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Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - range

Our Opinion

We like
Improved value, improved efficiency and performance, quality, design, cabin versatility, extra driver-assistance and multimedia tech, more standard features, better safety
Room for improvement
Steering light on feedback, firm ride on 18-inch-plus wheels, some road noise, options still expensive

14 Dec 2012

IT ISN’T hard to figure out why the Q5 has become Audi’s best seller in Australia and the strongest performer in the mid-sized premium SUV class world-wide.

Attractive yet purposeful styling, an interior crafted to a standard few can approach (let alone exceed), space to move combined with family friendly versatility (even the rear seats slide and re-configure for extra practicality), refined and efficient drivetrains and impressive on-road capabilities all provide compelling reasons to choose one over a BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque, or Volvo XC60.

But there were small chinks in the Ingolstadt SUV’s armour, including languid acceleration in the base 125kW/350Nm 2.0 TDI quattro, expensive options, and – surprising for an German luxury brand – a lag behind the best in terms of driver-assistance and multimedia tech.

So it’s no surprise that Audi has tackled most of the obvious shortfalls head-on, beginning with increased standard features for no or little extra cost, more accessibly priced options (adaptive cruise control is now almost half the price and around twice as effective), up-to-date media connectivity, and upgraded active safety devices.

Plus, the sheer ambience of these vehicles is as alluring as ever inside.

The result is a subtly updated – or should that be invisible to spot the differences – Q5 Series II for 2013 that is still right up with the segment leaders in the desirability stakes.

However there is room for more improvement.

Firstly, the volume-selling 2.0 TDI quattro – now pumping out 130kW/380Nm – still has its work cut out in terms of getting a move on, due to laggy responses from the otherwise impressively refined (and quite punchy once in the mid-ranges) turbo-diesel unit.

At almost 1.8 tonnes, this is no lightweight, as reflected in the 9.0s 0-100km/h-sprint time.

We’re not sure about the steering modifications either, since going electric seems to have zapped out even more of the feeling from the helm – if that is possible.

Yes, the rather gimmicky Drive Select function does increase the weighting to a chunky (rather than heavy) level, but there is precious little sensory feedback on offer to really excite the enthusiast. This, by the way, applies to all Q5 Series II vehicles.

By the way, before you leap to Audi’s defence by reminding us that this is SUV after all, all through the press conference this vehicle was described as the most sporty of its type in the world.

On a related note, the wisdom of upping the wheel/tyre sizes to 18 inches is also perplexing. Audi tells us it’s what the vast majority of customers want – larger and fancier alloys. Fine.

While we are grateful for the suspension retuning that is said to bring a better ride, the damping feel is still quite firm for Australian roads. Obviously, the 19s we also sampled (on the 3.0 TFSI quattro) also displayed less-than-soft springing.

More impressive is the all-new 165kW/350Nm 2.0 TFSI quattro – the first Audi with this brilliant direct/in-direct injection combo engine in Australia.

Quick to spool up, keen to rev out, and strong across a wide operating range, the four-pot turbo is a mighty performer, working effortlessly with the equally fresh eight-speed auto to provide exceedingly effective progress.

It’s our pick, and one that ought to most closely challenge the 2.0 TDI’s sales supremacy – at least as long as low fuel prices last.

Unfortunately we missed out on trying the revised 3.0 TDI V6 quattro diesel, but the brand-spanking, supercharged, 200kW/400Nm 3.0 TFSI quattro V6 petrol (also fitted with the eight-speed auto) is another stirring, swift, and silky powerplant option, providing slingshot overtaking acceleration and very relaxed cruising capabilities.

Audi chose the South Australian outback just northwest of the Flinders Ranges to demonstrate the horizon-reeling attributes of the improved Q5, so we can’t really tell you what the luxury SUV’s urban street ride behaviour is, or how much the fuel consumption deteriorates in the cut-and-thrust of heavy traffic.

All models seemed to show an indicated 10L (petrol) to 11L (diesel) per 100km readout.

But the drive out through the Adelaide Hills showcased a benign, grippy, and predictable handler that’s big on safety but a little mute on feel.

Otherwise, we had hundreds of kilometres to enjoy the supportive front seats, relatively refined surroundings (some road noise is evident on our coarser surfaces), and indisputably high-quality fixtures.

Nothing squeaked, rattled or annoyed as we were hurtled along in the firm and foursquare grip of the Q5 quattro.

Finally, a fairly mild but dusty (and sweltering hot) 4WD trail was tackled, to demonstrate the German’s soft-roader prowess. We wouldn’t drive overland to Kakadu in one, but for tracks and other undemanding terrain the Q5 walked it without breaking a sweat.

More so than some other Audis, this model seems to bring together many of its competitors’ strong points, while adding the brand’s unique design and presentation potions in for good measure.

As a result, we can see why much of what consumers see, feel and touch hasn’t really changed in the Series II models. Even trainspotters will struggle to pick the stylistic differences.

Yes, there are worthwhile strides in efficiency, performance, refinement, safety, security, and value, but the basic recipe is still very much the same that the company has successfully delivered since early 2009.

Nothing’s really broken, not much needed fixing, and what did need looking at has been more or less dealt with.

We can see a few more years of strong segment leadership ahead for the Q5 Series II.

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