Cars UK [rating:4.5]
As with the Q7, Audi is a little late to the party with its new mid-size 4×4 SUV, the Audi Q5.
The Q5 is aimed in the sights of the BMW X3, although it is arguable that it will take sales from not just the mid range 4x4s, but also a number of the full-size ones; even its own Q7 is probably fair game.
It would be wrong to think that the Q5 is, in essence, a re-badged Tiguan (the VW mid-size SUV offering). It’s not. This is a much more sophisticated car and is in every way that matters a smaller Q7.
With a good range of engines at launch (a 2.0 litre petrol and a 2.0 litre and 3.0 litre diesel), and more to come – perhaps even the big 4.2 diesel – the Q5 is out for any 4×4 scalp it can get. And proper, full-time 4WD instead of VWs 4-Motion, makes this a very different car to the Tiguan.
The Q5 will be a winner. Its snob-appeal badge, on-road ability and clever styling and packaging, will quickly make this the default buy in the ‘Classy’ SUV / 4×4 sector.
But is it as good as others in the sector, in particular the Land Rover Freelander?
Quality and Comfort
You’d have to be on another planet not to realise that Quality and Audi have become synonymous in recent years. Build quality is as good as it gets, and the styling, although in the cabin it can sometimes look a but funereal, is understated and thoughtful. The Q5 is no different in this respect.
Based largely on the already proven A4/A5 platform, we know the Q5 will be reliable and robust. And even though the S-Tronic gearbox has never been in a car without a transverse engine before, we can be certain it will prove as durable and reliable as it has in other models.
The cabin is a real revelation, particularly if you were expecting a ‘tight’ cabin. After all, this isn’t a full-size SUV. But you’re in for a surprise. The cabin is just as big as the one you find on the Porsche Cayenne – a ‘Full-Size’ SUV – and head and leg room is in ample supply. The optional glass roof bathes the cabin in light, and makes it a very nice place to be.
Every sort of noise, from tyre to wind, is well suppressed in the classy cabin. And, a real revelation for more recent Audis, the ride is comfortable, even with the big wheel spec. Not something you can say about many Audis. Admittedly, the Q5 is only available initially in SE spec. The sportier S-Line has not been announced yet (although it will be – S-Lines are Audis most successful option), and the ride will no doubt be firmer there. But it does look like Audi has managed to offer a comfortable ride without sacrificing the handling.
On the Road
On road, the Q5 feels like an A4 with a high-ride setting. It takes whatever the road, or driver, throws at it with aplomb and response. It turns-in tightly and there is very little, if any, body-roll. This honestly seems more like a Porsche Cayenne than any of its obvious targets – it is that good.
If you opt for the Drive-Select System (you should) it very cleverly controls not just the suspension firmness, but also the steering and throttle response and, if you opt for the S-Tronic, the gearshift response. It means you can make the Q5 a car for all reasons – whatever your mood.
The proper, grown-up, Quattro system on the Q5 give a default split 0f 60:40 in favour of the rear under normal circumstances, but when things get a bit slippy it can channel up to 85% to the back or 65% to the front. This makes the car extremely good to drive on-road and on light off-roading, but its not an off-roader in the true sense. Even though the off-road mode does have a hill-descent control, it is no Freelander. But let’s be honest – when was the last time your posh off-roader ever did any real mud-plugging?
This is the perfect Urban 4×4 (if that’s not considered an oxymoron these days). It’s big enough for most uses (unless you have 4 or more children), but not too big. It’s quiet, comfortable and easy to drive. The MMI is way better than iDrive, and it’s well equipped, even without options.
To a degree, these are going to depend on which model you choose. But certainly, of the 3 available at launch, all are going to have class-leading residuals. And, whatever it may feel like, it’s the residuals that are the biggest cost element in any car.
Doubtless the big seller will be the 2.0 TDI. This will give you over 42mpg and 175g/km, and insurance group of 14 and VED in band E. And in truth, you will probably find this almost as responsive as the 3.0 TDI Q7. Which could be a worry for Audi. But considering everyone is currently looking to cut their expenses wherever they can, the Q5 offers a cheaper to run 4×4 with very little compromise.
And although full-size 4×4 values have been decimated of late, the same isn’t true of the mid-size / compact 4x4s. In fact, London used to be a big 4×4 marketplace until Ken announced his ‘Squeeze the rich ’til they bleed’ plans for London motorists, but now that Boris has dumped that madness the sale of 4x4s in the capital will pick up again. And I’m pretty sure they’ll pick up in the Q5s corner.
It really is hard to fault the Q5. It does everything so well, and without any real compromise in any area, it’s hard to find an argument against it.
True, the Eco-Mentalists will still decry it as a Planet-Killing 4×4. But let’s get real here. Its emissions are the same as a Suzuki GLX 1.6 or Nissan Micra 1.6, and I can’t see a ‘Green’ protest targeting either of those cars. So it offers all the benefits of a high-driving 4×4, with none of the drawbacks.
Its build quality is as good as it gets. It’s got a roomy, comfortable, well-equipped cabin. It handles well, rides well and has great road-holding. Its stylish and compact.
It’s as close to perfect as any 4×4 can be.
Cars UK [rating:4.5] – When it comes to road-based 4x4s, this is the best 4×4 by far.