The Q or SUV range is what has and will continue to define Audi in India. The original Q7 was a runaway hit - fit its class and price, mind. Then came the Q5, and it too sold handsomely, thereby putting it right up there on the sales charts in its class.
But then, the Q5 got old. And Audi's competitors got smart. And suddenly the German luxury car maker wasn't ruling the roost anymore. Fast forward to today, and the Q5 is back. It is a generation change from the older model. It is younger, more tech savvy, and it has grown in size. The latter, for passenger cars and SUVs in particular, is considered a good thing.
Time to drive it and see if it has what it takes to go right to the top.
The new Q5 retains its characteristic profile, but as Audi says, they have turned it into a baby Q7. Now, if you have seen the new Q7, you'd know that it has ditched its menacing and overbearing aura for a sharply cut two-button suit.
The new Q5, not surprisingly, looks more car-like - or say estate / wagon - now. But, it's edgier too, and we mean that quite literally. It has more pronounced lines and creases and ashes than the outgoing car. This change lends the new Q5 a more technical or engineering look, if you will.
I also like the new all-LED head lamps, the squat stance, and the new grille; the latter gives it a distinct identity. However, I didn't like the fake twin exhaust outlets and its similarity to the older model, especially, when viewed from the rear.
In a surprise departure, Audi has given the Q5 a completely unique interior compared to its other new generation models like the A4 and the Q7. Yes, it has the virtual cockpit; a must-have really on any Audi now. But otherwise the dash design is all new.
Gone are the aircon vents that run the length of the dashboard as seen on the Q7. Instead, the new Q5 has a more conventional layout, and it isn't bad either. The dash is low enough to aid visibility; it has enough lines and creases to give it the same technical look as the exterior of the car; and it's more spacious on the inside too.
The seats upfront are large, supportive and electrically adjustable. The ones on the rear too can be adjusted for fore-and-aft movement and reclining, but they are manually operated and aren´t as comfy or big at the ones on the front. The rear seat thigh support isn't great but shove the legs under the front seat, and it all becomes usable.
The Q5 is big on boot space as well. It's over 500 litres, and with a rear seat that folds 40:20:40, there's tremendous amount of flexibility too. Loading lip height isn´t high either.
As far as quality goes, look and feel is right up there with the best in class. Operability - clicking of switches, twirling of knobs, pushing of buttons - feels spot on too. It's crisp, feedback-rich, and a joy to use.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a new generation car. And that means it is based on a new platform - a platform which is lighter and more rigid due to generous use of aluminium and high strength steel. It also gets new hardware by way of a revised drivetrain and suspension.
And that translates into an impressive on-road performance. The revised 2-litre engine - mated to a quick shifting 7-speed dual clutch automatic - is quieter, more refined, and more gutsy. Along with an impressive suspension setup, a light steering and good visibility all round, the new Q5 makes for a tremendously easy car to drive and live with.
In fact, it's so effortless to drive, especially over long distances and a variety of road surfaces, that I am are inclined to call it more of a GT car than an SUV. The ride is pliant, absorbent, and flat. The straight line stability is unwavering. And the handling is seriously impressive.
It has five driving modes - Off-road, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual. Changing the modes alters the Q5's engine, gearbox, throttle, steering and suspension responses. But, no matter what mode you choose when on the road - barring off-road of course - all the above mentioned on-road dynamic traits hold true. And that, in my book, is a job well done.
The only thing I didn't like were the brakes. These work if you slam on them. But, try to use progressive inputs, or lean on them to find the right biting point before ABS starts kicking in, and the response is average at best. In fact, braking is the only time one can feel the Q5's heft.
And yes, if you are a true driving enthusiast, the light but quick steering might leave you a little underwhelmed.
|Variant||2.0 TDI quattro S-tronic|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||190bhp @3800rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||400Nm @1750rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||70|
|Tyre size||225/50 R17|
|Full LED Headlights||Yes|
Competition All Specs
|Variant||2.0 TDI Quattro S-tronic||220d Sport|
|Max. Power (bhp@rpm)||190bhp @3800rpm||168bhp @ 3000rpm|
|Max. torque (Nm@rpm)||400Nm @1750rpm||400Nm @1400rpm|
|Fuel Capacity (in litres)||70||66|
|Tyre size||235/60 R18||235/60 R18|
Already a practical, spacious, and decently specced luxury SUV, the Q5 has now clearly shed its 'old-man' look and feel. The new version feels agile, lively and even more luxurious than before. It's difficult to fault too. The default choice in its class then? Only a real-world comparison test can answer that.
Photos By Kapil Angane