The new Audi Q5 does not look particularly new at first glance, but that familiar styling contradicts a car that shares hardly a screw with its predecessor. When the now Mexican-built Q5 arrives in July/August next year, Audi plans a 185kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol four and 140kW 2.0-litre turbo diesel, with a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel later in the year.
The new car is lighter and more frugal, and faster and far more refined than its eight-year-old predecessor. It's also been equipped with a high-tech and more spacious five-seat interior, efficient engine technology, and dynamics that Audi claims will make the Q5 one of the best driving cars in its class.
- The Audi Q5 gets steel springs for the suspension as standard, with air suspension and adaptive dampers borrowed from the larger Audi Q7 model as an option. These were fitted to our test cars and provided excellent ride comfort with much improved handling.
- In air suspension form, the Q5 is a very comfortable car, with a smooth, forgiving ride. Audi benchmarked the Mercedes GLC for comfort in the class and it shows here. This is no off-roader, but with the ride height adjustment of the air suspension, it is remarkably competent in the dirt, and rides well even over rutted and broken surfaces.
- The 2.0-litre turbo petrol is the pick of the engines. It has excellent performance (0-100km.h in 6.3seconds), and its efficient 6.8l/100km fuel rating takes it below the luxury car tax.
- The V6 diesel is permanently all-wheel drive, whereas the four-cylinder cars send all their power to the front wheels most of the time; power only goes to the rear as well if the front wheels start to slip. So smooth is the operation that we couldn’t tell the difference between the two systems.
- The interior of the new Q5 is its strongest feature: no rival can match its quality feel, ease-of-use, or its advanced technology.
- All the materials and controls you touch feel superbly soft. The technology standouts are Audi's optional Virtual Cockpit (a wide digital screen that replaces the traditional instruments and displays driving, navigation and infotainment data) and an intuitive Multi Media Interface infotainment system in the centre console. The new Q5 also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for full smartphone integration.
- Two types of smooth-shifting automatic gearbox are offered: a conventional eight-speed automatic for the V6, and a seven-speed dual-clutch type for the four-cylinder models.
- With the sliding rear seat that’s expected to be standard in Australia the boot space is officially rated at 610 litres. That's not quite at the level of the class-leading Jaguar F-Pace’s 650 litres, but the boot is still a large, usable space, with two convenience functions to help loading: a sensor to allow you to open the boot automatically and the ability to lower the air suspension to bring the boot level closer to the ground.
- The Q5 handles safely and predictably, but is short on feel and enjoyment. It’s not as good to drive as a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-Pace in this area.
- The chassis tuning is complicated with far too much choice in tuning modes for most drivers. Most buyers will fiddle with the tuning, find the setting for suspension and steering that suits them most and leave it there.
- This sounds silly, but the front door map pockets are a pain to use.
ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD CONSIDER?
- The new Mercedes GLC is the Audi’s most obvious rival and a certainty for a comparison when the Audi arrives.
- The Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace are more overtly sporting and not as comfortable.
- A replacement for the now outclassed BMW X3 is due late next year in Europe with an Australian launch in 2018.
- The Land Rover Discovery is also available for similar money, and offers extra practicality thanks to its seven-seat interior.