In the modern automotive world, a decade is just about an eternity. And yet, the venerable Audi Q5 remains its category’s top-selling model and one of the automaker’s most popular cars in most of the world’s markets. And so changes were few to the model in recent years; but rather than tempt fate through inaction, Audi decided that time had come to transform its best-seller, at the same time that production of the model migrated to an all-new assembly plant in Mexico. Tough luck for those “Made in Germany” purists…

The second-generation Q5 inherits the platform of the new Audi A4, which will elicit no complaints at all given the excellence of the latter model. One change, that of increasing the vehicle’s overall length by 3 cm, was made with the goal of optimizing rear-seat legroom.

Wise and winsome design improvements
Tradition among German automakers has it that radical esthetic overhauls are few and far between, especially when dealing with a still-top-selling car. It takes a sharp eye then to notice the new design elements of the 2018 Audi Q5. The chassis is now more chiseled, while the front end has been reworked, particularly as regards the extremities of the bumper. There’s also now a rather thin air intake under the grille, itself the beneficiary of a few minor tweaks. Personally I find that this succession of subtle changes makes the vehicle a modern and elegant creature, without in the process making owners of older Q5s feel like they’re driving a mobile anachronism.

Inside, the dashboard has been more substantially reworked. Immediately noticeable is the display screen, now placed in relief. This display is not, however, a touchscreen; users need to go old school and turn the knob on the central console to operate the navigation system – no big whoop, but still. The quality of finishing and refinement level of the commands are as solid as ever, while the navigation system is notably more sophisticated. The front and rear leather seats, meanwhile, stand out in a number of ways, for example via rectangular panels on seats of certain models that add an extra layer of class to the Q5.

Those with smartphones – in other words, everyone – will appreciate the wireless induction charger. No more bothersome mess of wires and cables strewn about, and good riddance to that.

Q5 or SQ5: how much power do you need?
While some competitors do offer a larger choice of engines, buyers of the 2018 Audi Q5 will be well-served by the selection of powertrains available to them. The base-model Q5 is powered by a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo engine, also taken from the A4 sedan, which delivers 252 horses and 273 lb-ft of torque. It’s wedded to a 7-speed S tronic dual-clutch transmission.

Let’s agree that for most drivers that kind of powertrain is more than sufficient in terms of performance and overall driving experience. The car can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 6.2 seconds, and the Ultra Quattro all-wheel drive is as effective as ever. In its latest version, the mechanism detaches the rear wheels when added traction is not needed, ensuring improved fuel economy.

Of course, Audi would be remiss in not offering a more luxurious and powerful version of the Q5. Thus the 2018 SQ5, equipped with a 3.0L V6 turbo engine generating up to 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque and bolted to an 8-speed automatic transmission. As with the base engine, maximum torque is available at low RPM, a decided plus. Another plus? The SQ5 is also available with pneumatic dampers.

The difference on the road
So we’ve established that this is a refined vehicle with a modern, elegant cabin and state-of-the-art mechanics. All of this adds up to a competitive SUV, for sure, but is that enough to make it the preferred choice over the other models offered in the category? Well, as soon we took the wheel of the 2018 Audi Q5 we were loving the experience. Overall performance, road handling, effective drive assist systems like the torque vector for better cornering – this vehicle checked off all the boxes, one by one.

Those who get the opportunity to drive the sportier SQ5 will be even more enthralled thanks to the responsive acceleration generated by the V6 engine, which cuts over a second off the 4-cylinder Q5’s 0-100 km/h capability. The various available settings enable the driver to adapt the driving dynamics to various conditions. Behind the wheel of this utility model, you almost feel more like you’re piloting a sport sedan.

Some, in fact, will compare it to the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, another model that offers exceptional driving dynamics and exhilarating performance. The gearbox of that fine Italian model, however, lacks a certain refinement due to the rather brusque shifts it produces.

Ten years on from its debut, the reworked new 2018 Audi Q5 is certainly no disappointment, even if some were expecting a more revolutionary transformation for the new generation. But there’s undeniable wisdom in focusing on delivering a well-balanced, improved version of a still-popular model instead of rushing headlong into experimental approaches that can invite disaster. If it ain’t broke…

Pricing for the 2018 Q5 starts at $44,950; for the 2018 QS5, starting price is $61,300.