WHAT IS IT?
The most powerful non-Audi Sport model in the Q5 range. With an uprated 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 under its handsome snout, this is Ingolstadt’s mid-size SUV for buyers with a penchant for understated grunt.
WHY WE ARE TESTING IT?
Orders are already open for the sportiest diesel Q5 in Australia, so Audi let us loose on a German Autobahn ahead of the SUV’s arrival here in September. We wanted to find out if there’s still a reason to buy a performance-diesel Q5, given the SQ5 is now a turbo-petrol.
BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan, Volvo XC60, Range Rover Velar
THE WHEELS VERDICT:
The Q5 TDI V6 has always been a bit of a performance dark horse, underpinned by uncharacteristic diesel refinement. This new-generation version continues the tradition with ample torque and a tea-totalling appetite for fuel. It’s sleeper styling and cop-baiting grunt is a nice birthday present as the Q5 range celebrates its first birthday locally.
PLUS: Slick and powerful engine; smart infotainment; dynamic engagement
MINUS: Adaptive dampers or air suspension are expensive options; tyre roar on low-profile rubber
AUSTRALIANS love to brag, and we’ll often pay for a badge which’ll do the talking for us.
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Audi’s new Q5 3.0 TDI subverts this cultural peacocking, by packing serious punch with an understated badge. Picking up where the previous-gen SQ5 diesel left off, the Q5 3.0 TDI is a performance V6 diesel without the S-version’s boastful visuals.
For $83,990 customers are treated to 210kW and 620Nm (up from 180kW/580Nm of the previous generation). This positions the latest addition to the Q5 range above the 2.0 TFSI turbo-petrol four-cylinder, which produces 185kW/370Nm for $73,211, but below the SQ5 flagship which puts down 260kW/500Nm for $99,611.
The major change is the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel now nestled behind the Q5’s snout. Paired with the same eight-speed automatic gearbox found in the SQ5, power is sent to all four wheels with a 40:60 split front to rear under normal driving conditions.
However, the eight-speed auto can become flustered under acceleration – with the , prompting a frustrating pause while it searches for the right ratio, before lurching forward as 620Nm does its job as prescribed.
Audi’s 3.0-litre diesel is remarkably refined like previous generations before it. Even at idle, there is minimal ‘rattle’ typical to an oil-burner, and engine noise is subdued unless prompted to life with a push of the right foot. When called to action there is a throaty induction noise which belies the engine’s diesel diet.
Peak torque is available at just 1500rpm and continues through to 3000rpm. The 3.0 TDI has a meaty powerband, with great globs of torque at your disposal off the line and when overtaking, but power tops out at 3000rpm, meaning the engine feels the best in the heart of the rev-range. Short-shifting will net the most enjoyable results during spirited driving.
There’s plenty of performance to appease an enthusiast, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 5.8 seconds. That’s just 0.4 seconds slower than the SQ5, which costs almost a full $16,000 more.
Top Speed? Tested on the Autobahn the Q5 3.0 TDI’s speedo easily cruised to an electronically limited indicated 243km/h. But you’ll never achieve this in Australia on a public road unless you want to know what the inside of a jail cell looks like. Above 200km/h the front end of the Q5 3.0 TDI begins to feel floaty, with the steering lightening up. Wind noise doesn’t become annoyingly intrusive until 180km/h.
Audi claims an ADR combined fuel consumption of 6.3L/100km, compared to the SQ5’s 8.7L/100km. After 500km of Autobahn driving which averaged 130km/h and included numerous vmax runs and long, comfortable periods above 180km/h, the trip computer reported 9.7L/100km.
While our test vehicles were fitted with air suspension, in Australia the Q5 3.0 TDI will feature steel springs as standard. Adaptive dampers (a must-have option) are an extra $2150, while the air set-up we tested will require the ticking of a $3990 box on the options list.
Riding on 255/40R21 Pirelli P Zero rubber, there was some intrusive tyre roar at acceptable Australian highway speeds. As we discovered driving the Q5 range in Australia, larger rims and standard steel springs make for a busy ride. On air these issues are stamped out, with a refined, velvety ride in comfort. Select dynamic and it stiffens up, but still offers more supple damping than the standard set-up.
Audi has fitted its full suite of safety features to the Q5 3.0 TDI as standard, including AEB, adaptive cruise, and the slick predicted efficiency assist system. Inside, the Q5 V6 TDI gets Audi’s 12.3-inch virtual cockpit system in lieu of the base TDI four-pot’s traditional analogue instruments, working in conjunction with Audi’s MMI navigation system. Audi connect is fitted as standard, enabling 4G wi-fi hotspot, along with Google Earth and Google Search functionality, which is intuitive and easy to use. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
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Audi Australia expects the 3.0 TDI will make up roughly 15 percent of total Q5 sales, offering a sweet middle ground for buyers, who want SQ5 performance and capabilities, without requiring the extra dosh – it just requires a bit of box ticking to really nail the brief. Even with the air-suspension fitted, the Q5 3.0 TDI is $10K cheaper than its SQ5 sibling, offering staunch performance and enjoyable dynamics that, for most customers, could render the more expensive variant obsolete.
2018 Audi Q5 3.0 TDI specifications
Model: Audi Q5 3.0 TDI quattro
Engine: 2967cc V6 (90°), dohc, 24v, TD
Max power: 210kW @ 3000rpm
Max torque: 620Nm @ 1500-3000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.8sec (claimed)
On sale: Now