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Steering, suspension and ride comfort

Other than the standard Audi quattro all-wheel drive (which usually sends 60 percent of torque to the rear wheels), hill descent control and an off-road ESP setting, Q5s have little extra technology to help should their owners wish to head off road. Few will, but it is worth noting that the Q5 lacks the height-adjustable air suspension of the Q7, instead running conventional steel springs.

On the road there is an option of adjustable damper control and variable-ratio steering as part of Audi’s Drive Select package, neither of which were fitted to our test car. Clearly Audi’s ride and handling engineers were tasked with making the Q5 handle like a car of normal height. Of all the environments in which you might find yourself while driving a Q5, the one where it excels and surprises most is on a cross-country strop. Despite the elevated driving position and 1.8-tonne mass, the Q5 turns with remarkably little body roll and changes direction without protestation, with a pivot point set nicely around its driver.

Steering is finger-light at low speeds but weights up far too quickly

Which would be a fine achievement if, in the pursuit of saloon-like handling, the engineers hadn’t somewhat overlooked the Q5’s abilities in two more relevant habitats. In town, at speeds below 20mph, the steering is finger-light, but beyond this it weights up suddenly. Accelerate onto a roundabout and the change in assistance can catch you unawares, the wheel unexpectedly needing a great deal more force to stop it from centring, making the Q5 feel larger and more unwieldy than it actually is.

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Town driving reveals another dynamic flaw: the ride is far too firm. The problem isn’t just larger potholes or speed bumps, which the suspension deals with without any problems, but also small to medium-sized intrusions. Our test car came equipped with optional 19in alloys – base Q5s have 17s but can be upgraded as far as 20s – but in this case we feel the problem of poor ride quality runs deeper than just big wheels.

The combination of relatively stiff spring rates (needed to keep body roll in check) and damper settings (both in bound and rebound) doesn’t allow enough suppleness over less extreme bumps. More worrying, though, it is the discovery that the problem is not limited to low speeds. Take on a bumpy B-road at any sort of speed and the Q5 is so easily deflected from its line that it often requires corrective steering. Even on a motorway the Q5 refuses to settle. The movements are not sharp or immediately uncomfortable, but small undulations on the road surface cause a restless, tiresome vertical motion.

To an extent, some of our original criticisms with the Q5 have been addressed with the mid-life update. Softer springs, combined with dampers that feel far more progressive in their rebound motion, result in much less high frequency vertical movement and thus a more comfortable ride.Moreover, the switch from hydraulic to electro-mechanical steering has benefitted the Q5. The weighting of the rack is much more consistent and it feels more responsive at the helm.