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Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - 2.0 TDi

Our Opinion

We like
Extra equipment justifies luxury car price-tag, more front-seat storage options, sliding rear-seats add to versatility, electric tailgate makes Q5 more urban-friendly.
Room for improvement
Easy to catch the stop-start system asleep, dual-clutch gearbox still makes fine work such as parking and reversing a chore, ride now more fidgety at speed, expensive options list.

Audi logo5 Apr 2013

By BARRY PARK

Price and equipment

Despite its new looks and extra features, Audi has frozen the price of its entry-level Q5 at the old model’s luxury car tax-beating $62,200 price-tag. That alone should pique a buyer’s interest.

Sit inside, though, and you’ll notice many more changes that add weight to the idea the Q5 is priced much better than it was.

For the first time, the Q5 gets electrically adjustable front seats that include lumbar support.

Reach down between your legs, and you’ll notice there’s now a shallow storage bin tucked in under the seat that improves the cabin’s once spartan small-item storage options.

Getting into the base-model Q5 is now a lot easier, too, with a smart key that allows doors to open without having to push a button, and an electric-lift tailgate operated either via the key fob or a switch on the driver’s door.

Wheels increase to 18-inch alloys, and you even get a remote tyre pressure monitor to warn if a tyre is losing air. Audi claims that while the price hasn’t increased, the extra gear adds $6500 in value.

The entry-level Q5 is still more than $8800 more costly than the equivalent all-paw, diesel-engined new kid on the block, the Range Rover Evoque, but by the time you add the same level of optional gear to match the Audi’s standard fit-out, that saving soon evaporates.

Carryover standard kit includes an audio input for music players, a Bluetooth phone connection that also streams music, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, electric parking brake, leather-trimmed seats, driving lights, roof rails and an electronic stability control program that automatically adjusts should you dare to try a bit of mud-plugging.

Outside, there’s new headlights, a changed six-corner grille that gives the impression of a wider stance, while down the rear the LED tail-lights that lift with the tailgate appear to wrap around the body.

Importantly, lift the tailgate and you’ll notice that Audi has added a couple of lights to both sides of the bumper to alert oncoming traffic that you’re there.

Options are still expensive. Metallic paint is a $1424 impost, and a reversing camera is part of a $3808 package that also adds sat-nav and temperature-contolled rear-seat air vents.

Interior

Audi has matched the fresh-faced exterior with an equally tweaked interior that improves on the superseded model.

The interior looks a little more sophisticated. Satin-look silver, not black, buttons surround the centre console-mounted dial that is used to control the big dash-mounted seven-inch colour screen.

Fit and finish oozes the typical Audi quality, and joins are razor-sharp.

An electronic parking brake opens up acres of real estate in between the seats that is mainly taken up by large cupholders.

Even the steering wheel is replaced, and features two different designs depending on which model you choose. Our entry-level car gets the four-spoke design, while the more powerful ones get a square-bottomed three-spoke theme.

The front seats are a lot more comfortable thanks to newly added electric adjustment, and combined with the tilt-and-reach steering, finding a good driving position is easy. There’s no memory function, though.

Audi prides itself on the quality of its audio systems, and the 10-speaker layout of the Q5 doesn’t disappoint.

The nicely hushed cabin will be a boon for audiophiles, although instead of a dash-mounted USB port there is still a pair of SD-card slots hidden behind a drop-down panel.

The soft-roading Audi has also had a reputation for its interior versatility, and the refreshed one doesn’t disappoint.

The rear seats slide and tilt, and will flip forward at the pull of a boot-mounted lever to create a wide, flat space for luggage.

Engine and transmission

The 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is the least powerful in the Q5 line-up, and at 130kW produces an extra 5kW over the model it replaces.

The diesel’s trump card is its amount of torque, or pulling power. The old model produced 350Nm of the stuff from not far off idle, but the retuned engine delivers an extra 30Nm.

That bestows the Q5 with V6-like performance - although that’s while rolling rather than trying to sprint away from a standing start at the traffic lights, where once again you’re reminded it is only a small engine.

Despite the chunkier performance, fuel economy takes a dive, falling from a combined average of 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres to 6.1L/100km. Emissions likewise fall from 179 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide to 159g/km.

It’s helped by a start-stop system that saves fuel by shutting off the engine when it is normally idling, and restarting it once the driver’s foot lifts off the brake pedal.

The stop-start system works well, but it is easy to catch it asleep if you need a sudden burst of acceleration shortly after stopping. You can switch it off to keep the motor running.

Audi has stuck with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic for the base-model Q5, and it carries over the same foibles.

That translates to jerky low-speed manoeuvres as the clutches snatch and let go. It’s invisible while rolling, but ever-present when trying to make small, precise movements such as nosing into a car park.

The electric handbrake includes a hill hold function that will stop the car rolling backwards on hills, which given the gearbox’s imprecise action is a big help.

Ride and handling

The Q5 includes even more aluminium body parts than before, most notably on the bonnet and rear tailgate skins. Overall, the engineering boffins have helped the soft-roader shed more than 100kg, although it still weighs in at almost 1900kg.

You will notice a difference in the ride compared with the old model, because the new one doesn’t feel as comfortable on the road as the old despite an emphasis on making it a lot more comfortable than before.

What was once smooth and compliant at speed is now a little less refined, tending to bounce a bit over the sharper bumps.

Slow down, though, and the suspension works a lot better at ensuring the lumps and bumps of the road surface are isolated from the cabin.

Also new with this model is a move to electrically assisted steering. Audi has helped drivers by serving up a “Drive Select” button that allows them to decide just how much assistance the system provides, ranging from city-friendly light to what we’d optimistically rate as twisty road-rated meaty.

The Q5 is still a bit of a behemoth on the road thanks to the legacy of all that bulk, and handles like it. Cornering is flat and composed, although the shift in weight becomes apparent pretty early on as the centre of gravity rolls from one side to the other.

Grip from the all-wheel-drive system is good, although push too hard and the Q5’s nose will start to slide safely and predictably wide.

Ground clearance is generous at 200mm, but with the wheels pushed a long way fore and aft exposing a long belly, you’re best to stick to gravel roads rather than head bush. If you want to go seriously off-road, go and kick tyres at Land Rover and buy a Range Rover Evoque with all the off-road running gear.

Safety and servicing

Eight airbags and a top five-star crash safety rating carry over. There’s also the grippy Quattro all-wheel-drive system that will come in handy on a run up to the snow.

Audi fixes a three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty to all of its cars. However, for an extra fee you can extend that by up to two years or 160,000 kilometres, get access to roadside assistance and even receive Audi’s official magazine.

Verdict

Audi’s Q5 has lifted its game in the face of a stunning new rival - Range Rover’s Evoque - that turns the luxury soft-roader into as much a fashion accessory as it is a modern-day convenience.

By comparison, the Q5 is more understatedly conservative, although now represents better value than it has before. Inside has had a big lift to add much-needed storage space, but still has that premium feel despite its changes.

In the metal, the Q5 shows promises of what is beyond the urban fringe.

Under the skin, though, it is still very much a city slicker.

Rivals

Range Rover Evoque SD4 Pure:
, From $59,875 before on-roads. Five doors, a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that crushes the Q5’s numbers, and that wedge-shaped styling that has redefined the class. Three-door version available, and sharp driving, too. Factor in the cost of optioning it up, and note the class-lagging four-star crash rating.

BMW X3 xDrive20d:
, From $63,100 before on-roads. Slightly boofy to look at, cramped interior, but sets a new standard in the class with an eight-speed auto and reversing camera. Its Q5-rivalling 2.0-litre diesel includes similar clever stop-start system that gives it a pretty sharp 5.6L/100km fuel use average.

Specs

MAKE/MODEL: Audi Q5 2.0TDI
, ENGINE: 1968cc 4-cyl turbo diesel
, LAYOUT: AWD, longitudinal
, POWER: 130kW @ 4200rpm
, TORQUE: 380Nm @ 1750-2500rpm
, TRANSMISSION: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
, 0-100km: 9.0s
, TOP SPEED: 200km/h
, FUEL: 6.1L/100km
, CO2: 159g/km
, L/W/H/W’BASE: 4629/1898/1655/2807mm
, WEIGHT: 1770kg
, SUSPENSION f/r: Five-link upper and lower wishbone/trapezoidal link
, STEERING: Electromechanical rack and pinion
, BRAKES f/r: Ventillated discs/discs
, PRICE: From $62,200 plus on-roads

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