First look | Audi Q5: An SUV in touch with the times
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Pictures don’t lie. From the front, it was hard to tell the Q5 SUV apart from the larger Q7, with the big hexagonal grille with a matt chrome surround, signature LED headlamps, and crease after Teutonic crease. At the back, it looks the same as the last Q5, and though the Q7’s LED pattern was new, the tail lamps were almost the same shape. The car is a little larger than the last Q5, but the design makes this brand-new, second-generation Q5 look altogether more athletic, and, visually, a little more compact.
The 18-inch alloys, though, do look a bit too ordinary; we wish they had opted for a more dramatic-looking set. In classic Audi fashion, it’s a design that will probably grow on you with time.
On the inside, you will notice the difference in use of materials and trim pieces between this car and its larger sibling. The quality is superb, even where there are hard plastics, and most of the switchgear is exquisite too, such as the knurled metal AC control knobs. It’s just that there’s a bit less of that chrome or brushed aluminium embellishment around the cabin, or even contrast-coloured plastic, which would have added some panache. The result is that contact points like the door pads, AC vents and seat controls do look a bit plain for a Rs50 lakh-plus SUV.
This runs the 2-litre, four-cylinder diesel motor, delivering 190hp and 400Nm, and has the same engine as the A4 sedan. And because this new Q5 is built on the same new MLB Evo platform as the Q7, it’s as much as 90kg lighter. That bodes well for fuel economy and performance. It feels deceptively quick, not in an electrifying way, but in the smooth, silent swell of torque that we’ve come to expect from newer diesel engines. This version of Audi’s seven-speed “S-Tronic” dual-clutch gearbox feels as quick as ever with its shifts and is really good at sensing what you want from it almost before you’ve provided an input. The difference is that it feels a lot smoother and more refined than what we’re used to, to the point that it almost feels like a torque-converter automatic.
The Q5 for India has the Quattro all-wheel drive. Audi claims a 7.9 seconds 0-100 kmph time, and, for a 1.9-tonne SUV with a four-cylinder engine, that’s really not too shabby at all. It’s smoother and more linear than the older versions of the 2.0 TDI motor, but it still delivers a nice kick. Still, this is not a performance car; what owners will most likely appreciate more is the refinement—something that is exceptionally evident in the new Q5. There’s a welcome hush on the move at just about any speed, and it’s not just the engine; even road and wind noise are locked firmly out of the cabin. The gearbox works around any turbo lag that there might be, and even when it does shift, it’s a small and barely felt interruption to the flow of power.
The Q5 now has adjustable suspension, with dynamic dampers whose stiffness can be altered with the Drive Select modes.The effect is subtle and so slight that you barely notice it at first. It’s only after you charge down a long stretch of highway at speed that you’ll realize the difference. It’s better to leave it in Normal mode when you’re driving around town, for that allows the Q5 to take bumps with a slightly softer edge. The Comfort mode doesn’t bring with it an excessive amount of bounciness, as it does in an A4 sedan.
Overall, the ride is, quite frankly, fantastic. The steering is classic Audi—light and easy, but not very responsive. The Quattro-equipped Audis offer tremendous grip.
They haven’t skimped on the equipment, and this highest-specification variant is loaded with everything you would expect in a modern Audi. There is a screen with a touchpad and click wheel. It’s slick and smooth, and, apart from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, comes with its own native navigation app. You also get a second screen—the Audi Virtual Cockpit, or digital dials—that can be configured in a number of ways. The front seats are electric, with a memory function for the driver’s seat, there’s a big panoramic sunroof, the tailgate is powered, there’s a wireless phone charging bay, and surround cameras to help park the Q5 accurately.
Audi has simply built on the old car’s strengths and modernized it. It’s more refined, more powerful, and the ride quality is great.Prices for the new Audi Q5 start at Rs53.25 lakh (ex-showroom), making it more expensive than the competition, like the BMW X3 (Rs49.10-54 lakh) and Mercedes-Benz GLC (Rs48.11-52.13 lakh).