The longitudinally-mounted engines in the Q5 are familiar but still relatively fresh: the 2.0 TDI is the VW Group’s more recent common-rail unit, tested here in its higher-output guise with 168bhp and 258lb ft although there's also a 141bhp version. The 2.0 petrol TFSI is the reworked design first seen in the VW Scirocco, except here it has variable valve lift to boost power to 208bhp; a 176bhp version is also offered.
Whether manual or seven-speed S-Tronic, Audi, as it did with the A4, has positioned the Q5’s front differential ahead of the gearbox, and directly behind the engine, allowing the front axle to move forward to help improve ride comfort. With its impressive smoothness, this high-output diesel engine is one of the Q5's stand-out features. It powers this SUV to 60mph in 9.9sec, and requires 7.8sec to accelerate from 50 to 70mph in fifth.
The facelifted Q5 builds on these strengths even further, the revised TDI unit delivering even greater performance thanks to its power and torque increases. It is noticeably more refined also, especially on start-up.
Inevitably the Q5 is slower than a similarly-powered A4 thanks to its extra weight and height, but in real-world driving the Q5 feels brisk enough. Offset driving position aside, the six-speed manual transmission is satisfying to use, the slick, weighty and direct change feeling quite different from the insubstantial-feeling shift we sampled in the A4. As both use Audi’s ML311 transmission, we can put this down only to a different linkage.
With a shorter final drive ratio, the Q5 is lower geared than the A4, presumably to help the engine overcome the extra weight. This results in a pretty short first gear, which means you’re changing up almost as soon as you’re on the move. Similarly, at 29.8mph/1000rpm, sixth is a touch low by the standards of modern diesels. While the engine is refined, emitting a not entirely unpleasant turbine-like note, at 80mph the constant 2700rpm thrum intrudes on the Q5’s otherwise quiet cabin. The intervening ratios are well spaced, and with a broad, linear spread of power and torque, gearchanges are less frenetic than you might expect.
At 320mm in diameter, the Q5’s ventilated front discs are a fraction larger than those fitted to the equivalent A4, while the solid 300mm rear discs are carried over. The Q5 stops perfectly adequately, the slightly longer than usual braking distance we recorded (51.2m from 70mph) being due to wet weather. Predictably enough, prolonged track use results in extended pedal travel, but stopping distances remain acceptable.