Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 quattro S line
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.