2021 Audi Q5 2.0 Quattro Review: A facelift, right on Q

A mid-life revamp adds new features to an already good car, but is the Audi Q5 still competitive in the face of new rivals?

SINGAPORE — Death and taxes are our lot in life, but to every car comes a facelift. On that cheerful note, now that the Audi Q5 has made it to middle age the cosmetic surgeons have had their way with it.

This generation of Q5 first showed its face in Singapore in 2017, replacing a car that found droves of buyers here and everywhere else. Little wonder that Audi stuck to the original’s recipe, doing its best to mix good looks, a quality cabin and a dash of driver appeal with a practical package.

Four years on and the facelift isn’t a radical one, but it’s noticeable if you know what to look for. There’s some obvious resculpting up front, where the main grille is now a smidgen wider, with a slimmer ring of matt chrome framing it.

It gets new headlights with a new daytime running light pattern, and the air intakes in the bumper are now more vertical than before. There’s now a bash plate in satin chrome to add ruggedness (as if you would let anything harder than raindrops smack into it), and note the honeycomb pattern of the grille itself -— that’s from Audi’s sporty S line bag of goodies, but is standard on Singapore cars. Here’s a look at the current car, and how things were in 2017:

This is the pre-facelift Q5, which we tested back in 2017

More of the matt metallic stuff garnishes the bottom of the doors now, which gives the car’s belly line a visual lift, and you’ll find still more of it over at the back — a classy strip links the taillights now, and it frames the tailpipes, which now flank a rear diffuser. 

Below, here’s the new Q5 with the pre-facelift model in red.

So far, so tasteful. But if Audi is proud of one thing, it’s the new rear lamps, which are apparently the first in the car world to use OLED (that’s organic light emitting diode) panels.

That enables some playful light shows -— a little welcome dance when you unlock the car for example, or more interestingly, subtly different light graphics when the car is in the Dynamic driving mode. Useful? Not really, but kinda cool. Only a grump would object. Don’t be a grump.

Anyway, the rest of the Q5 is as straight-laced as they come. The cabin is so tidy it’s like it was designed by someone who lines up all his french fries side-by-side in order of length before eating them. 

Here the mid-life changes are more predictable. The virtual cockpit still has a 12.3-inch display but now you get three different layouts, a minor tweak also found in the new A4.

The main infotainment screen has gained two inches and now measures 10.3 inches diagonally, with a new processor to add digital horsepower. Because it’s now a touchscreen the MMI touchpad is gone, which gives you a little cubbyhole for loose items, or maybe to raise a guppy in.

Surprisingly the MMI system does lag occasionally, though never badly enough to make a person swear, but the larger screen does make it easier to use, and the new interface includes “Hey, Audi” as a wake-up phrase if you feel like using your voice to control rudimentary functions.

The big news for half the planet is that it now works with Apple CarPlay, and wirelessly. Android Auto is also compatible, but you’ll apparently have to plug your phone in, which serves you right for forsaking the Cult of Jobs.

At least there’s a brand-agnostic smartphone feature in the form of the wireless charging tray. That’s useful in itself, but in the Q5 you can slide the whole shebang under the centre armrest and shield your lovely new iThing from envious eyes and pinchy fingers.

The Q5’s cabin otherwise retains its aesthetic and tactile charms. Soft plastics and quality materials mean it’s as nice to touch as it is to look at, and though it’s starting to look dated in the face of today’s fully digital and haptic interiors, the neat buttons and simple dials are a bit of a relief. If you’re looking for digital-analogue balance in your life, the Audi strikes a perfect one.

Continue to page 2: How the Q5 drives

about the author

Leow Julen
CarBuyer's managing editor is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 26 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.