Ring­ing the changes in smash-hit SUV

Audi’s hugely pop­u­lar fam­ily mo­tor just got even bet­ter, writes Matt Allan

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - CARS -

Audi’s Q5 has been one of the big suc­cess sto­ries of the cur­rent SUV craze.The first gen­er­a­tion’s blend of tough looks, strong driv­e­trains and pre­mium feel made it a huge hit with buy­ers.

Time marches on, though, and so Audi has been busy with the span­ners.

The sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Q5 is big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor in ev­ery di­rec­tion yet, thanks to some sharp new styling, man­ages to look less cum­ber­some in the metal.

That ex­pan­sion up and out means that there’s more room for pas­sen­gers and lug­gage than be­fore. From a front-seat per­spec­tive that’s great – there’s loads of room in ev­ery di­rec­tion and plenty of ad­just­ment means driv­ers of all shapes and sizes can get com­fort­able. In the back it’s not quite so ca­pa­cious but you’re un­likely to hear much com­plaint even from adult pas­sen­gers, thanks to slid­ing and re­clin­ing rear seats.

Be­hind them, there’s 10 litres more boot space than be­fore and the 550-litre space is per­fectly suited to the de­mands of fam­ily life. All Q5s have a pow­ered tail­gate but our test car added hands-free oper­a­tion.

The S Line spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the test car also packed in some fancy trim touches, sculpted sports seats and a flat-bot­tomed steer­ing wheel. They all looked very nice but I’m not sure a two-litre diesel fam­ily SUV re­ally needs a flat­bot­tomed steer­ing wheel.

That aside, there’s very lit­tle to crit­i­cise in the cabin. It’s a cliche to talk about the high stan­dard of Audi’s in­te­ri­ors but they re­ally are among the best in the busi­ness, with an im­pec­ca­ble com­bi­na­tion of ma­te­ri­als and build qual­ity.

There’s also plenty of equip­ment, with the likes of three-zone cli­mate con­trol, a seven-inch MMI touch­screen with voice con­trol, and cruise con­trol as stan­dard along­side safety tech­nolo­gies rang­ing from six air bags to col­li­sion de­tec­tio­nand mit­i­ga­tion sys­tems.

Piled onto that in the test car were the eye-catch­ing Vir­tual Cock­pit that re­places the in­stru­ments with a con­fig­urable 12.3-inch dis­play, and MMI nav­i­ga­tion plus which brings Google Earth mapping into the car on an 8.3-inch dis­play. It looks stun­ning and works bril­liantly, although whether the me­dia sys­tem is an over­all match for BMW’s iDrive is a tough call.

In terms of driv­e­train your choice is diesel or petrol – all Q5s come with four-wheeldrive and a seven-speed S tronic gear­box. Our car was the four-cylin­der diesel, good for 187bhp and with enough per­for­mance to meet most fam­ily users’ needs. While its re­fine­ment and power is im­pres­sive enough the real star is the gear­box. It’s so smooth that the dash read­out is the only in­di­ca­tion you’re chang­ing gear.

The of­fi­cial econ­omy fig­ure for the diesel is 56.5mpg, but real-world driv­ing will get you around 40mpg judg­ing by the car’s long-term trip com­puter.

It’s an oft-re­peated com­plaint that Audis’ ride can be overly firm and our car’s sport sus­pen­sion cer­tainly left it open to such ac­cu­sa­tions. Even in com­fort set­ting it trans­mit­ted a lot of the worst road sur­faces up into the cabin. Of course, in ex­change for putting up with that you’ll be re­warded with ex­cel­lent body con­trol and com­po­sure on twist­ing roads.

If you can live with the firm ride or only drive on smooth Tar­mac, the Q5 is a calm, quiet and re­fined cruiser. Add in a spa­cious and bril­liantly fin­ished in­te­rior and bun­dles of the lat­est tech­nol­ogy and it makes a strong case for it­self as a de­sir­able fam­ily wagon.

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