THE Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro Sport's early arrival in Australia heralds a strong contender in the premium SUV segment.
WHAT IS IT?
The second-generation of Audi’s hugely popular Q5 mid-sized SUV in 2.0 TDI mid-range trim – the one Audi predicts to be the volume seller.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
The full range touches down in Australia in late June but a brace of the new version arrived early, offering us an opportunity to sample the car ahead of its full launch.
Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3
THE WHEELS VERDICT
A tantalising first local spin has left us with a positive impression of the gen-two Audi Q5. Like its predecessor, the new model offers a compelling combination of classy styling inside and out with decent performance and practicality. Big improvements to areas that didn’t necessarily need improving, such as ride comfort, cabin noise levels and handling, set a new standard in the segment and herald a promising reception for the all-new version.
PLUS: Serene cabin comfort; excellent balance of handling, dynamics and ride comfort; typically sharp Audi interior; competitive pricing
MINUS: Delayed idle-stop re-start
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IF AUDI wants to keep up its tireless fight against arch rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it can’t afford to put a foot wrong, and that applies even more so in the case of critical models such as the Q5 mid-sized SUV.
The model has been providing consistent and substantial volume for the German carmaker since its introduction almost eight years ago, and the successor is charged with the task of maintaining that strong performance.
The early signs are good.
When we drove the second-generation Q5 last year in its birth country, Mexico, its cactus-dodging handling, dust trail-carving manners and likeable styling were a good taste of what Australia has to look forward when it arrives later this year.
And it seems local fans are already flocking to the car with 1800 pre-orders scribbled into Audi’s books.
As if that wasn’t enough excitement, the carmaker managed to secure a pair of the very first Australian-specification cars and flew them down under for an early sample of how the car will take to its surroundings.
Once again, it’s looking good.
While most of our Mexican road trip was on relatively conservative roads, albeit picturesque, our first Aussie experience of the car was on much more varied stretches of blacktop and a far better representation of what local owners will throw at the Audi day-to-day.
Heading out of the nation’s capital gave us a chance to pitch the Q5 against a couple of the scenarios it will likely encounter on a daily basis with some urban traffic followed by a blast along less cluttered freeways.
For a typical commute, the Audi’s combination of sharp interior quality and generous space – it’s bigger inside and out now – offers a pleasant place to be whether you are appreciating the cabin ambience or choose to distract yourself with driving.
For its latest evolution of the fuel-conserving idle-stop technology, Audi’s system now re-starts when you press the accelerator and not earlier when you release the brake. We’re not sure why this decision was made as the additional fuel saving would be negligible, but it adds noticeable time to off-the-mark performance. A sedate pull away is scarcely affected but if you are in a hurry, the Audi seems to take an eternity to start, build a little turbo boost, produce some torque, start slipping one of the dual-clutches and translate that into meaningful acceleration.
Once up and running, though, the 2.0-litre diesel lends respectable performance to the Q5 with 140kW/400Nm and a claimed 0-100km/h dash of 7.9 seconds, but its most notable quality is smoothness and low noise.
Its inconspicuous nature is added to by commendable NVH levels all around, resulting in a calm cabin and a relaxing ride both about town and when the roads turn to freeway.
The diesel is also frugal and while we didn’t quite manage the reported 5.5L/100km, an indicated figure of 6.4L/100km is still respectable for a car of the Q5’s size and 1845kg unladen weight, which is 90kg down on the previous version.
The slightly higher fuel use figure was also attributable to one particular section of our drive where the roads turned wiggly and prompted a more enthusiastic use of the throttle.
Some of the 90kg weight loss was stripped from unsprung weight – the weight not supported by the suspension – and this has resulted in significant improvements to the Q5’s handling and road manner.
The Audi tracks through sweeping corners with an effortlessness and poise that was completely absent from the SUV world only a few years prior and is both fun and confidence-inspiring.
Unlike our arid Mexican mission, the New South Wales scenery provided a little moisture to test the quattro Ultra technology but ironically, the best thing about the new system that can completely disconnect the rear wheels for boosted economy or reconnect for added grip, was that we had absolutely no clue that it was doing anything at all.
At all times the Q5 offered an accomplished balance of sure-footed traction and lively handling.
A little reluctance for the seven-speed S tronic transmission to downshift when pushing on is likely in the name of fuel efficiency, but this was easily mitigated by shifting the drive mode from auto into sport, which holds the revs higher and reaches for a lower gear more eagerly.
Pricing has taken a little inflation – up $2700 to $70,700 before on road costs and options even before you get customising, but that small increase is offset by a decent value-adding exercise.
Among a number of kit enhancements including new driver assistance technology, and the inclusion of Audi’s excellent virtual cockpit for the mid-range diesel. There’s also a 10-speaker, 180 watt sound system, which sounded great with some fresh tunes pumping through it.
Another small victory is the arrival of a colour new to the Audi palette. It may sound trivial to talk about paint for such a significant technological package, but catch a glimpse of the new Azores Green in bright sunlight and you’ll be locked into its gem-like lustre, just as we were.
In its previous-generation the Audi Q5 packed a hard punch in its segment despite its age and, if Audi wasn’t running out of stock, we are certain it would still be selling with the same vigour. It’s a recipe that still resonates well with Australians.
And that is what is so attractive about the new Q5. It didn’t really have to get any better to keep winning hearts and sales, but instead of offering more of the same in a lightly refreshed package, the gen-two car has come out, guns blazing, and offering one of the best premium SUV options on the market.
We can’t wait for a longer blast and in the complete range when they arrive to a hungry local audience in late July.
Model: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro Sport
Engine: 1986cc in-line 4cyl diesel
Max power: 140kW 3800 rpm – 4200 rpm
Max torque: 400Nm 1750 rpm – 3000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 5.5L/100km
On sale: July 2017