortable and quiet, and even when traveling at speed the Audi Q5 does a good job of deadening exterior sounds and road noise, making for a more relaxing driving experience.

The seats provide ample support, and as well as being heated, in this model they also include a massage function. A small circular dial on the side of the two front seats (sorry rear-seat passengers, no heating or massage functions for you) allows you to control the location, type and intensity of massage. Initially we found the controls a little tricky, and we had to check the manual to completely understand what was required of us.

There are three different types to choose from: wave, stretch and knead, each with three levels of intensity to select. It’s a luxury feature, but one that works well and was welcome on our long drives.

There are three seat massage options available in the Q5 TFSI

There are three seat massage options available in the Q5 TFSI (Image credit: TechRadar)

Hit the road and the Audi Q5 cruises comfortably around town, and is effortless to shift on highways. The start/stop motor, and the automatic electronic parking brake that activates when you come to a stop, provide some useful petrol saving along with the reassurance that you won’t roll forward if you lift your foot off the brake.

Press the accelerator and the engine springs back to life and the parking brake releases itself, allowing you to pull away without any fuss.

The seven speed automatic gearbox works well, with smooth changes and very little lag between you pressing the pedal and power being sent to all wheels. If you’d like manual control over gear shifts, you can opt to use the paddle-shifters mounted just behind the wheel. They don’t get in the way of driving, but are equally easy to reach when required.

Really put your foot down, and despite the Audi Q5 being a mid-size SUV it gets going at a healthy rate, with a 0-62mph time of just 5.3 seconds. It’s impressive, and means you can get up to speed quickly and easily, without feeling out of control.

This is possible thanks to the combination of petrol and electric power in the hybrid engine, but you don’t always have to burn fossil fuels to get around in the Audi Q5.

Audi Q5 TFSI e charging and EV mode

As we mentioned at the start, the Audi Q5 gives you the option to drive it as a fully electric vehicle. There’s a button on the center console, labeled ‘EV’, which you press to enter this all-electric mode.

There are a couple of limitations, however. First up, you’ll need to plug the Q5 into a charging station to top the battery up – the car isn’t able to replenish the battery (located at the rear of the car, under the trunk floor) by itself.

Plugging it into a standard UK residential socket and we were looking at around 11 hours for a full charge. That’s hardly speedy, but if you find a public charging station, Audi also provides a fast charging cable to top up at these, allowing you to cut that time down from hours to minutes.

Press the EV button to go all-electric

Press the EV button to go all-electric (Image credit: TechRadar)

You can always install a faster charger at your home too, although you may be happy to stick to overnight charging from a standard socket.

That’s because the Audi Q5’s battery only has a range of around 26 miles (depending on your driving style and road conditions). It’s not surprising, as generally most plug-ins offer this sort of all-electric range.

What it does provide is enough distance to pop to the shops, do the school run or, if you’re lucky, commute to work and back without using any fuel.

Finally, when in EV mode the top speed is limited to 84mph, while acceleration also takes a hit, with the 0-62mph time dropping to 14.3 seconds. Considering its short range, that’s not really an issue as this mode is designed for city driving.

The virtual cockpit shows you how many electric and petrol miles you have left

The virtual cockpit shows you how many electric and petrol miles you have left (Image credit: TechRadar)

Audi Q5 TFSI e specs and tech

The Audi Q5 TFSI e we got our hands on came fully laden with tech, from more standard fare such as climate control, auto wipers and lights, and adaptive cruise control to smart lane assist, wireless phone charging, multiple external cameras and a couple of sizable displays.

The main display, located at the top of the central console, was bright, clear and colorful; however it’s not a touchscreen – you have to use the circular dial sitting just in front of the gear shift, to navigate around it. 

Its rotating bezel allows you to cycle through menus and lists, it clicks in to select and you can move it in four directions (up, down, left, right) to open up additional menus or to go back.

There’s also a touch pad in front of that, with core buttons such as menu and back, for those who find the click wheel a little too much. After a short bit of practice we got the hang of the controls and were able to enter navigation addresses, select radio stations and adjust various settings with ease.

The second display is behind the steering wheel, and takes up the entire space of the instrument cluster. This isn’t the first time we’ve come across Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, and we’re still big fans.

The default display comprises two large instrument gauges left and right, with a map in the middle. However, click the ‘View’ button on the steering wheel and the gauges shrink into the corners of the display, giving you a full-width map view.

Using the arrow keys on the wheel you can skip between the map navigation, audio select, your phone’s call list (if connected via Bluetooth) and various vehicle information screens. It’s intuitive, feature-rich and great to look at.

Switching focus back to the main display, and there’s DAB digital radio and the option to play audio from your smartphone via Bluetooth; however, you can get deeper integration than that.

Plug your phone into the visible (and illuminated) USB port, and you’ll be able to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the Audi Q5. This gives you access to your handset’s maps and navigation app (such as Apple Maps and Google Maps), as well as other apps including Spotify, iMessage and WhatsApp.

That said, the stock navigation built into the Q5 is very good. It uses Google Maps, provides you with three route options to choose from for most journeys, and comes with live traffic updates to give you accurate arrival times.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a modern smartphone which supports wireless charging you can place it on the charging pad which slides out from under the central armrest for cable-free charging (there’s a second USB port and an AUX port under the armrest too).

A nice touch is that when you park up and open the driver’s door, a voice reminds you to take your phone from the charging pad, so you don’t leave it in the vehicle.

When you’re stopped (or stuck in traffic) you can dive into the menu of Audio’s MMI infotainment system and get live weather and news bulletins – a handy way to pass the time while you wait.

Audio – be it navigation instructions, a podcast or music – sounds fantastic thanks to the Bang and Olufsen sound system in the Audi Q5, which includes a powerful subwoofer for deep bass.

Another tech-inclusion we found useful was the array of cameras all around the Q5. Put the car in reverse and you’ll be shown two camera views – one shot of behind the car and another birds-eye-view from above, which uses all the cameras to give you a 360 degree view around the car; this ensures you won’t miss any low obstacles, and lets you check you’re inside the lines of your parking bay.

There’s a front-facing camera too, and an array of parking sensors to give you all the visual and audible warnings you need to ensure that you don't put a dent in your Q5.

If you can afford it (and that’s an ask for most), the Audi Q5 TFSI e provides an excellent, premium experience. It’s comfortable, quiet, spacious, powerful, and laden with tech to keep you safe, make your drive easier and simply entertain you.

The addition of the plug-in hybrid engine makes it a little easier on the wallet when it comes to running costs, not to mention the environment, and the EV mode is great for short trips.

  • John McCann is getting behind the wheel to give you an alternative look at the wealth of cars – and the tech inside them – available today. From super-fast sports cars to tech-packed hatchbacks, he'll take you through a range of makes, models, power and price tags in his regular TR Drives column.
John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.