OPINION | Has the Audi Q5 passed its sell-by date? I think it has, here's why

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2022 Audi Q5 Sportback
2022 Audi Q5 Sportback
  • For the price of this compact diesel SUV, you could also buy an all-electric premium one in South Africa.
  • The sloping roofline adds character to the Q5 facelift, but it might be too little too late as e-tron takes over.
  • Our R960 000 car turned into a R1 153 600 vehicle with options, and they didn't even tick all the boxes.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

When we test drove the original Audi Q5 in 2009 during our first drive experience, the entry-level 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI with quattro all-wheel-drive cost R407 000 at launch. Recently, we got behind the wheel of the latest version of the vehicle, albeit in Sportback format, but still with a 2.0-litre four-pot oil-burner under the hood. Take a guess how much our test car cost with its bells and whistles...? 

Nearly three times more. Yes, that's right, our 2022 Audi Q5 TDI Sportback came in at a cool R1 153 600, all tallied. It's a good car, let's get that out of the way, but if you take a closer look at it, it hasn't really changed since that first-generation model, so why on earth are we paying triple what we did for it only a decade ago?

2021 Audi Q5 Sportback
2021 Audi Q5 Sportback

Actually, it's evolved quite a bit

While the Q5 remains one of the oldest models in Audi's line-up in terms of platforms, the latest versions have been facelifted enough to be heralded as new models. The addition of the Sportback has added variety to the range, giving those who like sloping back SUVs an opportunity to jump into something less ostentatious than a Q8.

The original Q5 came with halogen lights, but you could have it fitted with xenon lamp technology if you paid more. Now, you get LED headlights as standard, and you have to pay more for Matrix LED style illuminators. Our test car came with the standard LED lights which worked fantastically to keep things visible when driving in dimly lit environments. We'd spring for the Matrix-style LEDs if we really had money to play with, as we experienced it on other recent Audis, and they make driving at night such a pleasure.

READ: DRIVEN | Volvo's XC60 T8 and XC90 T8 - now recharged with new triple layer EV battery

Inside, the car's evolved, too, with a contemporary dashboard design and sparing use of cheap plastic. In fact, compared to previous versions of Q5 we've tested, Audi has raised its interior refinement and build even further. If we had to be nitty-gritty, perhaps the plastic used on the lower parts of the door cards reminded us of a Polo Vivo to the touch, but that's about it. Overall, the fit and finish and the advanced instrumentation that shows 3D maps bring the model into the modern age, despite its decade-old roots.

2021 Audi Q5 Sportback
2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

Familiar ride and drive experience

Because the Audi Q5 and this Sportback, in particular, isn't riding on a new platform (it still uses the MLB chassis), there's a familiar feeling from the driver's seat. You're greeted by more screens this time than the Gen-1 Audi Q5 and the pre-facelift models, but the way it rides and handles has this old-school charm. You can feel the road through the steering wheel, and your butt can even tell when the car's about to lose grip on a gravel surface.

It feels so well put together and honed as a driver's tool, which makes sense because Audi's been refining and refining for so many years.

READ: BMW iX vs Jaguar I-Pace: Price tags aside, EV technology is becoming more attainable

Our test car came with optional dynamic ride control and adjustable dampers so that we could soften or firm things up depending on the situation. You can feel the whole car energise around you as you slink it into Dynamic mode, and then when you dial it back to Comfort, the entire vehicle seems to breathe out and relax. Combined with a quick-reacting quattro system and a slick-shifting double-clutch automatic gearbox, it feels, to be frank, perfect.

We recently tested the BMW X3 20d, and we liked that car, but this Audi certainly drives a lot nicer if you want a bit of feel and meat in your chassis.

Audi Q5 Sportback
2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

But, has it passed its sell-by date?

During our tenure with the Audi Q5 TDI Sportback, we attended the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge launch. While the Volvo certainly is the more compact car between the two, it is all-electric, which means you never have to revisit a fuel station if you bought one. Ok, well, maybe to check tyre pressures and some fluids, but that's it. I bring the XC40 into the equation because it's priced at R1.2 million. As we mentioned above, our Audi Q5 Sportback with options cost a little less than that.

My honest feeling while having the opportunity to drive these cars back to back is that I'd rather sacrifice a little bit of interior space and luggage capacity to instead go full-electric at this point if I'm paying more than a million bucks for a new vehicle.

READ: A cost per km comparison: Insane fuel prices - are EVs really cheaper than ICE cars?

Seriously, if you spend most of your time driving around the city in your premium SUV, you're more than likely travelling less than 50km a day. This is according to Volvo's research on the local premium vehicle segment. Sure, the Q5 can drive further for longer between "refills", but have you seen the diesel price lately?

It's not even about the Volvo XC40 Recharge at this point. Look at Audi's fantastic range of e-tron vehicles officially launched in SA after years of waiting. Sure, the e-tron will set you back around R500 000 more than this Q5 we've tested, but Volvo is within reach if you'd instead switch to emissions-free motoring now rather than later. 

Audi Q5 Sportback
2022 Audi Q5 Sportback

While the Audi Q5 Sportback certainly is a fantastic car to consider if you want to travel long distances in a single bound with some style, EVs are the future in this segment, and I think the Q5's time has come. Audi should consider bringing in more affordable e-tron SUVs at this stage, perhaps with less connected technology and luxury trimmings. Seriously, Audi, give us a bares bones e-tron SUV and let us decide if we want 23-inch wheels or recycled plastic seats. 

What are your thoughts on the Audi Q5 Sportback? Do you think it's arrived at the coupe SUV party too late? Would you instead buy a Porsche Macan or a Mercedes-Benz GLC or something else? Let us know where your big bucks will be spent if you were shopping for a premium SUV in the comments box below, or please send us an email here.

Here's the list of options that Audi fitted to our Q5 Sportback TDI press vehicle that drove its price into EV territory:

Black metallic paint - No cost option (what a pleasure)

19-inch alloy wheels - R5 000

Audi phone box - R6 500

Accent surfaces black - R3 400

Suspension with damper control - R19 000

Trailer hitch preparation - R3 950

Panoramic glass sunroof -  R25 100

Black styling package - R6 600

Retractable sun visors on driver and front passenger-side - R1 000

Variable head restraints for front seats - R1 950

Black roof liner - R5 200

Luggage compartment mat - R2 700

USB charging interface for the rear seat passengers - R1 800

Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System with 3D sound - R15 500

Brake callipers painted in red - R9 100

City assistance package - R23 900

Comfort key with sensor-controlled luggage compartment release - R10 800

Technology package (including MMI Navigation plus, Audi virtual cockpit plus, and Audi connect navigation and infotainment services) - R33 000

Comfort package (including power-adjustable front seats, front seat heaters, four-way lumbar support for the front seats, electric steering wheel adjustment, and a storage and luggage compartment package) - R27 000

The total value of options fitted to the vehicle as tested-  R193 600.

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