The Audi Q5 – the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer's rival to the Land Rover Freelander – may not be perfect, but it is a well rounded road-biased off-roader
First DriveThe Audi Q5 makes a good all-rounder – but is a petrol version a good choice?
First DriveAdded grunt and a slightly more forgiving ride improve the Audi Q5, while subtle styling changes won’t upset the faithful
What is it?
It’s not unusual, said Tom Jones, and even though he wasn’t talking about the Audi Q5, he might as well have been. It is not a breakthrough car, it’s not even a particularly innovative one.
In truth it is the inevitable, not-unappealing product of some corporate box-ticking and sensible exploitation of Audi’s modular platforms: another niche is added to the Ingolstadt brochure; a few more pennies are totted onto the profit column.
The onslaught of Audi models continues.
Beneath the Q5’s features (those of a ‘Performance SUV’, no less) lurks the modular chassis that underpins the Audi A4 saloon and A5 coupe.
Inside, there’s an A4-derived fascia, perfectly adequate spaciousness and a feeling of unfailing solidity from the quality of the materials. Audi’s MMI interface for the stereo/nav/system controls is even better than ever.
The A4/5 platform endows the BMW X3- and Freelander-rivalling 4x4 with the longest wheelbase in its class at 2.81m; a result of some clever packaging of the engine, transmission and front suspension, which lets the front axle be pushed as far forwards as possible. The same idea was meant, although, curiously, failed, to give the A5 more agile, sporting handling.
Nonetheless, I’ve just searched through the press bumph to find the word ‘sporty’ repeated no less than 24 times. This is, we’re told, dynamically the most adept SUV in its class.
What’s it like?
It may be the most dynamically capable SUV in its class. Maybe. BMW’s X3 would run it the closest, and may even best it depending on what you’re looking for.
The Audi is certainly among the most car-like to drive of all SUVs. The driving position is very normal and a high, rising waistline makes it feel lower than it is; though this also restricts visibility.
It steers accurately, too, although with – like the A4 – a curious mix of weight. Usually it’s too light, switching to too heavy quite quickly off-centre.
The low-speed ride is largely fine, though there’s the occasional crash. It’s at its best on the standard, 18-inch wheels with 60 profile tyres.
Our test Q5’s power came from a 3.0-litre, V6 TDI engine, powerful and quiet, mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch S-tronic transmission (DSG by another name). It’s the first time this 7-speed twin-clutcher has been fitted to a longitudinal engine and it’s as clinically efficient as usual.
The Q5 corners with respectable resistance to lean, and offers reasonable grip. An X3 would feel perhaps less agile, but with better body control.
Better is its refinement. Wind noise, road noise and engine noise are all as well-suppressed as they are on executive cars for the same money.
Oh, and for all the tall-estate looks (and economy and emissions, to be fair) there’s a bit of off-road ability too; more than an Allroad, at any rate. Approach and departure angles of 25 degrees. Ground clearance 200mm. Wade depth half a metre. You can wake up again now.
Should I buy one?
If you want a car like the Q5, this is a pleasant option. Prices will be high by comparison to rivals such as the Freelander, but then the 8000 UK residents predicted to buy the Q5 are unlikely to let that stop them. If you want to like this car, you probably will.