June Neary on Audi's Q5 mid-range SUV
Will It Suit Me?
If you've driven or even sat inside any of Audi's current models, you'll have a good idea of where this manufacturer is coming from. Even if you've observed one from afar, you may have an inkling. Audi products are largely variations on the key themes. The exteriors share much the same distinctive front end with its oversize grille and the interiors are studies in cool Teutonic efficiency. The engines and gearboxes are interchangeable in models from across the range, the clever control interface crops up time and time again and there are similarities in the driving experiences. Audi are by no means unique in this but with the benefit of this background knowledge, it's possible to form a fairly accurate picture of what Audi's Q5 compact 4x4 will be like. Of course, the Q5 might have confounded any such expectations. Audi may have taken the decision to ditch all that build quality and understated sportiness stuff in favour of day-glow colour schemes, wooden fascias and engines that run on baked beans. They might of, but they didn't. The Q5 is much as expected, obviously an Audi and clearly pretty good. It's now been facelifted and improved. Time to try it again.
The Q5's styling hasn't changed much and remains fairly low key compared to some. It looks like you'd imagine an Audi compact 4x4 would without the tough off-road addenda with which some of its rival adorn themselves. It's more of a jacked-up hatchback, which is exactly what many buyers are looking for at the premium end of the compact 4x4 market. This car might not be as bold or brash externally as we've come to expect in the SUV sector but inside, it aims to replicate the interior versatility of its most sizable rivals. Audi's cabin design and build quality remains tough to fault and the Q5 also includes some clever features that make the whole thing more practical to use on a daily basis. The rear seat backs can be reclined to increase comfort and the whole of the back bench can be folded into the floor at a stroke by means of a lever in the boot. Luggage space is 540 litres but once those seats are stowed, 1,560 litres is opened up.
Behind the Wheel
The driving experience is also very un-4x4. Audi has engineered the Q5 to excel on the road and largely, it does. Were it not for the higher driving position, you could almost be piloting an A3 or A4, such is the Q5's resistance to body roll and smooth ride. It's not the most exciting experience you'll have at the wheel of a compact 4x4 but the Q5 smacks of utter competence and composure through a range of driving conditions. The Q5 is the beneficiary of three of Audi's star engines. The 2.0-litre TFSI petrol unit is the entry level option, a powerplant that we've seen and been impressed by before in numerous racy VW Group products. In the Q5, it generates either 180 or 211PS, depending on your choice, and, crucially, a torque output that you'd be more inclined to expect from a big six-cylinder diesel engine. 350Nm from 1,500rpm to 4,200rpm is a whole lot of shove and it helps the 211PS version of this particular Q5 to 62mph in 7.2s. Many 4x4s claim to be 'sporty' but the Q5 appears intent on delivering. There's also a 3.2-litre FSI petrol V6. The other options are diesels. First is an economical 2.0-litre TDI with either 143 or 177bhp on tap. Then there's the 245bhp 3.0-litre TDI. It can hit 62mph in only 6.5s. Quicker still is the 313PS SQ5 TDI flagship variant. The task of marshalling the power and torque from those advanced engines falls upon the standard six-speed manual gearbox but Audi also makes its S-Tronic seven-speed dual clutch gearbox available with the Q5. This transmission is teetering on the cutting edge of gearbox technology with its twin clutch system and clever electronics predicting the next gear and engaging it prior to the driver selecting it with the wheel-mounted paddle shifters. It makes for a lightening fast and buttery-smooth transition between ratios whether you're flipping the paddles in manual mode or letting the gearbox take care of the whole process. As well as the greater security of four driven wheels, the Q5 also uses an advanced ESP stability control system that senses when a roof rack is fitted and compensates for the vehicle's higher centre of gravity by intervening earlier.
Value For Money
The Q5 kicks off at around the £30,000 mark and is offered with a decent haul of standard equipment and a bulging options list giving buyers the opportunity to inflate that asking price at will. Of particular interest will be the exterior trim options. An S-Line package emphasises the car's sporty side with styling accessories or there's an off-road package that adds under body protection to help avoid costly accidents when driving in rough terrain. In terms of running costs, the Q5 makes a reasonable stab at avoiding the kind of profligacy that's associated with larger premium-badge SUVs. The 2.0-litre TDI engine can do over 40mpg on the combined cycle but the higher performance of the 2.0 TFSI and the 3.0-litre TDI mean they can only return around 35mpg and 44mpg respectively.
Could I Live With One?
Audi's Q5 may be predictable but it's still predictably very good. The designers have done enough in the interior to give the car real extra practicality but the driving experience is very car-like and quality levels are right up there. Unless you go for the top SQ5 TDI model, it's not the most exciting choice you could make in this segment but it's a very impressive one. That'll be enough for most.