Standing next to the petrol-powered Q5, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a diesel. So is the rapid tick-tick-tick of direct injection. Cruising around, the effortless powertrain shifts up between 1800-2100 RPM, slipping into seventh at seventy. Sadly at these revs, a diesel-like note is omnipresent.
While most engines are under-touring at those RPM, this four-time International Engine of the Year winner already hit peak torque 500 revs earlier (350nm@1500-4200). ‘Peak’ is the wrong word to describe the powerband: it’s a plain, a field, anything vast and flat. North of 3000rpm, any thoughts this might be a diesel are left behind.
Driving the dual-clutch requires more finesse than a slush-box auto. It’s closer to driving a manual, except there’s no actual clutch pedal. A smooth launch requires some practice.
Steering at low speeds also has the strangest sensation in that it won’t centre itself when powering out of a turn. This numbness, or perhaps over-assistance, is generally forgiven with light action when parking, which tightens up with a meaty, direct feel at cruising speed. One of the few real criticisms of the car.
The other is the 20-inch wheels. While they look fantastic, they work against the sports-tuned suspension, and ride quality suffers. The taut shocks are very adept at the twisties but not so great at the crackled, scarred and potholed roads of Down Under.
Interior build quality, design and material choices are top notch, as is keeping with tradition for Audi, save for the counter-intuitive MMI controller. It spins counter-clockwise (backwards). This will drive all iPod users mad.
Finally, forget all pretensions of off-roading. The supplied tyres, height, gearbox and non-defeatable traction control will ensure embarrassment among friends and enthusiasts. The real benefits of Quattro are hopping the gutter for a better parking spot and supreme wet-weather road holding (same for unsealed surfaces).