The models we’re driving are the first off the new Mexican factory's production line. The Audi engineers we're with point out the odd quality niggle here and there, but to all intents and purposes these are the models we’ll be getting in the UK early next year.
We're driving the higher-powered V6 diesel and the four-cylinder petrol model, each with the optional air suspension and adaptive dampers fitted. The former gets an eight-speed torque convertor automatic transmission and permanent quattro all-wheel drive, and the latter a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic gearbox and the quattro Ultra technology, which under certain conditions can prevent drive being sent to the rear wheels in order to save fuel.
It’s the V6 diesel that intrigues most, and my word it is smooth and refined - which is perhaps a good description of the car as a whole. The V6 produces a wide spread of torque with even the occasional sledgehammer effect to its delivery, such is the potency. You certainly won’t be wanting for any extra performance, and the eight-speed auto’ to which it is mated is complementary and not obtrusive.
But you wouldn’t ever call the car overtly sporty, which has as much to do with its chassis tuning as anything else. The Q5 is a very competent and predictable SUV, which is fine by its customers, but you can tell there’s probably quite an involving car in there waiting to get out given the chance.
It turns in okay and grips well while body movements are well controlled and understeer is kept in check by the standard torque vectoring system, but you never come out of a corner with a smile on your face. Nor, however, do you end up in a ditch, even when taking corners at some speed, which highlights the fact that the chassis has plenty of slack in there.
It was a compliment to the old Q5 that Porsche sourced the base for its class-leading Macan SUV from the same underpinnings, and it’ll be interesting to see what Porsche can achieve when it gets its hands on this one. Or, indeed, what Audi can conjure up for the S version, development of which is well under way.
What does impress is the ride quality, which matches the smooth, quiet and comfortable characteristics of the engine. Even the most broken of road surfaces failed to really unsettle the car.
There’s also a discernible difference between the car in its different driving modes, seven of which are offered via the Audi Drive Select system. The standard Comfort mode does what you’d expect, but selecting Sport lowers and stiffens the air springs so the car corners a touch flatter and communicates what it's doing through your backside a bit more. It’s still not involving, mind, not helped by the lack of feel from the steering.
The air suspension has 60mm of adjustment in it, the maximum height being the reserve of the Off-Road mode. Audi claims as much off-road ability as you’d ever need, and it even matched a Range Rover on Audi’s ‘real-world’ off-road course, they say.
The 2.0-litre petrol we also tried needs to be worked a bit harder than the V6 in order to get it going, but once the revs are up it moves the Q5 along at a brisk pace. It’s a nice flexible engine, with a good spread of torque and a better sound than the larger diesel. It makes the car feel a touch more sprightly and agile, too.
Audi tells us the Q5's exterior design is a new look, and sportier one, too, but it’s inside where the real progress has been made over the outgoing model.
The perceived quality of Audi interiors is beyond reproach, and the interior of the Q5 is its undoubted high point. The choice of materials, the sophistication of the technology and the overall fit and finish are all excellent and cannot currently be matched by any rival.
Your eyes will be drawn first to the excellent 12.3in virtual cockpit colour screen where the instrument binnacle once lived, displaying everything from the navigation screen to the speed. It’s very good in other Audis, and the same applies here.
The MMI infotainment system, displayed on an 8.3in screen in the centre stack, is also as good as ever, ticking every type of usability and connectivity box you’d like, including wi-fi and Apple Carplay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions.
Not only is the interior of a higher quality but it’s also more spacious, with room for five adults and an increase in boot capacity to 610 litres. The Q5 will also allow you to access that boot more easily, now by waving a foot under a sensor to open it, and also by lowering the car on air suspension-equipped models to aid loading of larger, heavier items. The boot lip is a bit high, though.