TOUGH SEC­OND ACT

At one stage the world’s best­selling premium com­pact SUV, Audi hopes to again at­tract buy­ers in their droves with Q5 2.0

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE -

FROM its launch in 2008, the first­gen­er­a­tion Q5 sold in ex­cess of 1,6 mil­lion units. Lo­cally, Audi South Africa shifted 11 300 units from the model’s in­tro­duc­tion in 2009. Clearly, the Q5 is cru­cial to the com­pany’s global sales suc­cess and fi­nan­cial well­be­ing, es­pe­cially with lo­cal sales vol­umes hav­ing taken a knock in the last cou­ple of years and a na­tional dealer dis­pute in China which saw the brand lose sub­stan­tial mar­ket share there ear­lier this year.

The fact that Mercedes-benz launched the GLC to wide­spread ac­claim and com­mer­cial suc­cess in this seg­ment has not helped mat­ters, ei­ther. How­ever, with the new Q5, the Ger­man brand is con­fi­dent buy­ers will once again turn their at­ten­tions In­gol­stadt’s way.

Like be­fore, Audi SA will of­fer the Q5 with the choice of three en­gine vari­ants, in­clud­ing the 140 kw/400 N.m 2,0 TDI and the 260 kw/500 N.m SQ5 – which ditches the pre­vi­ous model’s barn­storm­ing diesel en­gine in favour of a tur­bocharged 3,0-litre V6 petrol – as well as this mid­spec 2,0-litre tur­bopetrol.

Specification lev­els on the 2,0-litre vari­ants in­clude base and Sport, the lat­ter adding LED head­lamps, 18-inch wheels, sport seats and styling bits and bobs. These Sport mod­els cost R50 000 more than the com­pa­ra­ble en­try-level it­er­a­tions. The SQ5, mean­while, gets a bespoke pack­age of specification items.

Mea­sur­ing 4,66 by 1,89 me­tres long and wide, with 2,82 me­tres of clear­ance be­tween the axles, the new Q5 has been bumped up a size, os­ten­si­bly to make place for the up­com­ing Q3 that will be fuller fig­ured to, in turn, dis­tance it­self from the Q2. Audi claims the larger di­men­sions have been coun­tered by trim­ming up to 90 kg from the kerb weight.

Stylis­ti­cally, the new Q5

sharp­ens up the more rounded de­sign of the first-gen­er­a­tion model. More re­solved lat­eral lines, sim­pli­fied sur­fac­ing and the brand’s new sin­gle-frame grille punc­tu­ated by hor­i­zon­tal slats rep­re­sent a tighter de­sign ex­e­cu­tion that adds a lit­tle more vis­ual pur­pose. It cer­tainly looks up­mar­ket, although I sus­pect buy­ers might be left a lit­tle un­der­whelmed by the Audi­generic rear-end’s sim­i­lar­ity to that of the pre­vi­ous Q5.

Jump inside and the gen­er­a­tional shift is more ap­par­ent. Where the out­go­ing car had a cliff-like fa­cia, the new ver­sion in­cor­po­rates Audi’s lat­est flat­plane de­sign lan­guage that sees the 8,3-inch MMI in­fo­tain­ment screen sit­ting proud. It is now con­trolled by a ro­tary push­but­ton and a touch­pad sited for­ward of the gear­lever.

Ana­logue in­stru­men­ta­tion can be swapped out for an op­tional Vir­tual Cock­pit 12,3-inch dig­i­tal screen, and Audi’s lat­est ex­tent of safety sys­tems from the A4 and A5 can also be spec­i­fied for the com­pact SUV, plac­ing it at level two on the au­ton­o­mous-driv­ing scale (which means the driver still has to take over at in­ter­vals).

What ul­ti­mately sets the Q5’s in­te­rior apart, how­ever, is its sheer us­abil­ity. MMI is a dod­dle to tog­gle; the driv­ing po­si­tion is straight and com­fort­able; space all-round is ex­cel­lent; and the boot per­fectly ac­com­mo­dates a golf bag with clubs. Per­ceived qual­ity, too, feels a notch above that of the GLC.

All South African-bound Q5s have been spec­i­fied with Audi’s new Qu­at­tro Ul­tra all-wheeldrive sys­tem, which de­cou­ples the rear axle when it’s not needed – such as at a steadys­tate cruise – to lessen drag on the drivetrain and con­se­quently im­prove fuel con­sump­tion. On the 2,0T FSI, that means a claimed fuel-con­sump­tion fig­ure of just 6,8 L/100 km. That’s un­re­al­is­tic, as these things tend to be, but we man­aged to av­er­age a com­mend­able 8,2 L/100 km on a hilly route high­lighted by some spir­ited driv­ing.

And the 2,0T FSI is al­ways game for a spot of lead-foot­ing; the drivetrain of­fers hot hatch lev­els of pace cou­pled with a rorty sound­track and quick swaps from the seven-speed du­al­clutch transmission. My only cri­tique here would be that the soft­ware tends to hook a lower gear too soon in­stead of al­low­ing the en­gine’s plateau of torque to pro­pel the ve­hi­cle for­ward, mak­ing the 2,0-litre sound some­what fre­netic. The diesel’s S tronic cal­i­bra­tion is bet­ter.

Op­tional for the first time is air sus­pen­sion, which al­lows ad­just­ment of the ride height through five steps and does an ad­mirable job of smoth­er­ing poor sur­faces.

Over­all, the Q5 is a worth­while update of a much-loved prod­uct. Of­fer­ing more in­te­rior space, bet­ter over­all re­fine­ment and specification, plus the lat­est safety and con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions, it’s bound to reignite buy­ers’ in­ter­ests.

clock­wise from left Built on the new MLB Evo scal­able plat­form, the Q5 is the seg­ment’s claimed most aero­dy­nam­i­cally ef­fi­cient ve­hi­cle, with a Cd fig­ure of just 0,30; the driv­ing po­si­tion is per­fectly judged; rear legroom is up, but op­tional panoramic sun­roof does rob some head clear­ance; all mod­els have ei­ther xenon or LED head­lamps as stan­dard; boot grows by 60 litres.

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