Audi Q5

The larger, sharper sequel to Ingolstadt’s global bestseller

PETER ROBINSON

SPECS

Model Engine Max Power Max Torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Fuel economy Price On sale Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro 1984cc 4cyl, 16v, dohc, turbo 185kW @ 4300-6000rpm 370Nm @ 1600-4500rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1720kg 6.3sec (claimed) 6.8L/100km $64,000 (estimated) July/August

FIRSTDRIVES

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

DONALD Trump will hate the new Q5.

Until now all Q5s for the world (except China) flowed from Audi’s Ingolstadt factory.

But from now on all Q5s (except for China) come from a new plant in Mexico. Forget possible tariff walls; Audi is convinced Mexico can build a premium SUV that matches anything from Germany.

Despite any conspiracy theories from The Donald.

Understandably, then, Audi held the first drive on Mexico’s Baja peninsula in pre-production cars fresh from the Puebla plant.

Based on Audi’s impressive MLB architecture (shared with the A4, A5 and Q7) for longitudinal engines, the new Q5 is up to 90kg lighter (2.0-litre TFSI, 1720kg) and brings a 185kW 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine and 140kW 2.0-litre TDI diesel at launch in Q3 2017, with a rangetopping 3.0-litre V6 TDI to follow at the end of the year.

The new Q5 has expanded a little in most directions – the 2820mm wheelbase (shared with the A4) is up 12mm – yet conspires to look smaller. The drag is an impressive 0.30Cd.

We’re driving all three engines, each with optional air suspension and adaptive dampers. The only steel-sprung cars on hand are reserved for the Americans, who prefer to ignore the many attractions of the air suspension.

It’s one of a now bewildering array of options for damping, suspension and steering, from standard steel springs to steel springs with adaptive dampers up to adaptive air suspension.

Both fours use Audi’s S-tronic dual-clutch gearbox, the V6 getting an eight-speed ZF torqueconvertor auto.

The 2.0-litre petrol engine needs to be worked a bit harder than the responsive V6, but get into its torque zone and it moves the Q5 at a brisk pace. It’s a pleasant and flexible engine – our preferred choice – with a good spread of power and a better sound than both the diesels.

Because it’s noticeably lighter, the car feels a touch more agile, too, if not exactly sporty, despite a 0-100km/h claim of just 6.3sec, which reflects the engine’s willingness to rev to the 6600rpm full-throttle change-up point.

This dual-clutch gearbox is smoother-shifting and less prone to the low-speed niggles common to the technology, working invisibly to deliver the power to the road. At highway speeds, the hushed quiet of the cabin reveals the massive strides Audi has achieved in terms of refinement.

Predictably, the 2.0-litre diesel is a little more noisy when accelerating and idling, if quieter than its predecessor. With 400Nm from 1600-4500rpm, it feels strong and effortless. Zero to 100km/h takes 7.9sec and yet it returns 5.1L/100km compared to the TFSI’s 6.8L/100km.

If you want serious smoothness and refinement, the 210kW V6 diesel delivers. Its vast spread of torque – 620Nm from 1500 to 3000rpm – produces instant sledgehammer performance through the cultivated automatic.

All three models turn in with confidence and have plenty of grip, while body movements are well controlled and understeer kept in check by the standard torque-vectoring system. But you’d never call the car overtly sporty, mostly because the chassis tuning aims to produce a competent, utterly predictable and refined SUV. (For customers wanting an involving car, that’s where the upcoming SQ5 and RS Q5 come in.)

What really impresses here is the excellent ride quality, which is a perfect match for the smooth, quiet and comfortable characteristics of the petrol and V6 engines.

On the air-suspended cars we drove, there are obvious differences between the seven diverse driving modes on offer via the Audi Drive Select system.

The standard Comfort mode does what you’d expect, but selecting Sport lowers and stiffens the air springs so the car corners a touch flatter and communicates a bit more. Or you can raise the ride height to such an extent that the Q5 has as much off-road ability as you’ll ever need. Australia is expected to get 18-inch wheels as standard, with 19s, 20s and even 21s as options.

Electric power steering systems were once both vague and artificial. No longer. The standard Audi system is accurate and quick around the straight ahead, with even a touch of feel. The more sophisticated ‘dynamic’ steering varies rate and effort in relation to speed and steering angle, and at the limits will self-adjust your line to enhance active safety and vehicle dynamics.

Only the V6 is permanently all-wheel drive, like the old Q5, whereas the new four-cylinder cars run an on-demand system, only engaging drive across the rear axle if the front wheels start to slip. The operation is so smooth that we couldn’t tell the difference between the two systems or feel the changeover point.

In every area that matters, the new Q5 is significantly better than the old one: better to drive; more comfortable; better equipped; and, yes, better looking. Even in an increasingly crowded field with impressive newcomers, it’s a safe bet that this one will be just as successful as the outgoing car that sold 1.6 million units and counting. Prices are expected to remain close to the old models.

Donald should try one.

It’s better to drive, more comfortable, better equipped, better looking

PLUS & MINUS

Excessive chassis tuning choice; styling too evolutionary Overall refinement and comfort; handling and ride; driver-assist tech

Hold it; fold it

The new Q5 follows the ‘If it ain’t broke’ philosophy. Styling is a gentle evolution of the previous model.

This is one of the last Audis to be designed under Wolfgang Egger, who unexpectedly departed Ingolstadt in late 2013. There’s Audi’s signature singleframe grille, while the side profile is more sculptured, with a stronger ‘tornado’ undercut crease line that starts at the top of the headlight, then uses the bonnet’s clamshell as a shutline before bouncing over both wheelarches to the rear hatch.

Folding steel so precisely is proof of the unrivaled skill of Audi’s body engineers.

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