The electric vehicle market has suddenly exploded with stylish and desirable cars, trucks, and SUVs. Cars that are delivered with charge are now completely fashionable. The trend has expanded to include plug-in hybrids such as the 2021 Audi Q5 55 TFSI e. Launched for 2020, the Q5 55 plug-in hybrid is an 11.3 kWh battery pack and 141 hp electric motor in the current Q5 powertrain to produce a total of 362 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque.
Doing so required no compromise on the SUV’s cargo space, but the all-electric range estimate of 19 miles is worse compared to a similar hybrid. The Lincoln Corsair PHEV and Lexus NX450h+, for example, can travel farther on battery power alone. On top of that, we noticed 17 miles of electric driving at 75 mph on a full charge and were disappointed to see that unlike the Volvo XC60 T8, Audi is unable to recharge its battery using the gasoline engine. This means that re-squeezing can only be done if you have access to the charger.
With the battery dead, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates Audi’s combined fuel economy at 26 mpg; This figure is lower than the 33 mpg on the Lincoln or the 36 mpg rating for the Lexus. In fact, the non-hybrid Q5 is rated at 25 mpg combined — making the complex PHEV powertrain here a questionable value only for increasing that by 1 mpg.
If it’s not that fuel efficient, and its electric driving range is minimal, what’s the point of the Q5’s plug-in hybrid powertrain? Well, for one thing, the Q5 55 is faster – in fact faster than the performance-oriented SQ5. On our test track, the Q5 sprinted 55 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, beating the last SQ5 we tested (the Sportback model) by 0.3 seconds. For comparison, a non-PHEV Q5 Sportback model hit 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.
Handling is light, and the heavier curb weight of 558 pounds compared to the regular Q5 is barely noticeable. It’s easy to move around the skidpad too, with both models delivering the same 0.83g result. While the Q5 55 was the fastest Q5 variant to reach 60 mph, the stopping distance of 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 quiet cabin stays quieter when working under electric power. When a gasoline engine runs with the electrons out, it does so with minimal turbulence. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, and the Q5’s steering is appropriately weighted but somewhat lacking in feedback.
Other than the electrified powertrain, there’s not much that distinguishes the plug-in hybrid model from the regular Q5. In fact, there’s no badge anywhere that indicates the Q5 is packing anything special under the hood. Take your virtues elsewhere. The Q5 is spacious, functional and well-equipped. Priced at $60,740, our Premium Plus test vehicle came with a $950 Bang & Olufsen stereo, $800, 20-inch wheels and $1,500 dashboard navigation with internet access.
Despite a light exterior update for 2021, the Q5’s design is starting to look mundane when compared to recently introduced competitors. The Genesis GV70, for example, wears a haute couture style that makes the Q5 seem over the rack by comparison.
While it may not be cutting edge, it’s still an Audi and looks pricey enough not to embarrass you in the parking lot. But while we love the added power and performance from the electrified powertrain, the Q5 PHEV doesn’t live up to expectations for fuel economy, and that makes it a questionable value to us.
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