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Audi Q5 here - first drive

2009-02-26 08:24
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Audi
Model Q5
Engine 2l, turbo (diesel/petrol) 3l V6 TDI, 3.2L V6
Power 125kW @ 4 200r/min, 155kW @ 6 000r/min, 176kW @ 4 400r/min, 199kW @ 6 500r/min
Torque 350Nm @ 1 750r/min, 350Nm @ 1 500r/min, 500Nm @ 1 500r/min, 330Nm @ 3 000r/min
Transmission Six-speed manual, seven-speed S tronic
Zero To Hundred 9.5-, 7.2-, 6.5-, 6.9 sec
Top Speed 204-, 222-, 225-, 234km/h
Fuel Tank 75l
Fuel Consumption 6.7-, 8.5-, 7.5-, 9.3l/100km
Boot Size 540l

Lance Branquinho

Has Audi’s position as the challenger brand in the premium segment (their postulation, not ours) been vindicated by the new Q5?

You have to feel for the Ingolstadt concern, launching its BMW X3 challenger at a time the SUV market – mimicking general vehicle sales – is rapidly contracting.

BMW’s X3 had been allowed an ample amount of time to gain traction in the market when it was most buoyant, yet Audi is confident its SUV fighter can achieve a sales figure of 80 units per month.

One can only assume most of the Q5’s appeal will be to Q7, X5 and ML buyers downsizing due to disposable income pressures, instead of first time Audi buyers engaging the brand with Q5 as a buy in point.

Q7 heritage is there in the overall shape, detailing and smaller proportions render a much more better looking package though. Range of alloy wheels are quite fetching, 17s rolling 235/65s (standard on the 2l models) are best for local conditions.

Right sized Q7?

Though vastly smaller – perhaps even more responsibly sized, some would say – the Q5’s styling cues come strongly from the Q7. Resolved into more compact proportions, the oversized grille, sloping coupe roofline and distinct rear renders an infinitely more harmonious shape.

Audi’s marketing department may take offence but Q5 has finally brought balance to the overzealous Ingolstadt SUV styling trend introduced by the Q7.

Even when not embellished by optional LED lights the front and rear light clusters frame the adjoining vertical and horizontal panel lines perfectly, especially around the rear, where the absence of the Q7’s huge under slung orange indicators is welcomed.

Ten available wheel options are available in sizes from 17 to 18-inches, fusing traditional and some startlingly avant-garde designs. They round off the Q5’s overall aesthetic by having appealing sculptures spinning in its wheelarches.

Cabin design is still class leading - embarrassing much more expensive cars. A4 platform means right-hand drive versions retain awfully angled and cramped footrest thanks to front diff mounted ahead of the clutch.

Overall dimensions are more substantial than X3 measuring up 4.63m in length, 1.88m in width and 1.65m tall. With a proportionally long wheelbase running 2.8m from axle centre point to axle centre point, passenger space has been optimised.

Cabin architecture and furnishings are typical Audi, which plainly means you seat yourself in the classiest, most ergonomically-efficient environment in class.

True to its German, lateral thinking engineering heritage, Q5’s rear passenger bench seat can be moved forward by 100mm.

It’s simply genius if you have young kids who don’t need adult legroom, enabling one to stow longer objects, or just simply more pure volume, in the capacious luggage bay with the seats up.

The standard roof-rail cross-overs are high quality and very easy to fit and remove - important considering the Q5's SUV role. When in place they are automatically factored in by the Q5's ESP, allowing a new set of dynamic parameters to guard the car's behaviour, cognisant of a higher centre of gravity due to roof-line fastened items.

Rural A4 Avant?

Mechanically the Q5 rides on Audi’s modular longitudinal platform – shared with A4 and A5 – which means the front differential nestles ahead of the clutch.

This configuration stretches wheelbase optimally for stability, whilst ensuring steering box location ahead of the front axle, applying forces more directly to the wheels.

It works a treat in the new A4 when combined with Audi’s superb drive select system, which enables one to toggle between comfort, auto and dynamic settings – tailoring steering, damping and throttle response in accordance to the aforementioned settings.

With the boon of rear-wheel drive bias quattro (apportioning 60% drive rearward up to a 80% critical threshold when demanded) the A4/A5 derived chassis copes admirably with the increased weight (Q5 averages 1.75t) and higher centre of gravity.

As expected from Audi, metallurgical fetishists with a thing for aluminium will be enamoured by the construction of the Q5. Suspension being no exception. It’s a premium arrangement on the front axle (five-link double-wishbones) and independent at the rear too, with a trapezoidal-link supported by an anti-roll bar.

Ground clearance is premium SUV class average at 200mm, wading depth 500mm (if you’re mad enough to put it to the test) and with a symmetrical approach and departure angles of 25 degrees you’ll get over most soft obstacles without leaving too much exterior trim in your wake. Off-road bias ESP and hill-decent control ensure a degree of control incline or decline surfaces with substandard traction.

Twin clutch shifting now in vogue

Drivetrains for the Q5 compromise an even compression ignition and petrol split over four derivatives.  Entry level is the 2.0 TDI, producing 125kW and 350Nm and is the sole manual shift gearbox in the range, driving through six ratios. Boost comes online quite seamlessly, and if you live in close range of a high quality diesel fuel retailer it’s a fine engine, just don’t go test drive the 2.0T FSI S tronic.

Matching its turbodiesel capacity sibling’s torque output, yet producing 30kW more power at 155kW, there is no performance comparison.

The seven-speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox is unwittingly quick and true in its shift regimen when engaged with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters - albeit only when the shift selector has been palmed over to the left engaging ‘manual’ mode. Capable of 0-100km/h sprint times in the low sevens and average fuel consumption around 8.5l/100km it's undoubtedly the pick of the Q5 drivetrains.

If turbocharging reliability keeps you awake at night, traditional large capacity V6 petrol power is an option with the 3.2 S tronic, driving 199kW and 330Nm. Why – perhaps only for acoustics reasons – you’d choose it over the more frugal, and torquier 2.0T FSI is a decision devoid of apparent logic.

Headlining the engine range is 500Nm worth of 3.0 TDI V6. It has 176kW of power on tap,  Audi claims a 6.5 second 0-100km/h time, which considering the roll-on acceleration verve available, is hardly the point. Economy averages out to 7.5l/100km, though I suspect you’ll never see similar figures in real world driving conditions considering the boost addiction it tempts one with.

Potential Q5 buyers may lament the lack of a manual shifting 2.0T FSI, trust me though, you cannot possible shift gears with greater alacrity or accuracy than S tronic unless your name is Giniel de Villiers.

Dynamically certified

Audi showed off the Q5’s dynamic capabilities with a winding route which took in some of choice Swartland mountain passes and badly corrugated dirt roads east of Clanwilliam.

On road, with the drive select system engaged in dynamic mode, throttle and steering responses, though perhaps not R8-like, were still ace. Ride quality is better than X3.

Through the Piekeniers pass you have to take mind of the fact Q5 remains, in essence, an SUV with 200mm of ground clearance. The quattro drive – no doubt assisted greatly by the 17 wheels rolling on road biased rubber – ushers in high levels of grip and body roll is oddly absent.

On dirt roads the wheel does get awfully busy, yet it’s to be expected considering the road-biased overall vehicle set-up, limited suspension travel, tyre profile and severity of the dirt roads we traversed. Best to engage dynamic drive’s comfort setting off road (even on dirt roads), which heralds a less frantic driving and steering feedback experience.

Audi's optional drive select, especially when paired with the dynamic steering and electronic damper control, ensure versatile, and nearly vice-free, handling on tar or dirt-roads. We would prioritise this as an option over something live the 3D SatNav.

Buying down in size, not image

X3 rival? A4 Avant with attitude? Miniaturised Q7? Is the Q5 really of these things? Yes and no.

Bigger, with greater loadability (540l plays 480l) and an incomparably more stylish interior, Q5 eclipses the X3 in most areas – especially with excellent dual-clutch gearboxes across most of the range.

Audi interiors are of such a high standard across the range buying down doesn’t incur a feeling of being left short changed from the driving position. Following this logic Q7 owners tempted to trade down will be heartened to find a responsive SUV, with dimensions better suited to urban driving and much better aesthetics.

Audi’s A4 Allroad – to debut in Geneva next week - would be a great real world alternative SUV alternative - it’s unlikely to come to South Africa though.

Although pricing is shadowing X3, the Q5 isn’t cheap, but it hardly feels so either. The options list is testing though - in its length and pricing.

Contemporary styling and resolved dynamics should ensure Audi manages to shift its target of 80 units a month with consummate ease. Should be an apt achievement in its centenary year. 

2.0 TDI - R407 000
2.0 T FSI - R460 500
3.2 FSI - R515 000
3.0 TDI - R533 500

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