The second generation Audi Q5 has finally arrived in South Africa, after making its international debut in late 2016, and we sampled the executive premium SUV in the Western Cape.
There’s no room for error in the premium SUV market nowadays. If you want to compete, you’ve got to go all in and be the best. And Audi’s best, it would seem, has again come in the form of a compact premium SUV. By improving on the formula that led to almost 12,000 of the first generation Q5 being sold here since inception, the Ingolstadt brand likely hopes to continue that success with the new car. And new it is. Well, mostly.
Under the skin, the Q5 is a whole different beast, with Audi bringing the full might of their technological prowess to bear on the Q5.
The car is larger than the previous, yet it cuts a rather similar silhouette to its older sibling, although the headlights and grille setup have been substantially enhanced. It may be bigger, but it is also lighter, thanks to Audi’s clever use of lightweight materials in the overall design.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
Launching with three engine options – a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel and turbo petrol, and a V6 3.0-litre turbocharged leviathan – and all three were driven during the launch event.
Audi fleshes out the lineup with two variants of either the petrol or diesel versions, while all models get automatic transmission and the latest generation quattro all-wheel-drive system.
Entry to the range is at R698,000 for the standard 2.0 TDI quattro, while its petrol equivalent tips the scale at a slightly meatier R747,500.
The SQ5 flagship is decked out in unique kit and commands a cool R1,044,000 sticker price.
INTERIOR DESIGN & QUALITY
We have long admired the minimalist yet functional Audi interior design philosophy, and Ingolstadt’s interior engineers have managed an exceptional cabin yet again.
Naturally, trim level is dictated by price (there is a R50,000 jump from base to Sport grades) and most imported Q5s will likely be fitted with some optional spec that will, equally likely, be upsold to customers from the dealer floor.
The list of discretionary extras is extensive, although Audi has been relatively generous with levels of standard specification from the base model upward. On the outside, Xenon headlights, a tyre monitoring system on the 17” alloy wheels, and rear park assist is standard, while the interior receives Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate control, and USB connectivity.
Obviously, the list of available interior enhancements is extensive, if not always necessary. At launch, all models were fitted with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which is on its worst day one of the best interactive driver instrument interfaces on the market. Sure, you’ll have to fork out an additional R33,000 (R7,000 for the interface and R26,000 for MMI Navigation Plus), but the overall improvement of the driving experience is thoroughly worth it. Audi’s smartphone interface is also advised, which will set you back R4,180.
DRIVING THE CHANGE
There was never a doubt in my mind that Q5 two point oh would be a winner; after all, it’s built on the same MLB platform as its larger Q7 sibling. The driving experience is thus predictably smooth, with the optional air suspension adding ride options between Comfort and Dynamic.
Low levels of noise vibration and harshness (NVH) characterise the new Q5, with wind noise being almost imperceptible at high speed.
Even in diesel guise, there is little to no cabin intrusion of errant noises, despite having ample and a track record for reasonable fuel consumption.
“THERE WAS NEVER A DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT Q5 TWO POINT OH WOULD BE A WINNER; AFTER ALL, IT’S BUILT ON THE SAME MLB PLATFORM AS ITS LARGER Q7 SIBLING.”
The outgoing SQ5 was a reasonable enough performer to create a small yet purposeful niche following for the hot crossover. Now, Audi has transplanted the S5’s 3.0-litre V6 into the new Q5, given it a Porsche-derived eight-speed dual clutch transmission, and specced it to the hilt with tech goodies.
It is a smart performer, and at launch was the absolute pick of the bunch.
Churning out 260 kW and 500 Nm of torque, the new SQ5 is claimed to see off the zero to 100-km/h sprint in 5.6 seconds. It will then run comfortably up to its limited maximum speed of 250 km/h, a claim that we don’t doubt at all. It sounds the part too, delivering a similar exhaust note than the S5 – from whence the engine cometh – and an equally sexy turn of speed.
Firing the first salvo in what promises to be a battle royal in the premium SUV segment in 2018, Audi has timed the introduction perfectly to coincide with new or updated offerings from most of its rivals; including the Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, and the much anticipated Jaguar E-Pace. It is accomplished, refined, and now more drivable, although it is visually not as distinctive as the new Q7 when it arrived, there is little doubt that Audi fans who are looking to upgrade or replace will take a serious look at the Q5.
Audi provides a standard one-year unlimited mileage warranty on all its cars and includes a 5-year/100,000 km maintenance plan on the Q5.