From £29,260
Very good, yet entirely predictable

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.

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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.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
theoriginalshoe 5 August 2008

Re: Audi Q5 3.0 TDI

It's okay Matt, I know Uncle Rich from Romania always was a bit of a renegade

RPrior 23 July 2008

Re: Audi Q5 3.0 TDI

A pity that Matt Prior is unable to bring objectivity to his writing, Having been an Autocar reader for more than 40 years, the magazine has lost the plot together with its former remarkable niche as a The professional motoring journal.

I shall no longer seek the views of this publication.

As I am currently in the market for a replacement vehicle for a much abused but loved Honda CRV. (I have a BMW 5 series sitting in my garage gathering dust)

My shortlist came down to 2 vehicles:-

1. Audi Q5 3.0 tdi
2. Mercedes GLK - 320cdi

Greg Kable wrote a more rounded article for the GLK. Matt Prior's attempts to write are pathetic.

Richard Prior, Bucharest

Rimmer0 22 July 2008

Re: Audi Q5 3.0 TDI

Having nothing else to do I compared the dimensions of the Q5 with the VW Touareg and noticed that the Q5 is only 45mm shorter but 70mm lower and 500kg lighter. Quite impressed that the 3.0 TDI can manage 0-60 in 6.5 secs and still deliver over 37mpg. I guess the Q5 doesn't have the true off-road underpinnings or low ratio like the VW but 500 kg is a huge saving.

If the suspension is as good as the article infers then it should knock the X3 into touch, and better looking too. The fuel consumption also appears to be on par with the more sluggish Freelander too.

The test drive will prove it but the Q5 looks like its hit the sector spot on ie. for those of us who live in the real country, want a touch of quality, and have to cater with towing normal trailers (<2 tonnes), floods, snow and lots of mud without having to go for a heavy-weight off-roader. Will first gear be slow enough to not need the low ratio though? We'll see.....