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Audi's 500Nm X3 challenger

2008-07-07 08:00
Audi Q5

Audi Q5

Details surrounding Audi’s keenly anticipated Q5 SUV, set for launch later this year, have been further fleshed out.

The mid-sized SUV, gunning directly for X3 market territory, will have a host of typically efficient Ingolstadt technologies beneath its contemporary styling – which contributes greatly to the low 0.33 drag coefficient.

Light, spacious

Utilising aluminium liberally in the design and engineering parameters Audi have managed to created a 4.63m long and 1.88m tall SUV weighing in at only 1 730kg. Sporting a class leading wheelbase of 2.81m, Q5 proportions have been maximized towards providing optimal interior space.

Proportionally the long wheelbase renders extremely short overhangs, thanks largely to a front differential located ahead of the clutch, and immediately behind the engine – a design pioneered by the new A4.

This repositions the front axle well forward, resulting in a long wheelbase and an ideal axle load distribution. Audi rated this as a key aspect in providing dynamic handling characteristics and responsive steering feel.

Our experience with the A4 indicated the dynamic handling advantages are tangible, but in right-hand drive markets the footwell and pedal placement suffers as the differential arrangement intrudes unhappily into the driver’s footwell.

Interior equipped

Audi says the Q5 is to be lavishly kitted –
automatic air conditioning and an eight speaker infotainment system are included as standard.

There is a particularly attractive system of multimedia components available too – if you’re willing to pay.
In the top specification, MMI navigation plus with 40 gig hard drive and DVD drive, a Bluetooth phone, a TV tuner, an intelligent speech control system, digital radio reception, an interface for an iPod or MP3 player with USB connection and a high-end sound system from the Danish specialist Bang & Olufsen can all be combined. Technology geeks are no doubt thrilled at this prospect.

Regarding interior practicality luggage space is 540-litres – expandable to 1560-litres with rear-seats folded – and maximum payload is 580kg.

The two-piece load bay floor features a 180mm deep wet-stowage compartment – perfect for those wetsuits and muddied mountain-biking gear. Adventure types and coke-addicted tweens will be happily serviced by capacious rear-door cut-outs which accommodate 1.5-litre drinks bottles.

There is some clever dynamic safety stuff in the cabin too; especially the seat-rail sensors up front which calculated seat position and adapt airbag deployment accordingly.

All-wheel drive dynamism

All Q5s will feature quattro permanent all-wheel drive distributing power in a 40:60 split between the front and rear wheels, producing slightly rear-biased, sporty characteristics according to Audi. If traction conditions deteriorate torque can be split in a 65% ratio to the front wheels, or as much as 85% to the rear.

Q5 will be suspended by a five-link front suspension and trapezoidal-link rear set-up whilst riding on 17-inch mags shod with 235/65 tyres s standard – although
Audi can oblige with anything up to 20-inches as options.

Recognising SUVs carry all manner of roof-rack and trailer cargo Audi has engineered for stability with these dynamics in mind. The ESP features a sensor identifying when a roof rack is fitted and calculates Q5's centre of gravity is resultantly higher, therefore sharpening the ESP dynamic handling intervention threshold. Maximum towing load for the Q5 is 2.4 tons, which should appease caravan and boat owners.

Off-road ability?

As with its key competitors the Q5 has no overlanding pretences, bushwhacking talent is limited to traction provision instead of obstacle clearing clearance and axle articulation. Low mass and strong powertrains enable a climbing angle of 31-degrees, whilst approach and departure angles are both 25-degrees.

Ground clearance is class competitive at 200mm, as is a wading depth of 500mm. Novice off-road drivers will be heartened by the presence of hill-decent control as a standard feature, able to slow enact a downhill holding speed of below 30km/h.

Off-road traction is managed via a blend of ESP and ABS interplay; with ESP sorting traction while the ABS automatically identifies surface conditions and
selects the ideal control strategy for sand, gravel or snow. Off-road enthusiasts will keenly note tyre pressure monitors as standard kit.

Potent powertrains

Initially Q5 will be offered with three powertrains – two turbodiesels and a petrol - although the range is to be bolstered by a 3.2 FSI V6 petrol later.

The sole initial petrol engine, a 2.0 TFSI, producing 155kW and 350Nm has benefitted greatly from direct injection turbocharging technology.

Featuring a water-cooled charger as well as optimised turbine and compressor wheels have improved its throttle response. With 350Nm of torque available from 1 500-4 200r/min – the 2.0 TFSI has the making of a highly driveable unit; returning 8.5l/100km and sprinting from 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds.

The similar displacement TDI engine produces 125kW and identical peak torque in a much narrower 1 750-2 500r/min range; leading one to question if the comparably more frugal 6.7l/100km consumption justifies the performance offset.

Initially the Q5 range will be topped by Audi’s new 3.0 TDI V6. Producing 176kW and 500Nm it should provide a heady performance to economy blend with 7.5l/100km claimed average consumption and quick, 0-100km/h sprinting capability of only 6.5 seconds.

Concerning transmissions, the 2.0 TDI will only be available in a six-speed manual, whilst the 3.0 TDI and 2.0 TFSI are equipped with Audi’s new dual-clutch, seven-speed S tronic gearbox.

For those nervous parking and highway cruising individuals Audi has a host of driver aides available. The Audi parking system advanced is a parking aid with rear-view camera, Audi lane assist helps the driver to stay in lane, and Audi side assist alerts the driver to potential hazards when changing lane.

The adaptive cruise control system keeps the performance SUV at a constant distance from the vehicle in front, and the auxiliary function known as braking guard warns an inattentive driver to prevent a nose-to-tail collision.

  • South Africa can expect the Q5 mid-way through 2009

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