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Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - 2.0 TDI and 3.0 FSI

Our Opinion

We like
Exterior design, cabin presentation, 2.0 TDI handling, refinement and driveability, 3.2 FSI’s power, safety, rear-seat versatility
Room for improvement
3.2 FSI’s firm ride without Drive Direct auto-dampers, expensive options (such as $6000 sat-nav!)

Audi logo29 May 2009

LIKE the closely related A4, the Q5 range's on-road behaviour depends on which model you choose, as well as which of the expensive option boxes you tick.

We know already that the 155kW/350Nm 2.0 TFSI quattro drivetrain is the sweetest, since the engine hanging over the front wheels is the lightest in the Q5 model range.

The new 125kW/350Nm 2.0 TDI is one of the best diesels available, thanks to its seamless and unruffled performance delivery, combined with excellent real-world economy.

Mated to the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox formerly known as DSG, there is a smooth and progressive surge of power, incredibly low noise levels and adequate response when you need to overtake.

Only high-speed uphill acceleration betrays this engine’s relatively small capacity, but otherwise the 2.0 TDI makes an appealing addition to the Q5 range.

Our example had the benefit of the $3050 Direct Drive (DD) option, adding adjustable dampers into the mix, and this proved to be an impressive combination.

Since the dampers continuously adjust to compensate for all sorts of driving and road environment conditions, the hefty weight increase of the 2.0 TDI can be partly neutralised by DD, meaning that this Q5 does not feel ponderous or nose heavy at all.

And while the quick-witted and responsive steering is a little short on feedback, it reveals a car-orientated SUV that will go where it is pointed, absorbing all manner of surface irregularities with sufficient aplomb.

There is still a firmness to the ride quality, but at least the 2.0 TDI with DD does a fine job cosseting its occupants – certainly more than the porkier 3.2 FSI.

This engine makes the nose feel a little more cumbersome and heavy, and the fact that the frankly-necessary DD damper option was missing just highlighted the differences between this and its smaller-engine sibling.

In a straight line, and with 199kW of power and 330Nm of torque to play with, progress is ultra smooth and pleasingly quick, aided by the sheer eagerness of that S-tronic DSG gearbox to be in the right ratio at the right time.

But corners that had the hunkered down 2.0 TDI DD flowing sweetly made the Q5 3.2 FSI seem a little bit ponderous and heavy, while the ride quality deteriorated into a busy and at times hard jiggle when the roads roughed up a little.

However, we feel that – ride issues aside – most Q5 buyers will be more interested in how accommodating this good looking luxury SUV is, and on these counts the Audi remains true to the marque.

The A4-like dashboard is a living and breathing example on how to design and present one, with its beautifully finished and expertly chosen surfaces.

Short and tall drivers alike should have no problem finding the ideal seating position since the chair is supportive, multi-adjustable and well placed in relation to all the important switches and controls, while the peace inside the rest of the cabin is maintained, thanks to a richly cocooning environment.

You would be hard pressed (literally as well as metaphorically) to squeeze three adults across the rear seats, but as a result of its sliding mechanism, most people out back should have no issue with finding adequate amounts of leg and knee room.

The high quality theme extends to the tailgate section, which opens up a wide and quite deep load area with the sort of trim and materials that make you dread putting anything dirty or undeserving inside.

Thankfully, Audi has thought of that even, since an all-weather cargo lining area is available by flipping the Q5’s boot floor.

Looking at the Q5’s model mix figures, it is understandable why 70 per cent of all buyers will choose one of the two four-cylinder models on offer, because they offer such a balanced performance/economy equation, with the added bonus of good driveability and relatively low prices thrown in.

No, the Q5 is not as much fun to drive as a BMW X3, as off-road capable as the Land Rover Freelander II, or as comfortable as the plush Volvo XC60, but it is a great all-rounder and a dead-cert pleasurable ownership experience.

It’s just that fewer cylinders give you more in this four-by-four.

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