Having worked tirelessly during the past three decades or so to achieve parity in terms of status with “the other” two premium German brands, Audi has arguably recently achieved this ambitious goal. Through vehicles such as the TT, A8, R8 supercar and Q7 luxury SUV, it has managed to infuse a large dose of desirability into its DNA, and now it can confidently start cashing in on this new-found premium status by rolling out smaller, highly profitable niche models. Considering the current popularity of crossover vehicles, the new Audi Q5 compact SUV looks set to be a smash-hit straight out of the blocks.
Typically Audi designWhile the Audi Q5 is an undeniably handsome vehicle, you have to look past the familiar Audi design elements and focus on the details to truly appreciate it. The fastback slope of its rear end blends with muscular haunches to create quite an athletic appearance. The rear lights, too, may initially look identical to several other Audi models’ lamps, but the detailing is quite stunning, and different, when they light up. Overall, it’s an athletic-looking vehicle, with the stance gaining extra muscle courtesy of the standard fitment of large 18-inch alloy wheels and a generous 200 mm of ground clearance.
While it is a significantly smaller vehicle than its bigger brother the Q7, the Q5’s “compact” moniker is a bit misleading. It is longer than an X3, and also sports a longer wheelbase (2 807 mm). This translates into generous cabin space. The cabin feels broad, and rear legroom as well as boot space is very good, lending the Audi Q5 considerable appeal as a family vehicle. Audi claims a generous 540 litres of packing space behind the rear seats.
As is the case with most modern Audis, the Q5’s facia design and general fit and finish are beyond what is currently the norm in this segment… or even the next. There’s excellent tactile quality to all the surfaces that are often touched, and although the all-black interior can be somewhat sombre, Audi has applied aluminium trim here and there to brighten things up. The instrument panel is particularly classy, and boasts a comprehensive trip computer. The centre console appears somewhat cluttered with buttons, but familiarity with the vehicles’ various controls soon sets in. An electronic park brake is mounted next to the gearlever.
Audi has an excellent track record in providing superb driving positions, and the Audi Q5 doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The seat features height adjustment, and the steering wheel’s range of rake and reach adjustment is particularly impressive. Even so, the vehicle’s high sides and relatively narrow window area, along with the seating/facia positioning, create a sensation of sitting “inside” the vehicle, rather than on top of it, as is often the case with SUVs. From behind the wheel, the Audi Q5 feels like a passenger car, and a sporty one at that.
Long options listWhile even base Audi Q5 2,0T FSI models boast items such as dual, front and side airbags, climate control, front and rear fog lamps, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, multi-function steering wheel and cruise control, the options list is very long and some items really should have been standard at this price level. Charging extra for metallic paint and privacy glass is somewhat cheeky. Also on the options list is Audi’s Drive Select system (R3 360), Xenon Plus headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights and headlight washers (R10 860), electric front seats (R9 600) and park distance control (R8 760). That’s just the tip of the iceberg… you can truly personalise your Audi Q5, but at a price.
Excellent powertrainThis Audi Q5 model is powered by the brand’s highly acclaimed direct-injection 2,0-litre turbopetrol engine which, in this instance, delivers an impressive 155 kW and strong torque of 350 Nm over a wide rev range (1 500 to 4 200 rpm). The engine is mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission delivering power to all four wheels via Audi’s latest quattro all-wheel drive system. Perhaps as a result of its weight (approaching 1,8 tonnes) more than anything else, the Audi Q5 never feels quite as agile as its quoted performance claim of 7,2 seconds for the 0-100 km/h dash makes it sound, but it certainly doesn’t lack for overtaking punch. The seven-speed dual-clutch ‘box is a bit of a novelty in this segment, and is generally slick and fast in its responses, while also contributing to the excellent fuel economy – Audi claims 8,5 litres/100 km.
With excellent grip from its quattro drivetrain, good power and nicely weighted primary controls, the Audi Q5 is a pleasure to drive in almost all circumstances. It may be more prone to understeer than, for example, BMW’s X3, but the target market is unlikely to care about this. In almost all other respects the Audi Q5 is superior to the X3. Similarly, customers are highly unlikely to buy an Audi Q5 for off-road purposes, but those that require a degree of rough-road ability will not be disappointed. In addition to its good ground clearance, the Audi Q5 also boasts good approach/departure angles (25 degrees for both), as well as a self-locking centre differential and hill-descent control.
Audi Q5 - VerdictThe Audi Q5 can hardly fail. It’s the right product for the times, and comes with massive snob appeal. In the current market, and against current rivals, there isn’t really anything to seriously compete with its as an ownership proposition – BMW’s X3 is outclassed and outdated, and Volvo’s impressive XC60 suffers from a poor resale value reputation. The rise of Audi continues unabated.
- Striking looks
- Cabin quality and ambience
- On-road comfort
- Performance/economy mix
- Interior space
- Expensive options
- Heavy on-road bias
Engine: 2,0-litre, four-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 155 kW @ 4 300-6 000 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 1 500- 4 200 rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 222 km/h
0-100 km/h: 7,2 seconds
Fuel economy: 8,5 litres/100 km
- Volvo XC60 T6: A beautifully refined product with significantly more power and torque, as well as a more generous standard specification. The turbocharged six-cylinder is thirsty, though, and resale will likely be atrocious. An excellent used buy.
- BMW X3 xDrive25i Steptronic: This German contender is ageing but remains popular. On-road dynamics are superb and the engine is silky smooth. The X3 can’t match the Audi Q5 interior ambience and modern features, though.
- Land Rover Freelander V6 HSE Automatic: Sporting a near-premium segment badge on the bonnet and with solid off-road credentials, the Freelander is undeniably desirable. Heavy on fuel, though, and not as good as its rivals where it matters most… on the road.