Russ Smith

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Used tow car buyer’ written by Russ Smith
   
If you're browsing used cars for sale as you look for your next tow car, read our expert's 2008-2015 Audi Q5 review, and find out how to buy the best

Playing to the strengths of Audi’s Quattro heritage, this was the marque’s head-to-head rival for the BMW X3. As well as being better looking (arguably), the Q5 garnered praise for its dynamic abilities and high-quality feel. From a towing point of view, it has a notably long wheelbase for the body size, which aids directional stability. Inside are clever touches, such as rear seats with reclining backrests, and a hidden stowage compartment beneath the boot floor.

There are small downsides: rear legroom is limited if those in the front are above average height, and the ride is at the firmer end of the scale – which is no bad thing when towing, but won’t suit all for regular use.

There’s no doubt that the Q5 was and is a good buy new, but the earliest are passing their seventh birthday. So how does it hold up as a secondhand buy? Here we are looking at models built between 2008 and 2015.

Model history

The Audi Q5 was launched here in October 2008, but few were delivered before the New Year. There were two diesel and two petrol engines, in each case a four-cylinder and a V6.

The 2.0 TDI had 167bhp and 258lb ft of torque, while the 3.0 TDI produced 236bhp and 369lb ft torque. On the petrol side, the turbocharged 2.0T FSI had 208bhp and 258lb ft torque, and the normally aspirated 3.2 FSI offered 266bhp and 243lb ft torque.

For either fuel, the larger engine could only be had with a seven-speed automatic; the smaller engines were offered with the same auto or a six-speed manual.

A pair of detuned economy models were added in October 2009: a 2.0 TDI with 140bhp/236lb ft and a 2.0T FSI with 177bhp/236lb ft. They were assigned lower towing limits of 2000kg and 2200kg, respectively, and could only be had with the manual gearbox.

In April 2012, the Q5 got the usual mid-term facelift: mostly redesigned headlamps and interior refinements, but more importantly a revised range of more powerful and economical engines – again two of each. The diesels were now the 174bhp/280lb ft 2.0 TDI and a 241bhp/428lb ft 3.0 TDI, offering respective 5mpg and 7mpg better fuel efficiency.

Petrol units were a 221bhp/258lb ft 2.0 TFSI and a new supercharged 3.0 TFSI with 268bhp/295 lb ft, both offering 10% better mpg than the engines they replaced. Don’t get too excited about the latter engine, though, because few were sold – we could only find two for sale in the whole country. The automatic gearbox for both petrol engines was now an eight-speed Tiptronic.

Standard trim included 17in alloys and climate control, but most buyers went for SE with body-coloured bumpers, 18in alloys and leather seats. The top of the range was the S Line with 19in wheels, LED lights, sports seats and a body kit. The options list was extensive, so it is rare to find two Q5s exactly the same.

Trouble spots

Seven-speed S Tronic automatic gearboxes have reportedly failed at as little as 80,000 miles. Repairs and replacements can cost £4000-£8000, so you need to buy with care. Put simply, avoid any Q5 automatic that has less-than-perfect gearchanges. The symptoms to look for include hesitant or very noticeable shifts, especially at lower speeds, jerking against the brakes or stalling when stopped at a junction.

Electrical issues have also been noted but, apart from electric seat adjustments, few are happening enough to be listed as a regular problem, so just run through the controls and make sure everything with a switch does what it should.

There have also been issues with the automatic boot-closing system, which may shut the hatch without locking it. Check this, though it can be caused by quite small bits of debris in the surround or latch area.

If you’re looking at an Audi Q5 with the optional panoramic sunroof, listen out for rattling from it on your test drive. This has been common and Audi dealers have spent much time fixing or replacing them under warranty. The rattles often return, though, and once the car is out of warranty it’s the owner who picks up the tab or is driven mad.

Verdict

The Q5 has a lot going for it, including Audi’s mostly excellent build quality, and its strength and stability as a tow car, not to mention that refined and reassuring four-wheel drive system. Few problems have come to light, and even the petrol-engined versions return decent fuel economy for a car of this size.

Still, we’re wary of the seven-speed auto ’box’s reputation, so we wouldn’t take one of those on without also purchasing a decent warranty for the car. It adds to the expense, but transmission failure causes the kind of bill that will write off these cars when they’re a bit older.

If you're looking at used Audi Q5s for sale, in our opinion the top tug is the 2.0 TDI manual. Given our concerns over automatic gearboxes, manuals get our vote, while any four-cylinder diesel since 2012 has the most grunt, returning up to 47mpg. And while it’s not a disaster, the entry-level diesel has 16% less pulling power than our top tug, and any price advantage it had new is largely eroded.

What you need to know

So if you're looking for a 2008-2015 Audi Q5, you could be paying anywhere in the region of between £10,500 and £36,000. And, for once, there isn’t a premium to pay for a diesel model, largely because nearly 95% of those on offer are diesels. So you may have to pay a bit more for a petrol-engined Q5 – and there isn’t much bargaining room.

One-owner/full-history Q5s with below six-figure mileages start from £12,000, at least with a four-cylinder lump. For something similar with a V6, the starting price is closer to £15,000.

The guide doesn’t agree but, in the real world, you can add 10% to those numbers for an equivalent petrol. The model is still current, and top prices run close to showroom levels.

Here are some useful figures (for a 2009 Audi Q5 3.0 TDI Quattro S Line):

  • Kerbweight 1880kg
  • 85% match 1598kg
  • Towing limit 2400kg
  • Towball limit 75kg
         

And how much would it cost to fit a towball to a Q5? According to quotes received by Practical Caravan from PF Jones, a Witter flange towbar would come to £120.38 and a Westfalia detachable towball would cost £197.80, fitting extra.

An interim service would be £111.11 for a petrol Q5 and £138.89 for a diesel, while a full service is estimated to be £185.18 for a petrol variant, £217.59 for a diesel, according to Servicing Stop.

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