How do you improve an SUV that has been a best-seller since its launch? James Baggott finds the recipe for success just got tastier…
What is it?
Replacing ultra-successful cars is never easy for a manufacturer. But when the model you’re refreshing has been at the top of the sales charts in its class for every one of the years it has been on sale, that task becomes all the more difficult. And that’s the challenge Audi has faced with the Q5. The mid-sized model has been the brand’s best-selling SUV since it went on sale in 2008, finding an incredible 1.6m homes across the world. This is the refreshed off-roader, charged with continuing that impressive feat. Built at the manufacturer’s most advanced ‘smart factory’ in Mexico, it’s been packed with clever technology and features revised engines and a smart, fresh look that the maker hopes will continue to win over buyers. But has it done enough to steer buyers away from new pretenders to its crown, such as the Jaguar F-Pace?
What’s under the bonnet?
There are three engine options – but the best-seller, and our pick of the bunch, is the 187bhp, 400Nm, 2.0-litre TDI, which will account for 60 per cent of sales in the UK. This comes as standard with a clever new Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive system that can switch seamlessly between two- and four-wheel drive automatically. This makes the car more efficient without losing out on traction. Fuel economy is 56.5mpg with emissions of 132g/km. It’s the quickest SUV in its class too, hitting 60mph in 7.7 seconds and going on to a top speed of 135mph. A 2.0-litre TFSI petrol option with 250bhp is also available, capable of returning 40.9mpg and emitting 157g/km. A feisty 3.0-litre V6 TDi completes the line-up, producing 284bhp and a stonking 620Nm of torque.
What’s the spec like?
The new Q5 may be a little less flashy than its Jaguar rival, but that smart new nose, dramatic headlights and sharp body creases all serve to give it fantastic presence on the road. That’s helped by a wonderfully squat stance and perfect proportions. The only thing that jars is the fake exhaust-like trim on the rear bumper.
Inside, the quality is clear. Solid, good-quality materials are everywhere and the leather seats, which are standard across the range, are comfortable and perfectly adjustable. It’s easy to get settled behind the wheel too, with plenty of space around the driver and logically placed controls for the fabulous multimedia system.
Inside, there’s a three-zone climate control system, a Bang & Olufsen optional sound system and the optional virtual cockpit, which replaces the dials with a 12.3-inch high-resolution display that can switch between dials or a full-screen sat nav display.
What’s it like to drive?
The new Q5 is quite simply brilliant to drive. We tested the car on a variety of terrain – from motorway to cities, beaches to dirt tracks, and it took them all in its stride. On the road it’s quiet, refined and accomplished, while in the grit it was surefooted and secure.
The revised 2.0-litre diesel engine is punchy enough for a car of this size and works brilliantly when combined with the 7-speed S tronic gearbox. We did find the automatic tripped itself up on a couple of occasions, stuttering a little as it looked for a gear, but overall it’s the best choice of transmission by far.
What do the press think?
Autocar was impressed, awarding it four stars: ‘It’s hardly quick, yet it does have a decent smattering of torque to play with between 1,750 and 3,000rpm, so you don’t have to wring its neck.’ Auto Express also handed it four stars, adding: ‘It has the smoothest diesel in its class, is good to drive, offers plenty of space, should be cheap to run and feels beautifully finished.’
What do we think?
Audi has moved the game on with its new Q5 but not ruined a recipe that has won it so many admirers. Stylish, comfortable and great to drive, it’s now packed with even more clever technology and features. With best-in-class performance and economy, and some highly tempting optional extras, we’d be very surprised if any of its rivals managed to usurp it at the top of the sales charts any time soon.