OFFERED in either 140kW diesel or 185kW petrol guises, the all-new Audi Q5 is built around the fiendishly clever ‘quattro ultra’ chassis and delivers exactly what’s asked of it. Polished, capable but hardly inexpensive, the Q5 looks set to assume sales leadership in its class.
WHAT IS IT
There’s no shortage of choice if you want a mid-sized premium SUV, but if you’re looking for something that matches the all-round talent of the latest Audi Q5, the list gets very short indeed. The script doesn’t deviate significantly to what’s gone before, but think bigger, slicker, quicker and safer.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Ever since the Porsche Macan arrived in 2014, the Q5 has had a tiny tang of lame duck about it. Sales have held up over that period, but it no longer exuded that typically modernist Ingolstadt sheen. The latest car looks to rectify that with some intriguing technical highlights.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The Audi Q5 is an artful melange of well-judged compromises that, in this latest all-new generation, coalesce into a wholly convincing end product. We’d skip the charmless diesel engine and instead spring for the excellent 2.0 TFSI petrol version. It’s not cheap, but it’s hard to feel short-changed by the Q5’s discreet delivery.
PLUS: Depth of engineering, efficiency, feel-good interior, sweet steering, petrol engine’s zip
MINUS: Diesel could use more go, ride can get busy with big wheels, big-ticket options add up
THE WHEELS REVIEW
OTHER than brackish lagoons and miles of arrow-straight roads, there’s not a lot to see in the Coorong. If you’re in the latest Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI, there’s not a lot to hear either. At an indicated 110km/h it’s eerily quiet. You hear your passenger’s jacket zip clinking as the car sits into the odd dip, a welcome spritz of treble over the blanketed bass tones of tyre and suspension.
The car’s computer tells us we’ve been in front-wheel drive mode for 99.8 of the last 100km, the Q5’s quattro ultra drive system reading the low-mu gravel exit of a car park and engaging the spring-loaded rear dog clutches silently and imperceptibly. I think my co-driver has nodded off and ponder giving him a 755-watt fusillade with the optional 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo, but it turns out he’s just looking in vain for some signposted pelicans.
Unlike the ornithological attractions of South Australia, the Q5 isn’t in the business of overpromising and underdelivering. It’s Audi’s quiet achiever, having racked up over 24,500 sales in the last seven years, forming an integral part of a Q family that now accounts for 42 percent of the company’s Australasian sales.
This all-new car has been a long time coming, riding on the next-gen MLB Evo chassis that now distances it from its Porsche Macan cousin. Aussie buyers get the choice of a 140kW/400Nm 2.0 TDI diesel, offered in either Design or Sport trims, or a 185kW/370Nm petrol version that’s sold exclusively in Sport trim.
Both drive through seven-speed twin-clutch transmissions, but it won’t take too long behind the wheel to convince anyone that the petrol engine is the smarter choice. The diesel does a job, but lacks anything in the way of zest, getting to 100km/h in a leisurely 7.9s.
The petrol engine is usefully quicker, stopping the clock in 6.3 seconds, and with 50kg less in the nose, it tips into a corner more crisply, holds a line more faithfully and takes less effort to bring to a halt. With respective fuel economies of 5.5 and 7.3L/100km, the petrol car will cost an additional $290 per year to fuel. That’s money very well spent.
The Q5’s fundamentals don’t brook too many surprises. It’s about the same width as before, but 34mm longer, 4mm wider and with 12mm grafted into the wheelbase. Luggage space squeaks up by ten litres to 550 litres, or you can opt for the sliding rear bench to extend that to 610 litres in exchange for the odd passenger DVT.
There’s now a gesture control tailgate, so if you’re staggering around with your arms full, you have the option of hopping around on one foot like a Sherpa with gout.
The interior is a magnificent place to sit, with a broad spar across the dashboard that visually lowers and widens the fascia and there’s a formidable suite of electronics, from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay mirroring to Google Earth, a WiFi hotspot, wireless inductive charging for your phone and, if you opt for Sport trim, Audi Virtual Cockpit instrument panel and a head up display.
The Q5 2.0 TFSI gets solid scores for go, stop and steer, but the one blot on its copybook is ride quality. It’s not trolley jack stiff, but it’s a good deal more interactive than you’d probably appreciate.
The test cars were riding on 20-inch alloys, and Audi’s development engineer on hand recommended 19s instead. When asked if 18-inch rims rode better he laughed and claimed that nobody was going to buy this car with 18-inch wheels. While you are mulling over the finer points of the Q5 configurator, tick the options box marked 1BK, which is adaptive air suspension. It’ll set you back $3990 but will transform ride quality and, as an added bonus, increase the car’s ground clearance by 45mm if you should venture off road. You can even drop the rear end by 15mm to load the car.
The Audi Q5 rewards a certain specificity. It’s easy to go wrong and land yourself something that will always seem like a lot of money spent. Invest a little more initially in the 2.0 TFSI Sport with air suspension and the value proposition’s really not that hard to grasp. Straight to the top of the class? We wouldn’t bet against it.
Model: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 185kW @ 5000rpm
Max torque: 370Nm @ 1600rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
Economy: 7.3L/100km (claimed on 20-inch wheels)
On sale: Now