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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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