Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 qu­at­tro S line

ROAD TEST

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK -

MODEL TESTED 2.0 TDI 190 QU­AT­TRO S TRONIC S LINE Price £40,290 Power 187bhp Torque 295lb ft 0-60mph 8.3sec 30-70mph in fourth na Fuel econ­omy 36.5mpg CO2 emis­sions 133g/km 70-0mph 53.3m

How­ever con­spic­u­ous the mark left by the Audi Q7, it was the smaller Q5 that re­ally un­corked the sales po­ten­tial of SUVS that its maker had been leav­ing hith­erto un­tapped when the model first ap­peared al­most a decade ago.

Launched against a back­drop of un­cer­tainty about whether buy­ers would take to a mid-size pseudo off-roader from In­gol­stadt, the Q5 de­liv­ered an em­phatic an­swer by smash­ing its sales tar­gets and be­com­ing the best-sell­ing car in its class for sev­eral years of its life.

Audi’s top ex­ec­u­tives wasted no op­por­tu­nity to crow about the sur­prise suc­cess of the Q7’s sib­ling. But then you might too if your new in­tro­duc­tion had come from nowhere to im­me­di­ately out-sell the likes of the BMW X3 and Land Rover Free­lander. It helped, of course, that the Q5 en­tered one of the fastest-grow­ing mar­ket niches in Europe, and it was un­der­lined by the fact that the first-gen­er­a­tion in­car­na­tion of the model reached more own­ers on our con­ti­nent in the fi­nal 12 months of its life than it had in its first full year on sale.

This time around, you can bet the im­por­tance of the Q5 will not be un­der­es­ti­mated. And in re­flec­tion of the fact that the out­go­ing model be­came a hugely suc­cess­ful global prod­uct over the course of its life (it at­tracted more buy­ers in China last year than it did in Europe and the US com­bined), the new one moves out of the orig­i­nal ver­sion’s Ger­man pro­duc­tion base at In­gol­stadt and into a con­sol­i­dated fa­cil­ity in San Jose Chi­apa, Mex­ico. Like so many of Audi’s other re­cent in­tro­duc­tions, it also moves onto the firm’s MLB Evo model plat­form, which not only al­lows it to grow slightly in all three ma­jor di­men­sions but also to hit a kerb weight that is on av­er­age 90kg less than that of its pre­de­ces­sor on a model-for-model ba­sis.

Audi is start­ing the UK model range small but will flesh it out later, initially giv­ing Bri­tish buy­ers the choice of 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel or a 249bhp 2.0-litre petrol turbo. Diesels of both lesser and greater out­puts should fol­low, along with the all­new, diesel-turned-petrol-turbo SQ5 per­for­mance de­riv­a­tive. We have elected to test the 2.0 TDI. DE­SIGN AND ENGI­NEER­ING In clas­sic Ger­man pre­mium-brand style, Audi has aimed the new Q5 SUV di­rectly at its near­est Teu­tonic ri­vals with ab­so­lute pre­ci­sion. The new car is within an inch of be­ing a per­fect match for a BMW X3 or a Mercedes-benz GLC on over­all length, while a Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport is a touch shorter at the kerb and a Jaguar F-pace a gnat’s whisker longer. That would sug­gest, quite rightly, that Audi is tar­get­ing the cen­tre of the pre­mium-brand mid­sized SUV mar­ket here. The car is grow­ing with the class, not within it.

The new Q5’s styling is a touch more mas­cu­line and as­sertive than that of the old model. The firm’s new dom­i­nant sin­gle-frame grille is the crowning glory of a de­sign lan­guage in­tended as the out­ward

ex­pres­sion of the kind of ob­ses­sion with tech­ni­cal pre­ci­sion that gives you body pan­els pressed with remarkable sur­face com­plex­ity and fit­ted with per­fectly aligned creases while over­lap­ping their neigh­bours in un­con­ven­tional ways. The car’s out­line is one with raked pil­lars and a less boxy pro­file than those of most of its ri­vals, which is partly why so many will per­ceive the car as more stylish than its peers. Over­all, it’s not dif­fi­cult to see why cus­tomers may like the way this car looks – but it’s hard to imag­ine be­ing ex­cited by it.

Un­der the skin, the Q5’s bodyin-white is a match for that of the lat­est A4 and A5, be­ing a mix of alu­minium and steel. Sus­pen­sion is all-in­de­pen­dent, with a new fivelink chas­sis hav­ing been de­vel­oped in or­der for the car to work across a broad choice of sus­pen­sion op­tions. En­try-level Q5s come with steel coil springs, while our S line-spec­i­fi­ca­tion test car sits on pas­sively damped and low­ered sport sus­pen­sion, which is a no-cost op­tion. The as-stan­dard sus­pen­sion is ‘dynamic com­fort’. Adap­tively damped com­fort sus­pen­sion or a vari­able-height air sys­tem are avail­able at ex­tra cost. Audi’s vari­able-ra­tio dynamic steer­ing is an­other op­tion not fit­ted to our car.

For now, all ver­sions of the Q5 come with a seven-speed dual-clutch au­to­matic gear­box and also with Audi’s new clutch-based ‘qu­at­tro ul­tra’ four-wheel drive sys­tem, which brings the rear part of the trans­mis­sion into play only when the car’s elec­tronic brain de­cides it’s needed. Only the top-level 3.0 TDI and SQ5 mod­els will get the cen­tre dif­fer­en­tial-based per­ma­nent four­wheel drive sys­tems we’ve as­so­ci­ated with Audi for so long – and only those ver­sions can be equipped with a lock­ing ‘sport’ rear dif­fer­en­tial. IN­TE­RIOR If you’re fa­mil­iar with other re­cent Audis, this is the section of the road test you could write hav­ing tested the car blind­folded. It’s now com­mon think­ing in the car in­dus­try that if you want to see a bench­mark in­te­rior, you look at an Audi, and the Q5 is as pre­dictable as a straight Rory Mcil­roy drive off the tee, land­ing right where you’d ex­pect it to be.

Shall we start with the driv­ing po­si­tion? We might as well, be­cause in some re­cent Audis an off­set po­si­tion­ing has been the one thing you might like to crit­i­cise. No such drama here, though: the wheel sits dead cen­tre of the seat, and al­though the brake and ac­cel­er­a­tor ped­als are both off­set, it’s to the right, where

you’d hope. The seven-speed dual-clutch auto ’box means there’s no clutch pedal to bother about.

You sit lower than you might in a Dis­cov­ery Sport – or that’s how it feels, ow­ing to the Q5’s higher win­dow line, which gives a greater sense of car-like­ness. Even so, there’s enough el­e­va­tion here to keep buy­ers want­ing a tall seat­ing po­si­tion happy.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion in the rear is good, too. There’s enough space for adults to sit be­hind adults, which is about the best you can ask for, while the Q5’s lug­gage bay di­men­sions have pre­sum­ably been rub­ber-stamped some­where with the In­gol­stadt equiv­a­lent of ‘re­quire­ments met’.

At its widest, the boot is a golf club-ac­com­mo­dat­ing 1300mm and it’s al­most a me­tre long with the rear seats in place. Fold­ing them is the work of a mo­ment and re­sults in a fa­mil­iar 1800mm load length, while load height to the lug­gage cover is 510mm and to the ceil­ing it’s 800mm. In all, then, the kinds of num­bers that roll out of our tape mea­sure with as­ton­ish­ing con­sis­tency with big Volk­swa­gen Group cars.

Also as­ton­ish­ingly con­sis­tent is this Audi’s fit and fin­ish. Ma­te­rial choice is strong, as ever: go look­ing for the ar­eas where they’ve scrimped and saved and you’ll be look­ing a while. But­tons, switches and the MMI in­ter­face con­troller all op­er­ate with smooth ef­fi­ciency, and di­als and read­outs are all per­fectly clear. If you were picky you might ask for a bit more flair and char­ac­ter – some­thing like Mini man­ages to lob into a cabin, for ex­am­ple – but sales vol­umes sug­gest that, more of­ten than not, peo­ple want a high-class in­te­rior that just works. Here, they’ve got one. PER­FOR­MANCE On the day we fig­ured the Audi Q5, we hap­pened to have along an equiv­a­lent Land Rover Dis­cov­ery Sport and a Mercedes-benz GLC. They were present more for ride and han­dling com­par­isons than sim­ple per­for­mance fig­ures, but the dig­its that emerged are sig­nif­i­cant enough.

In the bench­mark 0-60mph sprint, the Audi and Mercedes nudged close to each other. The GLC just dipped un­der eight sec­onds, the Audi just over. At this point, for­get the Land Rover, which is more than a sec­ond slower than the Audi. Over a stand­ing quarter mile it’s a sim­i­lar story: the Mercedes is still nar­rowly the more ac­cel­er­a­tive, plus it has the edge on in-gear flex­i­bil­ity, which is what re­ally mat­ters. Onto a level slip road it will ac­cel­er­ate from 30-70mph in 7.8sec, while the Audi wants 8.5sec.

The Audi’s gearing is a lit­tle un­usual, be­ing con­sid­er­ably lower than the Mercedes in the first five gears, then about equal in sixth and far longer in sev­enth. You’d think there were big gaps in the up­per gears (well, there are), but such is the S tronic gear­box’s abil­ity to shuf­fle be­tween ra­tios that it’s not some­thing you’d no­tice un­less you chose to pay it sig­nif­i­cant at­ten­tion. Per­haps it’s one rea­son why the Mercedes’ en­gine seems more muted, more of­ten, than the Audi’s, the gearing of which has pos­si­bly been op­ti­mised more for leg­isla­tive drive cy­cles. Or per­haps it’s just the in­stal­la­tion.

Ei­ther way, if you hadn’t been told, you’d prob­a­bly not no­tice, and ei­ther way, it’s a darn sight qui­eter than the Dis­cov­ery Sport, whose In­ge­nium en­gine is fre­quently at the fore­front of your mind as it grum­bles away ahead of you, seem­ingly putting in more ef­fort than the Audi or Mercedes for con­sid­er­ably less re­turn.

The Q5’s brake pedal feel is good, and its slow­ing abil­ity is strong. RIDE AND HAN­DLING You can con­sider this section to be the short­est ride and han­dling group test in his­tory, fea­tur­ing the Q5, the GLC and the Dis­cov­ery Sport. And it might be a sur­prise to you – as it was to us – to find that the Audi is the most agile of the trio. It prob­a­bly shouldn’t have been a shock, be­cause at a claimed 1770kg at the kerb, the Audi weighs less than the 1845kg Mercedes, and re­gard­less how light Land Rover has made the Dis­cov­ery Sport, it is a car that must go far­ther off-road than the other two, so you’d ex­pect more axle ar­tic­u­la­tion and more body lean – which you get.

De­spite the Audi’s 19in rims, though, the Q5 isn’t the brit­tle, hard-

The Q5 con­tains its tall body with as much alacrity as some far lower-rid­ing cars

edged car you might ex­pect it would be. Granted, its ride is less iso­lated than that of the GLC, but there’s more in­her­ent sup­ple­ness in to­day’s Audis than there was, say, five years ago, and the Q5 is as ab­sorbent as you’d re­al­is­ti­cally ex­pect it to be – if not quite as ab­sorbent as you’d want all the time, given that sud­den sur­face im­per­fec­tions can cause an un­der­body ker­fuf­fle.

And on the up­side, the Q5’s body con­trol is good. Around Mill­brook’s han­dling cour­ses and on de­cent back roads out­side, the Q5 con­tains its tall body with as much alacrity as some far lower-rid­ing cars, is happy to change di­rec­tion eas­ily and doesn’t give too much away to a more con­ven­tional ex­ec­u­tive car.

Not that it does this with any great re­ward. The Q5’s steer­ing is more numb than that of any­thing in the class and light in weight most of the time, ex­cept on the way out of a cor­ner when it gains un­ex­pected heft and self-cen­tring. More nat­u­rally, the ex­tra weight would come mid-cor­ner when loads are higher.

So that’s odd, espe­cially com­pared with the other de­cent cars in this class. Any­thing made by JLR tends to steer well, al­though the Dis­cov­ery Sport’s rim kicks back more than that of the Audi, while the Mercedes has a rou­tinely heav­ier, but slicker, rack than the Q5. But as it is the Q5 is a de­cent steer­ing sys­tem away from be­ing quite an en­gag­ing car to drive.

BUY­ING AND OWN­ING

Judg­ing by list price only, the Q5 may for now look a touch ex­pen­sive – at least un­til Audi fleshes out the more af­ford­able end of the model range. But the truth is that, as ever, the com­pany has done a very thor­ough job of de­liv­er­ing the car to the cus­tomer as a rel­a­tively at­trac­tive value propo­si­tion.

If you were a buyer con­sid­er­ing the jump up from, say, an equiv­a­lent A4 Avant, our test car would rep­re­sent a list price pre­mium of less than £2500 (some of which could be off­set against the more gen­er­ous stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion). For a com­pany car tax payer, the dif­fer­ence in ben­e­fit in kind li­a­bil­ity to the smaller es­tate is just 2% of list price – which be­gins to show how Audi makes it so easy to mi­grate into an SUV.

Against its im­me­di­ate ri­vals, our Audi test car was nar­rowly beaten on CO2 emis­sions by a like­for-like GLC250D, with a fig­ure of 133g/km to the Mercedes’ 129g/ km, but it bet­ters its op­po­si­tion from BMW and Land Rover. What makes it cheaper to own than both the Dis­cov­ery Sport and the GLC are the rel­a­tively at­trac­tive con­tract hire and PCP deals, which, our sources sug­gest, would de­liver the busi­ness user a £50 per month sav­ing against the Mercedes and an even big­ger one against the Land Rover.

Orig­i­nal Q5 be­came a big seller for Audi

The boot lip is a lit­tle high, but the over­all di­men­sions of the lug­gage space are good. You can drop the rear seats for­ward re­motely via a han­dle by the bootlid.

The front seats of the Q5 are large, com­fort­able and about as sup­port­ive as you could re­al­is­ti­cally hope for in an SUV.

The rear seats are broad enough for three peo­ple, com­fort­able enough and of­fer de­cent enough vis­i­bil­ity for rear pas­sen­gers on long jour­neys.

New Q5 has lost weight to the ben­e­fit of agility and body con­trol, and it rides with more sup­ple­ness. The steer­ing, though, feels numb and has un­nat­u­ral weight­ing.

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