In 2023, most people who want ultimate fuel efficiency gravitate towards hybrids. Audi has a different solution.
The 2023 Audi Q5 35 TDI plays two roles for Audi – it’s the cheapest member of the Q5 range in Australia, undercutting the 40 TDI quattro sitting above it by more than $7000, and it’s also the most efficient.
Rather than leaning on a battery and electric motor to achieve its impressive fuel use figure, the Q5 35 TDI relies on a small diesel engine with some clever tuning and mild-hybrid tech to get there. It also does its best work on the highway, rather than in the city like a battery-backed hybrid.
It goes against the grain in 2023 – and it won’t be for everyone.
This is the cheapest ticket to Audi Q5 ownership, with a starting price of $67,900 before on-road costs.
Of course, that isn’t to say the Q5 is a like-for-like rival to the X3 xDrive20d – for starters it’s front-wheel drive, and doesn’t pack the same list of luxuries as the BMW.
But it’s also a similarly sized SUV with an equally premium badge on the nose, so they’ll no doubt be cross-shopped.
Audi Q5 pricing
- Audi Q5 35 TDI: $67,900
- Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro: $75,500
- Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro: $75,800
- Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro Sport: $81,500
- Audi Q5 45 TFSI quattro Sport: $82,800
- Audi Q5 55 TFSI e quattro S line: $102,900
- Audi SQ5 TDI quattro: $112,200
All prices exclude on-road costs
This is a base model, and in the context of the luxurious Q5 range it feels like it.
Although the fundamentals are the same, the leather on the seats is cheaper fake hide, and there’s less fancy silver trim around to liven things up. It doesn’t feel cheap, but it’s definitely clear where the money has been saved.
You’ll also notice our tester had a set of analogue gauges, rather than the flashy digital dashboard offered elsewhere in the range. The updated MY23 model now on sale does feature a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit, however.
If you can look past the cheaper materials, the fundamentals are good. The power-adjusted front seats are comfortable and supportive, and offer a tall driving position without feeling like you’re perched on phone books – and heating is a classy addition to the spec sheet.
The slim steering wheel is trimmed in quality leather, and the buttons around the cabin – yep, you still get them in this Audi – make the same satisfying click they do elsewhere in the range.
Although it’s old, the Q5 has a much easier interior to navigate than plenty of newer cars in the Volkswagen Group because everything is right where it should be.
The 10.5-inch touchscreen sitting atop the dashboard is simple to use on the move, with crisp graphics and lightning responses. The way the screen makes a button-like haptic ‘click’ mightn’t sound like a big deal, but it means you don’t need to take your eyes off the road to confirm inputs.
Wireless Apple CarPlay connects reliably, but it did drop out more than we’ve experienced in newer systems from BMW and Volkswagen. It doesn’t like toll booths, and doesn’t do a great job reconnecting after they’ve impacted its connection.
The lack of a wireless phone charger in this tester is also noticeable if you’re using wireless CarPlay. However, the 35 TDI aligns with the base specification in the MY23 range and features a Qi charger as standard.
Storage spaces abound, from the spacious bin beneath the central armrest to the big door pockets. The open pockets near the gear selector are awkwardly sized though, and don’t necessarily suit a modern phone or a chunky wallet.
Rear seat space is acceptable without being standout. Headroom is good for adults without quite being BMW X3 spacious, and legroom is fine for average-sized adults behind average-sized adults.
With air vents, a standalone climate control zone, and two USB ports back there, there’s nothing for the kids to complain about.
The new Q5 has up to 520L of cargo capacity in five-seat configuration, expanding to 1520L with the rear backrests folded flat.
All versions come with a space saver spare.
Power in the Q5 35 TDI comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel making 120kW of power between 3250 and 4200rpm, and 370Nm between 1500 and 3000rpm.
It’s mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and is front-wheel drive. There’s no all-wheel drive option in the 35 TDI.
The powertrain also features a 12V mild-hybrid system – 12V is butter chicken mild – designed to deliver smoother auto start/stop. Zero to 100km/h takes a claimed 9.0 seconds, and flat out you’ll be doing 213km/h.
Claimed fuel economy is 4.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, but with a skew to city driving we saw 7.0L/100km.
That’s not bad for a mid-sized SUV, and is below what we’ve seen from a “normal” Q5 in the same conditions – but it’s well off the official claim.
Put your ego aside and the 35 TDI is a perfectly pleasant thing to drive.
It’s very obviously tuned for efficiency, with a very active start/stop system and a transmission that upshifts at every opportunity so the diesel engine sips, not swigs.
There’s a hint of diesel clatter on a cold start, but it settles down nicely on the move. Even when the engine is cold it’s rare you’ll hear the it idle because the start/stop system is so active, turning the car off at 10km/h as you coast into traffic lights to improve economy.
The dual-clutch transmission is smooth and smart, and in Normal mode will kick down when you demand more performance. It’s almost obstinate in its refusal to kick down in Eco, which is best left alone unless you’re determined to eke every last mile out of a tank.
Put your foot down and it lacks the punch of the 40 TDI, let alone the muscly SQ5, but there’s still enough shove in the mid-range to make this feel like a premium car instead of an anaemic hypermiler. Torque steer isn’t an issue here.
Then again, our real-world economy figures prove it isn’t – although it’s more efficient than the wider range, it’s still not quite ‘hybrid’-good in town.
With smaller wheels and chubbier tyres than flashier models, the Q5 35 TDI rides nicely. It’s not quite a feather bed, but it keeps sharper bumps and potholes out of the cabin better than you’d expect. Road noise is better suppressed than in more expensive models as well, thanks to the skinnier and lower rolling resistance rubber fitted to this model.
With light steering, good all-round visibility, and decent cameras – although they’re not standout – this is an easy car to pilot in the city.
But there are some odd omissions that undermine its credentials as a long-haul cruiser, given that’s where efficient diesel engines do their best work.
Lane-keep assist is on hand to nudge you back into your lane, but the fact you have to pay more for adaptive cruise control as part of a package is hard to defend.
Yes, it’s a base model, but it’s still a $65k car with an Audi badge on its nose – and when even entry-level Korean metal packs the technology standard, it’s hard to defend the decision to make it an option.
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- 235/55 tyres
- LED headlights
- Keyless entry and start
- Power tailgate incl. gesture operation
- Heated exterior mirrors
- Tri-zone climate control
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Aluminium door sill inlays
- Floor mats front, rear
- Ambient lighting
- 12.3-inch virtual cockpit plus digital instrument cluster
- 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Voice control
- DAB+ radio
- Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- 8-speaker sound system, 100W output
- Wireless phone charging
- Audi connect plus Navigation & Infotainment*
- Online traffic information
- Destination entry via myAudi, Google Maps
- Parking information
- Fuel prices
- Google Services
- Audi connect plus Security & Assistance*
- Car finder incl. remote signal
- Remote lock, unlock
- Emergency call
- Online roadside assistance
- Electric front seats incl. 4-way lumbar
- Leather-appointed upholstery
*Audi connect plus service subscription valid for up to three years after delivery
Assistance Package ($1769) adds:
- Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
- Distance indicator
- Speed limiter
- Traffic Jam Assist
- Park assist
- 360-degree cameras
The Audi Q5 and SQ5 range is covered by a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests conducted in 2017 – though TFSI e plug-in hybrid models are currently unrated.
It scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 58 per cent for safety assist. Note this scored are for older test criteria.
Standard safety features include:
- 8 airbags
- Dual front
- Dual front-side
- Dual curtain
- Dual rear-side
- Active bonnet
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
- up to 85km/h
- Pedestrian detection
- Blind-spot monitoring (side assist)
- Collision avoidance assist
- Exit warning
- Automatic high-beam
- Hill descent control
- Lane-keep assist
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Tyre pressure monitoring
The Audi range is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres – whichever comes first. Audi offers five-year Genuine Care Plans that cover up to 75,000km.
For the regular Q5 TDI and TFSI range, the service plan costs $3140.
If you can look past the allure of quattro all-wheel drive, the Q5 35 TDI presents an interesting alternative to the hybrids (or mild-hybrids) being offered in cheaper mid-sized SUVs.
It really is miserly in the real world, especially if you point its nose at the highway, and the changes Audi has made to the standard specification to facilitate its efficiency pay dividends in other ways.
Small wheels make for a comfortable ride, and those eco tyres are quiet on the sort of roads that’d make the sticky rubber on an SQ5 sound like television static in the cabin.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. It’d be nice to be able to enjoy the nicer interior finishes from higher-end models in conjunction with the efficient 35 TDI engine, and the lack of punch relative to more expensive options is noticeable.
But this isn’t a base model you should walk past without stopping for a look. Check it out and your hip pocket might think you.
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