Audi's Q5 has been much improved and unlike premium compact rivals, offers a decent choice of petrol options. Jonathan Crouch tries the redesigned 225PS unit in the 2.0 TFSI variant.
Ten Second Review
In improved form, Audi's Q5 tweaks the recipe a little with more efficient engines, revised steering and suspension, an improved interior and the usual grille, lights and bumpers makeover. In truth, not a whole lot needed doing and the Q5 maintains its position as the slickest mid-sized SUV money can buy. Especially in 225PS 2.0 TFSI petrol form.
It's not like Audi to miss a trick. Although the marketing spin might suggest otherwise, if you examine the company's background of product development in recent years, it's not always been an early adopter. Rather it waits a while to see if a niche is viable before steaming in with a huge broadside. Take its range of sports utility vehicles as an example. The luxury end was well established before Audi weighed in with the Q7 in 2006 and it took another couple of years for the smaller Q5 to appear, pitched into battle against the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander. It speaks well of the design that those launch cars still look and feel fresh, but Audi realises that technology moves apace and has given the car a mid-life once over. It's a bit more than the usual grille, lights and bumpers job that most cars get. One can't accuse the Germans of a half-baked job here. Take the engine we're looking at here, the completely redesigned 225PS 2.0 TFSI petrol unit.
Suspension tweaks have softened the ride of this improved Q5 and a new electro-mechanical steering system offers more feel around the bends. Better still, you'll find an almost completely new engine range beneath the bonnet, all employing turbocharging, direct injection and a stop-start system for frugal emissions. The result of all this is that every unit manages the clever trick of offering more power with lower running costs. And no engine demonstrates that better than the one we're looking at here, the petrol 2.0TFSI. Don't confuse this unit with the old 180PS engine of the same name that was in the original Q5: this one's very different. For a start, it's got a lot more power - 225PS - good enough to get you to 62mph from rest in just 7.1s on the way to 138mph, but what's really important is that the pulling power - 350Nm of it - that undergirds all that grunt is accessible far lower down in the rev range, from just 1,500rpm. So much so that you've really got to have a need for speed to want to opt for the pokier petrol option, also different in this revised Q5, a supercharged 3.0 TFSI unit good for 272PS that improves those figures to 5.9s and 145mph but must be ordered with the eight-speed tiptronic auto transmission that's optional on this 2.0-litre variant.
Design and Build
Grille bumper and headlights - the usual facelift targets - have all come in for a revision in this improved Q5. The grille and bumper changes are quite subtle but the lights now look a bit sharper. The xenon units that are standard in S line versions and optional for the rest of the range are now framed by the ubiquitous LED daytime running lights which form a continuous band surrounding more of the lens. Adaptive lights with dynamic cornering lights and static turning lights are available as an option. One welcome touch is that roof rails and cross bars are now standard, so you won't need to get bogged down with aftermarket foot pack kits and adaptor plates if you want to quickly mount a roof box. The interior of this Audi has been given a tweaking with more chrome and piano black fitments. The MMI system is now easier to use and a driver alertness system, not dissimilar to that which Mercedes have used for some time, now debuts on the Q5. Seat trims have been revised but other than that, it's much as you were. The rear seat backs can be reclined to increase comfort and the whole of the back bench can be folded 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 available.
Market and Model
You'll need a budget of around £32,000 for the entry-level petrol version of the 2.0 TFSI petrol Q5 model we're looking at here. All variants include alloy wheels varying in size from 18 inches to 20 inches, leather upholstery, electronic climate control, the Driver's Information System with efficiency function with rest recommendation feature, the Multi Media Interface linked to a 6.5-inch colour monitor, rear acoustic parking, light and rain sensors, a hill descent assist function and split/folding rear seats. Go a bit more enthusiastic with the budget and the S line Plus models seem tempting. These feature the usual S line exterior and interior styling cues but also add features such as Audi Music Interface iPod connection, satellite navigation, the Audi Parking System Plus with front and rear sensors and visual distance indicators and powered tailgate operation. The 'Mobile phone preparation - High with online services' package is now on the options list and features an integrated Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) hotspot. This allows passengers to access the Internet and email with their smartphones, and it also brings customized Google online services into the car. Another data feature is the smartphone app 'Audi music stream'. This accesses more than 5,000 web radio stations, and the audio signal is transmitted over the audio system loudspeakers and controlled via the MMI system. Clever stuff and one area where Audi seems to be taking technology leadership.
Cost of Ownership
Trying to buy a used Q5 is quite a depressing experience as they cling onto their value with some tenacity. This is great news for the new buyer, and the subtle exterior changes to the latest car aren't going to collapse the values of early models anytime soon. The changes to the powerplants of the latest cars will serve to drive down day to day running costs quite appreciably though. Petrol engine technology has progressed a good way too. The 2.0-litre TFSI unit fitted to this latest Q5 develops as much power as that fitted to the flagship Audi TT when it first appeared, yet manages to eke 37.2 miles from a gallon of 95RON. The smaller, lighter TT struggled to better 30mpg. How's it done? The control system for its valves and their stroke, its innovative thermal management, its fuel injection system, its turbocharger and the integration of the exhaust manifold in its cylinder head are all modern refinements. Stop-start is also featured on all Q5 variants.
The Audi Q5 is now better finished, more generously equipped, offers better economy and drives better. You expected that didn't you? In fact, nothing that Audi has done to this car is going to change the core buyer profile one bit. While this might sound a little dismissive of the impressive efforts Audi has made with this development, it's a fact. The market has changed quite significantly since the Q5 first appeared, but the Q5's position in the market hasn't. Yes, the BMW X3 will still appeal to those who want the sportiest drive and Volvo's XC60's design-led eco-family image will steal a few sales, but the Q5 remains the go-to car in this sector if you just want the slickest, most feel-good vehicle. This latest round of revisions just lever the gap a bit wider. As for the 2.0 TFSI petrol engine, well it's probably a better bet for most low mileage buyers than the 2.0 TDI diesel they'll probably opt for without thinking too much. Audi alone offers customers in the premium part of the compact SUV segment a decent choice of petrol powerplants. And, as usual, Ingolstadt has done the job properly.