What is it?
Did you watch the Formula 1 this season? A now retired German chap called Nico Rosberg won the title over this other fella, Lewis Hamilton, despite being widely acknowledged as not quite as quick, nor as talented. Why? Because he was consistently good.
Audi used to struggle to beat its rivals until it upped its game, slowly chipping away here and there to further hone its new models. Still its offerings are rarely the sharpest to drive, but they are consistently turning into all-round winning packages, as the continual sales growth attests. So does the new 2017 Audi Q5 stick to that winning formula?
It’s certainly an altogether sharper thing, from the application of Audi’s current angular design language, through to the engineering underpinning it. Slightly bigger than before and packing new tech, it has nonetheless managed to shed 90kg thanks to the use of cast aluminium in the front suspension mountings, aluminium box sections in the front crash structure, sheet aluminium for the bonnet and boot and with a blend of cold and hot-formed steel elsewhere.
Lighter means better performance, braking, handling and efficiency. And bolstering the last of those four is this 187bhp 2.0 TDI Ultra diesel engine. It’s been fettled for improved economy and mated to a new seven-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic gearbox that decouples the engine when you come off the throttle in order to save even more fuel. Then there’s the new quattro all-wheel drive system, which dumps the old centre diff in favour of a switchable, rear-mounted clutch pack, that defaults to powering the front wheels only. This reduces friction losses in the drivetrain saving yet more fuel, but when you need a traction boost, it takes only 200 milliseconds for power to flow to the rear.
It all seems to have worked. New for old, the combined MPG is officially up by 16%, while CO2 emissions are down by 15%. And you get better acceleration to boot.
What’s it like?
We’ve already driven the buttery Q5 V6 3.0 TDI 286, but as cheaper alternatives go, this four-cylinder isn’t unruly. It’s hardly quick, yet it does have a decent smattering of torque to play with between 1750 and 3000rpm, so you don’t have to ring its neck. When you do, there’s a low-key rumble up front, but no engine tremors leach into the cabin.
So 95% of the time its pace is adequate, but the gearbox does occasionally dither from a standing start. This is something to factor in if you’re going for that ‘should I, shouldn’t I’ gap onto a busy roundabout, but apart from that, it’s ever alert on kickdown and breezes through every change with the smoothness of Leslie Phillips in full-on ‘I say, ding dong’ mode.
Leslie might mutter the same thing if he were to describe the Q5’s ride. Since the Q7, we’ve been expecting a bit of a waft from Ingolstadt’s set-ups (although the Q5 is made in Mexico), and this is no different. With lots of wheel travel and an inherent softness, it patters over crags in the road and gently floats over low-frequency undulations. Granted, this was on the optional air springs, so let’s wait and see if the standard steel springs, or the cheaper option of adaptive dampers, are anywhere near as good.
For those that don’t like their feathers ruffled, we know there’s at least one comfy option, but what about those who prefer to corner with gusto? Well, with its suspension firmed up in Dynamic mode the Q5 is no lolloping jalopy, but you can’t hustle it like you can a BMW X3 or Jaguar F-Pace. It won’t change direction as keenly for a start, and the steering, while perfectly good at seven-tenths pace, doesn’t inspire the same confidence that the Jag’s does beyond that. Grip levels seemed pretty good, though.
You’ll want for nothing in terms of toys. All trims come with automatic city braking, leather seats, three-zone climate control and a powered tailgate. Then there’s the extensive options list to sift through, which includes Audi’s superb 12.3in Virtual Cockpit, adaptive LED headlights and a head-up display.
And no one is building its cars like Audi at the moment. Press something in the Q5 that’s meant to move, such as a switch, and it’ll click precisely and reassuringly. Press something that’s not meant to move, and it won’t, because it’s been put together with the robust solidity of a Cold War bunker.
The elevated driving position is hard to pick apart, and there are acres of space if you’re tall and sitting up front. Another two lofty chaps will be equally comfortable sat behind you, too.
Open the boot, which, if you add the optional hands-free boot opener, you can do with a waggle of your foot under the rear bumper, and there’s a 550-litre load space that matches the best in class. And you can increase that to 610 litres by ordering the sliding and reclining rear seats.
Should I buy one?
If you want to drive like Lewis Hamilton, then no: this certainly isn’t the sportiest SUV in the class.
But, just like Nico Rosberg, it’s so consistently good in every area that it’s hard to ignore. If you want something comfortable and quiet to waft around in that is also spacious and beautifully built, the new Q5 might just have moved into pole position. Seriously, it’s that good.
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 Quattro S tronic
Location Mexico; On sale Now; Price £37,170; Engine 4 cyls, 1968cc, diesel; Power 187bhp at 3800-4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1750-3000rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch auto; Kerb weight 1770kg; 0-62mph 7.9sec; Top speed 135mph; Economy 56.5mpg (combined); CO2 rating/tax band 132g/km, 26%; Rivals BMW X3 xDrive 20d, Jaguar F-Pace 2.0D 180
What is it?