Browse over 9,000 car reviews
What's the difference?
Audi has had a mixed history with plug-in hybrids (PHEV) in Australia. Under its ‘e-tron’ banner it has launched PHEV versions of the previous A3 hatch, and the Q7 SUV, with limited success.
But the German marque believes the time is right to add plug-in power to one of its most popular models - the Q5 mid-size SUV.
Is it a station wagon or an SUV? It's kinda both. The new Outback AWD Sport XT has the AWD capabilities of an SUV but the concise handling of a station wagon and it's a wonderful combo for a family car.
The Sport XT is one of the two models Subaru is offering with a new turbo-petrol engine (hurrah) and it sits second from the top in the line-up but how does it stack up after a week with my family of three? Check it out below.
It might be a late return to the PHEV game for Audi, but it’s an impressive one. Everything great about the Q5 remains - dynamically engaging, responsive powertrain - but you get the added benefit of electric power.
This could be the car to prove that plug-in hybrid medium SUVs don’t have to be bland family transport. If the Q5 is anything to go by, going green can be downright fun!
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel, accommodation and meals provided.
The Subaru Outback AWD Sport XT has been a great car for my family this week. It was popular with everyone and for good reason. It has loads of space, it's easy to handle and now has the grunt under the bonnet to satisfy me as a driver. However, you are paying for that grunt with the thirsty engine and that could become tiresome with the rising costs of fuel. At this price point, I also didn't love the weird-feeling material on the seats but it still impressed with its practicality and the safety features.
My son enjoyed being in this and loved the green accents and cool 'army' green colour. It was also a great height for him to get in and out of unassisted.
The second-generation Q5 has been around for six years, and it was very much an evolution of the original, but it still looks attractive in the metal. You couldn’t call it edgy, but it is handsome.
Both PHEV body styles get the S line exterior package as standard, which adds a unique honeycomb grille, S line bumpers front and rear, Audi Sport wheels and it borrows the rear spoiler from the SQ5.
While many will favour the swoopy Sportback body style, I think the Q5 is at its most arresting in SUV body style, bathed in the gorgeous 'District Green Metallic' paint. Stunning.
Inside, only the Sportback gains the S line interior, which includes a leather three-spoke steering wheel with multifunction, shift paddles and hands-on detection, Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching, and aluminium inlays. The SUV seats are leather-appointed.
It’s fair to say Audi’s interiors have modernised since the launch of this Q5 in 2017, but it’s still hard to fault. The multimedia screen jutting out the top of the dash is a little old school these days, but the materials and quality are top notch.
Everything is proportional and well sculpted with a long nose being complemented by sharper accents, like the rear tail-lights that jut out.
There are some areas of interest, like the green accents on the roof rails and black plastic body moulding, that tie in nicely with the contrasting green stitching of the interior trim.
The interior is pleasing to look at with the two-tone synthetic leather trim throughout, tapered cutaways in the dash and doors, plus stacks of soft touchpoints.
The only thing I don't really like is the 'water-resistant' material in the middle of the seats. It feels very synthetic and I wonder how it will wear over time.
Overall, it's a very handsome car, inside and out.
As - predominantly - a family hauler, the Q5 has always done well in the practicality stakes. And adding a plug-in hybrid powertrain hasn’t changed that. Although you do lose some boot space compared with the petrol models - but more on that in a bit.
Up front, the Q5 has plenty of nooks and storage slots in the console, including a longer shallow slot to hold phones. The central bin is deep enough and the door bins can swallow big bottles and more. Housing the phone charger on the top of another storage spot in the console works as it can be hidden by the larger storage lid for security.
As the Q5 is older than some of Audi’s fresher models, there are physical buttons for things like air conditioning, seat heaters, and controls for drive modes and other vehicle functions.
It might not look as schmick as having a screen to house everything, but from a practicality and safety perspective, it’s welcome.
Also, the rear seats have some bucketing so passengers will feel a little spoiled. There’s also knee-level air vents, map pockets, two USBs and a 12-volt port, a fold-down armrest with cupholders and ISOFIX points on the outboard seats.
The rear row folds 60/40 and there’s decent room in the boot, which has a power operated tailgate.
Given some of the PHEV hardware sits directly under the boot floor, it’s little surprise that the SUV version (465 litres) loses 55L of space compared with the petrol-powered 45 TFSI.
Similarly, the Sportback (455L) drops by 45L. Also, despite the swoopy roofline, the Sportback only loses 10L of cargo space compared with the more practical looking SUV.
Those PHEV bits also mean there is no spare wheel - only a tyre repair kit.
I love how roomy the interior is. Taller occupants will be singing its praises (from both rows).
The 213mm ground clearance also makes this the perfect height to get in and out of, for my six-year old all the way to my 72-year old father. No grunts or complaints were heard this week!
Individual storage is great with a large glove box, middle console with a shallow shelf, two cupholders and drink bottle holders in the first and second rows plus double-sleeved map pockets in the second row.
There is a USB-A and USB-C port and (unusually) an 'aux' port in the front row, but backseat passengers can also stay charged up with two USB-A ports. There are two 12-volt sockets for other charging options but basically, you're sorted with outlets.
Dipping its toe back in the plug-in hybrid market, Audi is keen to appeal to buyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint, but also to driving enthusiasts requiring a bit of zing with their environmental credentials.
That’s where the Q5 55 TFSI e quattro comes in. Audi Australia had the option of introducing a less performance focused Q5 PHEV grade, but opted instead for the higher output model.
Audi sees this as the SQ5 you buy when you want to save the planet. And the 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds suggests it’s pretty close.
That said, maybe heated rear seats (as well as the standard front seats) might have been a nice addition.
So, how does the Q5 compare with its PHEV counterparts? Its most obvious rival is the BMW X3 xDrive30e which is more expensive at $111,800.
Then there’s the Range Rover Evoque R Dynamic HSE ($104,310) and Volvo XC60 Recharge ($101,990), which line up closely with the Audi, while the Lexus NX450h+ undercuts them all ($91,423).
The Sport XT will cost you $52,190, before on road costs, but you get a lot of features fitted as standard, which makes it feel like you're getting your money's worth.
Some of those features include, electric heated front seats, heated rear outboard seats, powered tailgate, dual-zone climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, 18-inch alloy wheels, a full-size spare tyre and a large 11.6-inch touchscreen multimedia system.
And that's just a 'few' of the features! Even the entry-grade has great specs, if you didn't want the extra power from the turbo-engine.
The Q5 pairs a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine - found in many VW Group products - with a plug-in hybrid set-up that includes a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor.
The total system output is 270kW of power and 500Nm of torque, which is impressive. In fact, it has more power - but a little less torque - than the SQ5 performance flagship.
It drives all four wheels thanks to Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, and does that via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Our model has the new 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol 'boxer' engine with a maximum output of 183 kilowatts and 350 Newton metres of torque. That's a big step up in power from the previous non-turbo engine.
The continuously variable auto transmission is relatively smooth and the combo means this handles open-road and urban conditions well.
The PHEV’s battery capacity is 17.9kWh and that ensures the Q5 has an electric driving range of up to 55 kilometres on the WLTP protocol.
Audi says the average daily commute of an Australian is 35km, so technically many people could get to work and back using electric power only.
It might not sound like a huge amount, but it’s more than the 41km offered by the BMW X3, although it doesn’t come near the Lexus NX’s 87km claim.
Energy consumption is rated at 23.9kWh/100km, and the official fuel consumption figure for the Q5 is 2.0 litres per 100km - bettering the X3’s 3.2L/100km figure but not as frugal as the Lexus (1.3L).
It has a 54-litre fuel tank and emits 45 grams per kilometre of CO2.
The Q5 PHEV has a Type 2 plug and comes with a charger to add more juice at home.
It has an AC charging capacity of 7.2kW and it will take two and a half hours to fully charge using a home wallbox charger. You can also plug it into a regular wall socket at home and it’ll be charged up in about eight hours, or overnight. It's not capable of DC charging.
The official combined fuel cycle figure is 9.0L/100km. Real world testing saw my figure at 9.6L/100km but that was after heavy open-road driving this week.
Unfortunately, it's thirsty and urban-dwellers will feel that the most at the bowser, but the upside is getting the extra grunt from the turbo.
The Outback has a relatively small 63L fuel tank for its size and only takes premium fuel (95 or higher).
The Q5 has always been the driver’s pick among its peers - specifically the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC. You could argue a Porsche Macan is more engaging and you’d probably be right. But of those immediate German rivals, the Q5 takes the cake.
Adding a PHEV powertrain and the circa-300kg of extra weight that brings should impact dynamics - but somehow, it doesn’t.
First of all, the Q5 PHEV can do the 0-100km/h dash in just 5.3 seconds which is hot hatch territory.
Typically sharp Audi steering is indeed present and welcome.
Riding on 20-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, and with a sporty bent, you’d think the ride quality would be impacted. But that was another pleasant surprise.
The Q5 soaks up corrugations with the standard suspension set-up, and the tyres have a decent sidewall. So no unpleasant sharp bumps detected.
The cabin is reasonably well insulated from most outside intrusion as well.
I thoroughly enjoyed driving this. The engine is powerful enough to easily handle winding mountain roads, always a plus in a big family car, but the pick up is also good and you can zip across traffic or overtake when needed.
The cabin is delightfully quiet and the suspension creates a smooth ride without being floaty.
The tight 11m turning circle and accurate steering means cornering feels concise and controlled.
It's pretty easy to manoeuvre this around but you'll miss having front parking sensors in a tight car park because the nose is deceptively long.
I like how crisp the image is from the reversing camera but it's disappointing that it doesn't have a 360-degree view camera for where this Sport XT sits in the model range.
The Q5 plug-in counts an impressive level of safety gear, including eight airbags in total, although that does not include a front centre airbag.
It comes with the usual suite of driver aids, including Audi’s ‘pre-sense city’ system that activates emergency braking at speeds up to 85km/h, ‘pre-sense front’ emergency braking up to the Q5’s maximum speed, as well as attention assist, an active bonnet, a tyre pressure monitor, and hill descent control.
While the rest of the Q5 range is covered by a five-star ANCAP safety rating dating back to 2017, the Q5 plug-in hybrid remains unrated for now.
The safety features are well-stocked in this and it has items I always like to see on a family car, like LED daytime running lights, automatic emergency braking, rear emergency braking, lane departure alert, lane keeping aid, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors, but not front parking sensors, which you'll miss.
A highlight is the 'Driver Monitoring System' which is a fantastic feature.
The system literally watches you and scans your face for signs of drowsiness and distraction. If it detects them, it will sound an alert and a pop up comes on in the instrument panel.
I tested the sensitivity a lot this week and couldn't stump it. Thumbs up.
The Outback has seven airbags, but it is missing the newer front centre airbag, which is a shame.
It's been awarded a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from testing done recently in 2021.
There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard rear seats and three top tether child seat anchors.
The back seat is wide enough that, with the right seats, you should be able to fit three side-by-side.
There is enough room for front occupants when a 0-4 rearward facing child seat is installed.
The Q5 comes with Audi’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. This was an increase on its previous term that Audi announced at the start of 2022. The PHEV is also covered by an eight-year/160,00km battery warranty.
Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, and Audi offers a capped-price service plan for five years that costs about $3500 all up. That’s a little pricer than BMW and Volvo’s plan.
On-going costs are always something to consider and the Outback comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty, which is standard for the market.
You can choose either a three- or five-year capped-priced servicing plan, the services average on the more expensive side at $515 annually on the five-year plan.
Servicing intervals are pretty good at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first.