The 2018 Audi Q5 excels among stiff competition

The Q5 is an attractive, upscale small SUV. —Audi

The 2018 Audi Q5 competes with some of the most well-rounded competition among new cars. The Acura RDX, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, BMW X3, and Lexus NX are some of the best small luxury SUVs on the market, and they all offer a lot of what the Q5 brings to the table.

The Q5 is all-new for 2018, and with it comes the latest powertrain, infotainment, and safety technologies. The result is a well-rounded luxury SUV that offers some of the best of what each of the competitors brings to the table.

With the new look for 2018, the Q5 blends the high-tech feel of its headlights and metal grille frame with slight curves above the wheel wells. The curves manage to evoke the very attractive Audi A5 Coupe.

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Inside, the Q5 continues the trend of Audi’s high-tech cabins. The Q5’s cabin packs more and more tech features while still having an elegant look and feel.

The new cabin mercifully retains actual dials for climate and radio controls. The center console features the latest iteration of the MMI infotainment controller, which is comprised of the dial/joystick, main buttons for navigation, phone, radio, and media, as well as a fully touch-sensitive pad.

Boston.com Dealer Specials:
The Q5’s cockpit is feature-laden without being overly complicated. —Audi

This pad allows you to “draw” letters and numbers to easily enter an address or contact. The forward end of the pad also has a number of preset buttons. To save a radio preset, you can simply hold down on one of those buttons. This is something automakers did with old school radios, and it’s refreshing to see it come back.

I generally lament surrendering most of your crucial center console space for tech features, but there are little trays for keys and phones, which makes for an elegant-but-useful cockpit, enhanced by Audi’s “virtual cockpit, a fully digital instrument that can project the navigation system across the entire screen.

The base engine — and the engine in our test model — is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder making 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That’s rather impressive for two liters, but if you crave more power, the available turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 makes 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

The Q5 is generous on cargo space for the class. —Audi
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The four-cylinder engine sends power through a seven-speed automatic, while the V6 routes power through an eight-speed automatic. Both drivetrains send power to standard Quattro all-wheel drive.

There is a delay in the acceleration, whether that’s the turbo spooling up for more power or the shift/throttle mapping designed to optimize fuel efficiency, there’s a half-second disconnect. The car moves, but doesn’t realize its full acceleration potential for another second. This might get frustrating when going from red light to red light.

Pulling back on the shifter while in Drive activates Sport shift mode, with more aggressive acceleration. A button below the climate controls allows you to select different drive modes, including Dynamic (performance) model.

Cornering in all modes is fantastic. For a vehicle that sits off the road, it feels like one of Audi’s refined sedans. Steering feel is light, but still communicative.

The Q5 manages to stand out among stiff competition. —Audi

Base MSRP for the 2018 Audi Q5 is $41,500. The range-topping 3.0T Prestige trim starts at $54,300. Those prices are higher than the RDX, Lexus NX, or Infiniti Q50, but they’re in the same ballpark.

On merits, perhaps the best competition to the Q5 is the RDX. The 2018 RDX excels in many areas, and there is an all-new version for 2019. This new RDX poses an even greater threat in this corner of the market.

But the RDX is too new to tell, and so the Q5 continues to stand out with its fresh new look, refined-yet-sporty ride, and upscale cabin, outfitted with the latest technology. There’s a reason why luxury SUVs continue to dominate, and the Q5 is a shining example of why.