Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - range
Excellent fit and finish, Quattro Ultra system, well specced variants, capable engine offerings, SQ5 available from launch
Room for improvement
Obvious fake exhaust outlets, no lane departure warning or lane keep assist, firm ride on SQ5, piped engine sound
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25 Jul 2017
By TUNG NGUYEN
AUDI’S Q5 mid-size SUV has become one of the brand’s most important models since its launch in 2009, but fresh competitors in the segment and ageing hardware have recently impacted its once stellar sales record.
Enter the second-generation model, now built on a new platform with updated safety technologies, better in-cabin systems and improved engines.
Production has also shifted to a new facility in Mexico which will ensure better supply of the Q5 luxury crossover, meaning Audi should hit its highest sales yet.
However, has Audi moved its Q5 forward enough to reclaim its title as the best offering in the competitive mid-size luxury SUV segment?
Audi’S Q5 was one of the first premium crossovers to arrive in the Australian market in 2009 and has since helped pushed the brand into record-breaking growth year after year.
Eight years after its launch, Audi has rebooted its once best-selling model with a new generation to keep things fresh against newcomers including the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX and the incoming next-gen BMW X3.
The design is an evolutionary step forward rather than a revolutionary one, with similar proportions, a clamshell rear hatch, prominent shoulder line and subtle roof rails.
We reckon the car looks good, a squat and composed crossover with tiny elements such as the sleek headlights, front grille design, rear spoiler and chunky wheel arches that elevate the overall aesthetic.
However, Audi has bafflingly decided to opt for fake exhaust outlets across the range, including in the top-spec, high-performing SQ5.
The rear bumper of the Q5 features coloured inserts at the bottom with large trapezoid-shaped highlights where the exhaust should exit, but look closer and there is nothing in the space but black plastic. The tailpipes actually angle downwards and terminate just short of the rear bumper.
It’s an odd decision and, once noticed, we can’t help but feel it cheapens the look a little.
Inside though, there is nothing cheap about the Q5 – even in base $65,900 before on-roads 2.0 TDI Design guise. Cabin space has increased as well, thanks to larger dimensions afforded by its new MLB Evo platform.
As standard, interior goodies include drive mode select, electronic tailgate with kick-to-open function, keyless entry and start, three-zone climate control and a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with digital radio, sat-nav and WiFi hotspot.
Neat touches include the dials, buttons and switches of the climate control system, which give a tactile and satisfying click with every press.
Moving up to the $70,700 2.0 TDI Sport grade or $73,211 2.0 TFSI Sport nets larger 20-inch wheels, adaptive LED headlights, sports front seats and Audi’s fantastic 12.3-inch all-digital virtual cockpit display.
Safety systems are also impressive across the board, with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), eight airbags, reversing camera, rear cross-traffic alert, front parking sensors and blind spot monitoring all as standard.
However, a conspicuous omission in safety equipment is the lack of lane departure warning and lane keep assist – which isn’t available on any model grade or via any options package.
While not a deal breaker by any means, the lack of the technology is worth a mention given the Q5 range was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
New to the fresh Q5 is Audi’s Quattro Ultra system – which debuted on the A4 Allroad – an all-wheel-drive system which can decouple drive to the rear wheels in certain situations to conserve fuel. It is standard across all Q5 variants.
While it sounds like a hard sell for customers – an all-wheel-drive system that isn’t actually all-wheel drive all the time – the system works in a proactive way by calculating variables including slip and torque force on the front wheels to work out if, and when, to send power to the rear axle.
Audi also touts that the system is unperceivable, switching from front- to all-wheel drive quickly and seamlessly and, in our two days across several grades, we’d have to agree with them.
In each of the test cars, Audi had an iPad plugged in showing the split between FWD and AWD driving on the journey and was able to display which mode the car was in at any particular time.
Under hard acceleration, high-speed cornering, unsealed road driving and slippery conditions, the Q5 uses all four corners for improved traction and stability, while along big stretches of highway and stop/start traffic conditions, it was only the front axle being powered.
We even tried to trick the system by inducing slip in the front wheels with hard and unexpected acceleration on a gravel road to no avail, but the Quattro Ultra system will switch to AWD mode even before the extra grip is needed to ensure drivers are never left in a compromised situation.
The standard Q5 is initially available with two 2.0-litre turbocharged engines, one petrol with 185kW/370Nm and one diesel 140kW/400Nm, both mated to a seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission.
Both engines offer brisk performance and return good fuel efficiency, but our pick of the standard Q5 bunch would be the petrol-powered 2.0 TFSI Sport, which can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds, while returning a fuel economy figure of 7.3 litre per 100km.
We appreciate that peak torque is available at 1600rpm in the petrol, resulting in a near instantaneous throttle response, compared with 1750rpm in the diesel which feels a little laggy when pushed.
Buyers wanting more performance can also opt for the range-topping SQ5 – available from launch this time – with its 260kW/500Nm 3.0-litre turbo-petrol V6 engine.
While fuel economy rises to 8.7L/100km in the near two tonne SUV, 0-100km/h drops to 5.4s – quicker to the landmark triple digits than the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Toyota 86 and Ford Focus ST.
With maximum torque available from 1370-4500rpm, the now petrol-powered SQ5 delivers its punch sooner than its diesel predecessor and it certainly feels like it can move.
The SQ5 also makes use of an additional gear in its automatic transmission, while losing the Quattro Ultra system in favour of the traditional, rear-biased Quattro set-up.
Adaptive dampers sit at all four corners and wheels are a 21-inch affair, which combine for what we think is too firm a ride.
The set-up offers some dynamic thrills in the bends though, but the trade-off is a crashy, uncomfortable ride over the smallest road imperfections even with settings set to Comfort.
We would definitely recommend ticking the air suspension option in the SQ5 for $2150, which eases ride comfort substantially, increases ground clearance in off-road mode and can lower the rear to make loading easier.
Another minor gripe about the SQ5 is the artificial engine and exhaust sound that is pumped into the cabin.
With a hot variant like the SQ5, we’d have appreciated a more organic note from a sports exhaust, or at least the option to have one fitted from factory.
With stock of its first-generation Q5 running low in March, Audi is expecting to sell its Q5 and SQ5 in substantial numbers thanks to pent up demand and a trusted nameplate.
Time will tell if the new Q5 range can match or exceed the sales of its hugely successful predecessor, but the second-generation premium crossover is every bit deserving of success.
A polished, well-built and highly equipped model with exceptional engine choices and genuine cutting-edge technology, Audi’s new Q5 crossover easily stands above the premium mid-size pack.
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