Audi has pulled out all stops on its new-generation Q5 to ensure it regains its market-leading position against some stiff competition. Is it enough?
The all-new second-generation Audi Q5 has very big shoes to fill, if it is to achieve anywhere near the success of its world-beating predecessor.
From 2009 to 2015 the Audi Q5 was the world’s most successful SUV in its class. It was also Audi’s single biggest seller, at least as a body style, trumped only by the far broader A3 range.
Here in Australia, over that same six-year period, the Q5 notched up almost 24,000 sales and the biggest slice of the market share pie.
It’s a tried and proven formula that has clearly stood the test of time, which is why Audi has been careful not to mess with it too much. But drill down into the detail and you’ll soon discover a raft of improvements. And all for the better.
Audi’s best-selling SUV has been further honed with an edgier design, more space, more advanced engines, and more technology to ensure it can regain its former market-leading position, at least in our SUV-obsessed land down under. And frankly, not before time.
Rival brands have stepped up, releasing fresh models into this highly competitive mid-size luxury SUV segment, and at the same time gaining that all-important market share over the once indomitable Q5.
Key players include the top-selling Mercedes-Benz GLC with a class-leading 21.2 per cent share, Land Rover Discovery Sport holding down 16.3 per cent, BMW X3 with 12.9 per cent and Lexus NX sitting at 10.8 per cent.
Audi’s Q5, on the other hand, has slipped to a 7.8 per cent share of the market segment.
At first glance, punters might be hard pressed to spot the differences between the last iteration of the previous Q5 and this new-generation model, but even from the outside, this is clearly a bolder exterior designed to make more of a statement amongst rival makes.
It also means the new Q5 falls in line with the latest Audi corporate look, along with recently renewed models like the Q7, A4 and A5. There are now more defined creases, more advanced lighting and an all-round tougher stance.
It’s also bigger than the model it replaces, but not by much, as space was never in question with the outgoing Q5. The latest Audi Q5 is longer (by 34mm) and taller (by 6mm), though width is exactly the same as its predecessor.
Importantly, though, the wheelbase has been extended by a modest 12mm, which, overall, has given the Q5 an additional 10 litres of luggage space. Depending on how the optional sliding rear bench is positioned, there is between 550-610 litres of load space behind the rear seats. When folded flat, that space increases to 1550 litres.
It’s lighter, too, by up to 90kg if you choose the diesel-powered models, but even the petrol model sheds 50kg at the scales. That’s despite both engines using Audi’s new quattro ultra drivetrain, which actually shaves 4kg off the standard quattro system.
There’s also more power and torque, and better fuel economy, as both engines have been extensively re-engineered to achieve better all-round performance.
The new Audi Q5 will launch here with a choice of just two powertrains; one petrol and one diesel - both 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engines and both paired with Audi’s redeveloped seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
Buyers also have a choice between two trim lines; the entry-level design and high-end sport lines.
And while Audi Australia remains tight lipped about the return of a 3.0-litre TDI engine, the brand has confirmed a new high-performance SQ5 model for July, which will use a 3.0-litre turbo petrol powertrain, at least initially. But we’ll almost guarantee a potent diesel engine will find its way into the SQ5, sooner rather than later, if past popularity is anything to go by.
The new Audi Q5 will not go unnoticed by its critics, of course - particularly when it comes to pricing. However, head-to-head comparisons between the old and the new is a bit of an apples-to-oranges kind of thing, given the increased level of kit now included.
The range consists of the Audi Q5 design 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic from $65,900 (up $2300), Audi Q5 sport 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic from $70,700 (up $7100), and Audi Q5 sport TFSI quattro S tronic from $73,500 (up $9534), all excluding on-road costs and dealer delivery charges.
The Audi Q5 design (and sport) 2.0 TDI is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine making 140kW and 400Nm (up 10kW & 20Nm). Claimed fuel consumption is 5.3 litres per 100km (0.7 L less than its predecessor), while its 0-100km/h time is 7.9 seconds.
The Audi Q5 sport TFSI boasts a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine developing 185kW and 370Nm (up 20kW & 20Nm), with fuel consumption of 7.3 litres per 100km. It can go from 0-100km/h in 6.3 seconds and is only available in the sport trim. It also means it’s the quickest SUV in its class.
While Audi Australia managed to sneak a few cars in well ahead of customer deliveries commencing June for press and customers to sample, we only got to try the 2.0 TDI sport on local roads. And impressive it was.
Clearly, refinement was at the top of the Q5’s key deliverables throughout the development phase. This is one of the most refined 2.0-litre turbo-diesels in the business, possibly even silkier (and livelier) than Land Rover’s svelte Ingenium engine with a slightly larger displacement.
What impressed me most, though, apart from the utter smoothness and linearity of the power delivery, was the quick-fire throttle response and almost total omission of any real lag anywhere in the rev range.
It’s a genuinely satisfying driving experience, be it in suburbia or having a bit of fun on an undulating country B-road. We can’t fault the latest version of Audi’s seven-speed transmission, either. It performs more like a smooth ZF automatic than any dual-clutch transmission. And again, refinement is the name of the game here.
Audi engineers have also gone to town when it comes to soundproofing and aero, too. Even when you’re tucking right into it while overtaking at high speed, almost all the engine sound is muted in the cabin. You know it’s a diesel under the bonnet, but only just. And that’s impressive for a 2.0-litre oiler.
Wind and road noise is down, too. Audi has moved the side mirrors from the A-pillars to the top of the door panels, and the effect is dramatic. Even at 100km/h on a coarse chip road, there’s no intrusive wind disturbance.
The Q5 also gets a new suspension system in line with its second-generation status. It’s a five-link system for both front and rear suspensions, which is able to handle lateral and longitudinal forces separately. And while it’s able to absorb bumps, compressions and even sharp edges (riding on 20-inch alloys), the general ride comfort still errs on the sporty side.
But that’s also what helps keep the Q5’s composure flat through corners, even at maximum legal speed limit on those back roads, I mentioned earlier.
There’s also decent feedback from the steering, too. It’s an electromechanical system that we found precise and relatively quick. Certainly, it’s more alive than the previous system used in the Q5.
We also sampled the same model Q5 with adaptive damping, and ride comfort improved significantly, at least in the Comfort setting. The end result is a more pronounced spread between Comfort and Dynamic drive settings and certainly worth consideration if crappy roads are the norm in your daily commute.
However, for those who want the ultimate in ride comfort and convenience, there’s optional adaptive air suspension available for the Q5. It enables ride height control, which can lower the body 22mm compared to the standard steel suspension.
It also sets the ideal body position for different driving situations, as well as adding an extra lift/off-road mode to the Audi drive select system. And for easier loading, the system can also lower the vehicle by 55mm by pushing a button in the boot.
Technophiles are likely to be impressed with the new Q5, too. The cabin boasts the latest Audi layout, with a superb blend of soft-touch materials, plush leather and quality metal work.
Both ‘sport’-trimmed test cars were equipped with Audi virtual cockpit – a 12.3-inch fully digital high-res display that is fully customisable and one of the few must-have options on the entry-level design model
Along with the price hikes, the Q5 gets a vast array of the latest creature comforts and high-tech safety kit – check our pricing and specs article for more details.
While Audi has been careful not to rock the boat with the design of the new Q5, it has managed to improve (and by some degree) on each and every aspect of the vehicle. It’s difficult to find fault with it.