The 2021 Audi Q5 plug-in hybrid prioritizes speed over efficiency

The electric vehicle market has suddenly exploded with sleek and desirable cars, trucks and SUVs. Vehicles that plug in to charge are now very fashionable. The trend has even extended to plug-in hybrids like this 2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI e. Launched for the 2020 model year, the Q5 55 plug-in hybrid shoehorn incorporates an 11.3 kWh battery and a 141 hp electric motor into the existing Q5’s powertrain for a combined output of 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque.

It didn’t require any compromise on the SUV’s cargo space, but its all-electric range estimate of 23 miles is worse than similar plug-in hybrids. The Lincoln Corsair PHEV and Lexus NX450h+, for example, can both travel further on battery power alone. Additionally, we observed 17 miles of electric driving at 75 mph on a full charge and were disappointed to see that, unlike the Volvo XC60 T8, the Audi isn’t able to recharge its battery using the petrol engine. This means that rejuicing can only be done if you have access to a loader.

Michel SimariCar and driver

HIGHS: Incredibly quick acceleration, nimble handling, standard all-wheel drive.

With the battery depleted, the EPA estimates the Audi’s combined fuel economy at 26 mpg; that figure is lower than the Lincoln’s 33 mpg or the Lexus’ 36 mpg. In fact, the non-hybrid Q5 is rated at 25 mpg combined, making the complicated PHEV powertrain here a questionable value just to boost that by 1 mpg.

If it’s not as fuel efficient and its electric range is low, what good is the Q5’s plug-in hybrid powertrain? Well, on the one hand, the Q5 55 is fast – faster than the performance-focused SQ5, in fact. On our test track, the Q5 55 sprinted to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, beating the last SQ5 we tested (a Sportback model) by 0.3 seconds. For comparison, the non-PHEV Q5 Sportback hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.

Michel SimariCar and driver

Handling is supple, and the 55’s 518-pound curb weight over the regular Q5 is barely noticeable. Getting around the skid is just as easy, as both models delivered the same 0.83g. While the Q5 55 was the fastest Q5 variant to reach 60 mph, its stopping distance from 70 mph was the longest, requiring 176 feet. The Q5 Sportback stopped seven feet shorter, and the SQ5 only needed 156 feet.

WEAK: Minimal fuel savings compared to standard Q5, short electric-only range, indistinct styling.

On the road, the Q5’s plush cabin is even quieter when powered by electricity. When the gasoline engine starts when the electrons run out, it does so with minimal disruption. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and the Q5’s steering is nicely weighted but somewhat lacking in feedback.

Michel SimariCar and driver

Other than its electrified powertrain, there’s not much else that sets the plug-in hybrid model apart from the regular Q5. In fact, there’s no badge anywhere that indicates this Q5 packs anything special under its hood. Take your virtue signage elsewhere. The Q5 is spacious, practical and well equipped. At $60,740, our Premium Plus tester came with a $950 Bang & Olufsen stereo, $800 20-inch wheels, and $1,500 in-dash navigation with internet connectivity.

Despite a slight exterior refresh for 2021, the Q5’s design is starting to look ordinary compared to its more recently introduced rivals. The Genesis GV70, for example, wears a couture style that makes the Q5 look more off the rack in comparison.

While it might not be state-of-the-art, it’s still an Audi and it looks expensive enough not to embarrass you at the valet stand. But while we like the added power and performance of the electrified powertrain, the Q5 PHEV falls short of expectations for fuel economy, and for us, that makes it a questionable value.

Characteristics

Characteristics

Audi Q5 55 2021
Vehicle type: front-engine, mid-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon

THE PRICE
Base/as tested: $52,995/$60,740
Options: Premium Plus package (auto-dimming, power-folding exterior mirrors, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera, panoramic roof), $3,900; navigation package, $1,500, Bang & Olufsen sound system, $950; 20-inch wheels, $800; Ultra Blue Metallic paint, $595

POWERTRAIN
turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve 2.0-litre I-4, 248 hp, 273 lb-ft + AC motor, 141 hp, 258 lb-ft (combined output: 362 hp, 369 lb-ft; 11, 3 kWh lithium-ion, 7.7 kW on-board charger) Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic

FRAME
Suspension, front/rear: multi-link/multi-link
Brakes, front/rear: 13.8″ vented disc/13.0″ vented disc
Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion Verde all season
255/45R-20 101H M+S AO

DIMENSIONS
Wheelbase: 111.0″
Length: 184.3″
Width: 74.5″
Height: 65.3″
Passenger volume: 99 feet3
Cargo volume: 26 feet3
Empty weight: 4733 lbs.

CD TEST RESULTS
100 km/h: 4.5 sec
100 mph: 12.2 sec
1/4 mile: 13.2 sec at 104 mph
200 km/h: 19.1 sec
The results above omit a 1 foot deployment of 0.3 s.
Rolling start, 5-100 mph: 4.9 sec
Top speed, 30-50 mph: 3.0 sec
Top speed, 50-70 mph: 3.9 sec
Top speed (gov ltd): 128 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 ft
Road holding, Skidpad 300 ft: 0.83 g

CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 26 MPGe
75 mph highway driving, EV/Hybrid mode: 75 MPGe/26 mpg
Highway range, EV/Hybrid mode: 17/480 mi

EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 27/25/29 mpg
Combined gasoline + electric: 61 MPGe
EV Range: 23 mi

CD THE TESTS EXPLAINED


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