2023 Audi Q5 spied ahead of reveal

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We’ve spotted the third-generation Audi Q5 testing and it looks bigger than ever.

Development of the next Audi Q5 is well underway, shown by these latest spy images of a camouflage car undergoing testing. It looks like we can expect the public debut of Audi’s mid-size SUV next year, once again taking the fight to rivals such as the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLE.

Audi now has 11 SUVs in its line-up, but the Q5 remains one of Audi’s most popular models. Almost 300,000 deliveries worldwide last year meant it was not only the German firm’s best-selling SUV, but it’s most popular car outright.

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Understandably, the new car isn’t going to shake up the Q5 formula too much. From these spy images we can make out that the design language is similar to the outgoing model. There’s Audi’s familiar octagonal grille, flanked by slimmer headlight units and air intakes beneath. The whole front end has been tweaked to give a more aggressive look.

In profile the car features quite a wide shoulder line over the wheel arches to give a chunky stance. At the rear there’s a full-width LED lighting bar, similar to the all-electric e-tron models. The circular lights embedded are only there for test purposes.

Audi looks set to enlarge the Q5’s dimensions for this next-generation car, with a longer wheelbase to allow for more cabin space. In contrast to the evolutionary exterior, a new cabin layout with brand-new infotainment and switchgear is feasible. Audi has never been a manufacturer that has stood still from generation to generation when it comes to its cabin architectures.

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Our spy images preview the regular version of the Q5, but a coupé-shaped Sportback model would seem a certainty given the firm’s push for Sportback versions of its e-tron models. Sportback styles also appear to be exempt from a reduction in complexity in the brand’s combustion-engined car portfolio, as announced in 2019.

The brand has already electrified the Q5 nameplate with the arrival of the MEB-based Q5 e-tron in China, but this model is unlikely to come to Europe. In fact, conforming to Audi’s electrification strategy in Europe, there’ll be no next-generation Q5 EV. Instead, the new car will remain on a combustion-engined platform, with an evolution of the brand’s current MLB architecture employed for the next model. However, we can expect substantial upgrades for the platform, because it will host one final generation of combustion-engined models for Europe, described to Automotive Daily by technical boss Oliver Hoffman as “the best” Audi has ever launched.

At the time, Hoffman was outlining the technical basis of the next-generation A4 to us – a car also due in 2023 on the updated MLB architecture. Fundamental to the platform’s new offering will be an updated version of the Volkswagen Group’s well known EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology and revised turbo systems.

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Mild-hybrid tech is not new on the Q5; it was introduced as part of the car’s facelift in 2020. However, the powerful SQ5 diesel aside, which uses a 48-volt system, regular MHEV versions of the current Q5 feature a less advanced 12-volt set-up. The 48-volt tech would expand the car’s engine-off coasting and electric-boost capabilities from fleeting moments to being a key part of the driving experience, improving performance and fuel economy.

Audi has committed to building new petrol and diesel cars until 2026 and as diesel power remains popular in the Q5 an updated 2.0-litre TDI option – also with a new development of the brand’s 48-volt mild-hybrid tech offered on the current model – will almost certainly arrive as part of the offering. We can expect the SQ5 performance variant to stick around for another generation, too, also embracing 48-volt tech but allied to a turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, likely to develop more than 260kW.

Electrification will play a starring role in the next-generation car, too, but beyond the expanded mild-hybrid offering, plug-in hybrid tech is as far as the Q5 will extend.

The current 50 TFSI e quattro already weighs in with a 17.9kWh battery, enabling up to 37 miles of electric running. It works with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine and an electric-motor system for a total power output of 220kW and CO2 from 35g/km. Again, we expect incremental refinements to this system for the new-generation car.

A fully electric Q5 for this region won’t happen until the brand’s entire European portfolio is electric only. However, Audi will offer a full EV in the Q5’s sector, not long after the combustion car goes on sale. The Q6 e-tron is expected to arrive in 2024, positioned and priced similarly, but using the PPE platform for EVs. It’ll share this technical basis with the upcoming A6 e-tron saloon, as well as Porsche’s next-generation Macan.

Alastair Crooks

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