First Generation Audi Q5 Common Problems
Audi was a late arrival to the luxury crossover market, which has become a dominant sector in the automotive industry in the United States. When they released the Q5 in 2009, it became an overnight success. In 2023, the Q5 is Audi’s most popular model in the United States along with the smaller Q3.
Spanning 15 years and two generations, the Q5 can be had in a wide range of specs. The first generation Q5 ran from 2009-2017 and had many variants. From fuel-efficient diesel engines, peppy four cylinders, high output V6, and even hybrid engine options, the first generation Q5 offered something for everyone. Early years are becoming more and more affordable on the used market.
While in general, later model year Q5s are reliable, some of the earlier first-generation vehicles had some significant problems depending on the drivetrains they were equipped with. In this article, we are going to dive into the most common first-generation Audi Q5 issues so you know what to look out for, whether you’ve owned one for years or just picked up a used one. With so many engine options, we will also rank them from most to least reliable.
First Generation Q5 Overview
The Gen 1 Q5 (sometimes referred to as B8 by Audi nerds due to being built on the same platform as the B8 A4 and A5), was initially released in 2009. In its first 8 year run, the Q5 went through one exterior facelift and several engine changes.
The first-gen Q5 was launched with a single engine option, but by 2016 you could choose from four power plants. The offered engines ranged from fuel-efficient to performance-oriented. The available engines varied from year to year.
The first engine offered in the Q5 was Audi’s 3.2 V6. This refined motor made 270 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque.
Starting in 2011, Audi’s ubiquitous two-liter turbo four-cylinder made its way into the Q5 as a fuel-efficient option. Despite its good fuel economy, the 2.0t still put out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 2.0t was used in the Q5 hybrid as well
The 3.0 turbo diesel V6 engine was an option for higher trim Q5s, Making 240 horsepower and 428 lb-ft of torque, the TDI provided fuel economy and performance.
The last engine available in the Q5 is the 3.0t supercharged V6. This engine is a detuned version of the motor used in the S4, S5, and SQ5 performance vehicles. It makes 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in the Q5.
There were two transmission options offered in the first generation Q5. Any Q5 equipped with a 3.2 V6 was mated to a six-speed Tiptronic transmission. Q5s with any other engine, regardless of year, use an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission. Audi did not offer the first generation Q5 with its S-Tronic dual-clutch transmissions.
All Wheel Drive
All first-gen Q5s came with Audi’s Quattro AWD system, which sent 40% of power to the front and 60% to the rear by default.
Q5 Common Problems
With the drivetrain details out of the way, now it’s time to dive into the common issues. We will start with common problems seen on the Q5 chassis (shared across all trims, engine options, and specs), then break down the problems seen for each specific engine. Generally speaking, the Q5 platform is very reliable, engines aside.
Most first-generation Q5s have a massive panoramic sunroof. While this feature makes the interior of the car feel roomier, the frame holding the large panes of glass can start to creak and rattle. While this issue won’t impact the safety, reliability, or function of the car, it’s extremely annoying. Unfortunately, there is no reliable fix for this problem. Lubricating the frame or even replacing it entirely may help, but there is no guarantee that it will be permanent.
As we said above, the first-gen Q5 shares a platform with the A4 and A5. This chassis goes through control arms pretty quickly. Control arms allow your suspension to move freely up and down, independently of each wheel.
Typically, the bushings fail at the connection points between the control arms and the frame or strut. If the control arms in your Q5 are failing, you’ll hear a clunking, popping, or banging noise when going over bumps, accelerating, or braking.
The Q5 chassis has a complicated control arm set up with many components. Replacing them can become expensive quickly.
Q5 Engine Problems
The biggest complaints with the first generation of the Q5 are related to the engines. However, the reliability ranges significantly from engine to engine. Some power plants are extremely reliable, while others come with a host of problems.
Q5 3.2 V6 Problems
The 3.2 V6 is one of the more reliable engine options for the Q5, but it was only offered in the first couple of years of production. Some of the most common problems on this engine are coolant leaks, thermostats, secondary air, and oil filter housing leaks. Timing issues are also a concern, but they are not as prevalent.
Q5 2.0t Problems
The Q5 2.0t is far and away the most problematic powerplant on this list. Despite being a fuel-efficient and decently powerful motor, there are many downsides.
Oil Consumption and Piston Rings
Resulting in a class action lawsuit, the 2.0t oil consumption issue plagued several years of Audi vehicles, not just the Q5. The oil consumption was traced to an issue with the piston rings installed on Audi applications of the 2.0t.
Piston rings sit in grooves encircling the pistons. Each piston has a set of rings, responsible for maintaining compression in the combustion chamber and preventing oil from escaping the crankcase as the piston moves up and down. The oil “scraper” ring, as they are sometimes called, is the root of the issue in the Q5.
The oil ring installed on these engines could not sufficiently remove oil from the cylinder wall during engine operation. As a result, oil would gradually escape the crankcase and get burned off. Over time, this condition would lead to low oil levels, which could cause catastrophic engine failure if unaddressed.
If you own a Q5 with this problem, you can prevent engine damage by checking your oil level often and adding more as needed. The only way to fix this issue is to have the engine torn down by a professional and reassembled with updated piston rings.
Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) Issues
Another common failure point on the 2.0t is a failing PCV valve. The PCV valve is responsible for regulating pressure inside the engine while it operates. These valves only flow one way and are controlled by a rubber diaphragm. When the diaphragm tears or fails, the valve will not function as it’s supposed to.
One symptom of a failed PCV is oil consumption, so oftentimes this is the first place to look before investigating the aforementioned piston ring problem.
The water pump is responsible for circulating coolant through the engine and heater core, keeping the motor within a safe operating temperature, and providing heat to the cabin on cold days.
On the 2.0t, the electronic water pump was prone to failure. Debris can easily clog the pump, causing it to burn out. Additionally, moisture could get into the electronics and cause a short circuit.
Failed timing chain tensioners were a big enough issue on 2.0t Q5s from 2011-2012 that a class action lawsuit was filed (this issue affected other models in Audi’s lineup at the time). A poorly designed tensioner can fail, destroying the motor in a matter of seconds. Luckily, after the lawsuit, a fix (an upgraded tensioner design) was released and owners were asked to bring their cars in to get the update.
At this point, the majority of cars from this era have been fixed, but if you are looking at a used Q5 from 2011-2012 with a 2.0t, make sure to ask if the timing chain tensioner has been done.
The V6 three-liter turbo diesel engine was offered from 2014-2016. While mechanically this engine was sound, the emissions equipment attached to it caused significant problems.
Over time, soot can become caked throughout the intake and exhaust system of the 3.0 TDI. The intake manifold, emissions equipment, and charge pipes can become so clogged the engine is unable to perform as it should.
Allowing the engine to get to operating temperature every time you drive, driving aggressively on occasion and more frequent oil changes can help reduce soot buildup.
Emissions Control Equipment
Diesel produces a lot of soot, and to control emissions, they are equipped with several emissions control devices, including diesel particulate filters (DPF) and a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) which help reduce the noxious exhaust emitted from the tailpipe. These are prone to failure, are required to pass emissions, and in some cases are prohibitively expensive to fix.
The 3.0t is an evolution of the 3.2 V6, losing .2 liters of displacement but gaining an Eaton TVS supercharger. In the Q5, this engine made 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. While this powerplant is generally considered the most reliable option for the Q5, there are still a few common problems that can come up.
Like the 2.0t, the 3.0t also suffers from failed PCV valves. Unfortunately, replacing the PCV valve on the 3.0t is a much more involved repair. To access the valve, the supercharger has to come off the top of the engine. A failing PCV valve can lead to oil consumption, coolant, and oil mixing, rough running, reduced engine power, or a whistling sound depending on how the valve fails.
Direct injection engines are at risk of carbon buildup, and the 3.0t is no exception. Fuel is injected behind the intake valves, but not all of the gasoline makes its way into the combustion chamber. The residual fuel coats the back of the valves, resulting in a thick, sticky buildup. Depending on the severity, carbon buildup can result in reduced engine power, low fuel economy, rough running, or misfires at idle.
Luckily, carbon buildup can be fixed with a technique called walnut shell blasting. Abrasive walnut shells are blown into the intake port while the valves are closed, resulting in loss of power
Due to the high heat produced by the 3.0t, the catalytic converters are at a higher risk of failure. Not only are catalytic converters expensive to replace, you will not be able to pass smog without them.
Water Pump and Thermostat
Similar to the 2.0t, the water pump and thermostat on the three liters can fail. If the water pump fails, severe engine damage can occur. A failed thermostat will make it impossible to tell the temperature of your motor.
Which first-gen Q5 is the most reliable?
All configurations of the Gen One Q5 have some issues, but there is a clear hierarchy of reliability/ownership costs.
First Place(Tie): Q5 3.0t/3.2
With the least engine problems, the 3.0t and 3.2 are the best bets in terms of reliability. Despite this, the operating costs will be higher, as these are the least efficient motors of the group.
Second Place: Q5 2.0t
While the 2.0t has a host of serious issues, if you get into a Q5 that has had the problems addressed, it’s a solid engine. It is far more efficient than the 3.0t without sacrificing power and performance
Third Place 3.0 TDI
While you could argue that the TDI is more reliable by default than the two-liter turbo, the extremely expensive repairs that are almost certain to be needed during ownership make this engine the least practical choice. While the mileage and power are exceptional, replacing emissions components makes ownership costs high.
Audi Q5 Service in Carlsbad
Regardless of which engine your first-gen Q5 has, you can trust the experts at Carlsbad Auto Service to keep it running like new. Our technicians have extensive experience servicing European vehicles like the Q5. Give us a call or schedule an appointment online today!