After eight years, has the new Audi Q5 been worth the wait?
Let’s face it: the Audi Q5 was getting just a little long in the tooth. Yes, it’s been a top seller for Audi, finding more than 1,6-million buyers during its lifespan. But with competition in the SUV segment hotting up, it was time for something fresher.
The result is a completely redesigned, second-generation Q5 that expresses the German marque’s latest design language without rocking the aesthetic boat too dramatically.
Thus, the shape and proportions are familiar, but the stance is sportier and chunkier, and the previous model’s rounded, slightly podgy demeanour has made way for leaner, edgier look.
Some of the aesthetic details echo those of the smaller and more radical Q2 crossover, including the more angular single-frame grille, the slimmer headlights and the more sculpted flanks.
But the Q5’s look also maintains a certain elegance, compared to the Q2’s more youthful approach. It’s bigger than the original, despite shedding around 90 kg. And the sleeker shape makes for more efficient (and best-in-class) aerodynamics.
The real changes are under the skin: the new Q5 is based on the VW Group’s lightweight, stiff and modular MBL platform. The associated use of aluminium and high-tensile steel explains the trimmer mass, and the improvement in overall body integrity.
Step inside, and you’ll encounter a cabin that’s roomier, particularly for rear occupants. The boot now swallows 610 litres of cargo. Need more? Folding flat the split rear bench seat boosts luggage space to 1 550 litres.
Audi’s tradition of creating cabins with astute ergonomics and sophisticated design still rings true in the latest Q5. The look and feel is smart, with a large, centrally located colour screen for the infotainment system, assisted by Audi’s rotary controller and a dedicated touchpad with handwriting recognition for data input.
QUALITY AND TECH
The Virtual Cockpit – a configurable TFT display ahead of the driver that replaces conventional instruments – remains an added cost option, and a dear one at that, because it’s packaged with Audi’s satnav system. At this level, those instruments should be standard …
The aura of quality is tangible, and comfort levels are high, thanks to a decent level of specification. Buyers get to choose between baseline and Sport executions, with the latter adding R50k to the price, while offering extras such as bigger alloy wheels, LED headlights, colour-coded bumpers and sport seats.
There are three drivetrains to choose from, all featuring quattro all-wheel drive. The most affordable of those is the 2.0 TDI, which delivers 140 kW of power and 400 Nm of torque, and is also likely to be the most popular model in the line-up. The four-cylinder turbodiesel is coupled to a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch transmission.
For petrol fans, the 2.0 TFSI combines 185 kW of power with 370 Nm of torque, and is perhaps the surprise of the range, mainly because it delivers ample punch and a genrous torque band, together with silky levels of refinement.
Topping the new Q5 range is the sporty SQ5 flagship, which swaps the previous model’s diesel power for Audi’s latest petrol-driven 3,0-litre V6 turbo, rated at 260 kW and 500 Nm. An eight-speed Tiptronic auto gearbox is standard.
On the road, the most telling impression of the new Q5 is one of refinement: noise levels are impressively low for a generously proportioned SUV, and the Audi feels rock-solid and composed, regardless of speed, road surface or conditions.
With ample low-down shove and slick shifts, the Q5’s dynamics are effortless across all three drivetrains. Drive select, which offers a selection of driving modes, allows elements such as throttle response, steering and gearbox reactions to be adapted to suit personal preference.
The quattro ultra system (standard on the TDI and 2.0 TFSI models) only brings the rear wheels into play when traction is compromised, and does so seamlessly. As a result, the Q5 tracks the chosen line with real confidence, even at high speeds on undulating surfaces, or even gravel.
STAR OF THE SHOW
While the 2.0 TDI provides the best mix of tractability, low-down urge and response, it’s the 2.0 TFSI that shines brightest in this group. There’s real sparkle to its straightline performance, and it responds to driver input with an alacrity that will please enthusiasts.
That said, the SUV’s inherent class is never compromised, and it’s as at home performing urban commuting duties as it is tackling a twisty mountain pass, or threading its way through some remote gravel routes.
The SQ5 is easily the most dynamic member of the Q5 pack, with an attitude that’s more sports car than sports utility. At 5,4 sec for the 0-100 km/h dash, and a 250 km/h top speed, it’s a rapid beast, but the stiffer set-up compromises outright finesse – and all-round versatility.
The new Audi Q5 represents a big step up from the previous model in almost every respect. But it’s the overall integrity of the SUV – the way it soaks up the rough stuff without resorting to soggy damping, the way it corners with plenty of precision and little in the way of lean or roll – that makes this new version really special.
Q5 2.0 TDI quattro S-tronic: R698 000
Q5 2.0 TDI quattro S-tronic Sport: R748 000
Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic: R747 500
Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro S-tronic Sport: R797 500
SQ5 3.0 TFSI quattro Tiptronic: R1 044 000