First Drive

First Drive: Audi Q5 PHEV

The story:
The first of Audi’s new breed of plug-in hybrids, now designated by the TFSIe badging, has arrived, with the Q5 being followed in the very near future by plug-in hybrid A6, A7, A8 and Q8 models.
Category:Small SUV
Key rival:Volvo XC60 T8
Audi Q5 55 TFSIe quattro S Line Competition
Price:£54,845
MPG:108.6 mpg
Emissions:49g/km
On sale:Now

Audi has previously sold plug-in hybrid versions of its Q7 and A3 models, but this new Q5 TFSIe is the first of a new wave of PHEV products that it describes as “very important” from a fleet perspective.

The key numbers are that the Q5 TFSIe has a CO2 emissions figure of 49g/km, putting it in the 16% Benefit-in-Kind band for this year. It will drop to 14% from April 2020 thanks to it being able to cover 26 miles on electric power alone before it reverts to the back-up of a 2.0-litre petrol engine. Oh, and the other important numbers are that it costs from £49,735 for the lower-powered 299hp 50-badged model, and from just under £55,000 for the 55-badged 367hp version.

First Drive-Audi Q5 PHEV-1st October 2019-Image 2The top-spec Vorsprung models are slightly higher for emissions thanks to their bigger wheels, with the 54g/km emission figure putting them in the 19% tax band for this year, dropping to 15% in April 2020.

Despite the high price, Audi predicts that as much as 30% of Q5 volume could be the PHEV version, which only differs from the petrol or diesel models by having a slightly reduced boot capacity thanks to the batteries eating up the under-floor storage and dropping space from 550 litres to 455. Apart from the second flap on the passenger side for the charging point, the only visual difference is that the TFSIe gets the chrome rear diffuser from the SQ5 model.

And the Q5 TFSIe can justify that link to the performance version: the higher-powered PHEV can cover the 0-62mph sprint in 5.3 seconds, 0.8 quicker than the 299hp version. But it’s worth noting that the car is an otherwise regular Q5 rather than having been tuned with any sporting intent, and still has a lumpy ride quality.

However, one clever feature of the Q5’s plug-in hybrid technology is the regenerative braking system, which combines with the camera and sat-nav set-ups to alter the level of regeneration depending on circumstances. If the car is approaching a roundabout or coming up behind another vehicle, it will use a higher level of regeneration than if the driver lifts off to coast downhill on a clear motorway. That allows the Q5 to replenish more of the battery, increasing efficiency.

It’s handy, because driving on the petrol engine alone causes fuel economy to plunge to only a little above 30mpg.

Paul Barker

The verdict

The clever new Q5 plug-in is expensive and rapid, and needs to be run on electric for the majority of its time to make the running costs stack up, but if it is then the savings are there to be had.