Glance at our roads and there is a very high chance an SUV will pass you within the next minute or so, in various shapes and sizes. Not so long ago, we had clear distinctions; car or off-roader. Now we have SUVs of varying sizes, prices and offering different experiences. Full size, mid-size, compact, mini, sports-like (coupe)…the list goes on. Everyone’s doing it, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Americans, the Chinese, the Europeans and even the Indians.
Audi never built an off-roader (why would they, when they pioneered Quattro technology in cars), and stepped into the SUV game in the mid-noughties with the seven-seat Q7, a gargantuan SUV that could be had with a bonkers 490bhp 6.0L W12 TDI diesel engine! The Q5 followed in 2008, one size below the Q7 and offering five seats in a sportier package. Come 2017 and the second generation Q5 was introduced to the world, which is what we are figuring today.
The Audi brand in Sri Lanka has recently changed hands and is now in the custody of Drive One (Pvt) Ltd, a consortium headed by a group of professionals who hail from different spheres of industry. They are on a push to elevate the status of the Audi brand in Sri Lanka, in terms of sales, customer experience and after-sales as well. The Q5 is the first new model brought by them, and we at Motor were eager to sample it.
A common complaint of previous-gen Audis was that they all look the same. Take an A8, shrink it in Photoshop by 15% and you get an A6. Do the same again and you get an A4. This was how one foreign publication put it some time ago. Not the case now. Audi are differentiating their models to a greater degree. We saw a Q2 and a Q3 too at the showroom, and each had its own unique styling attributes.
The Q5 is a tight and sculpted package. It’s not too large and the glasshouse is unmistakably Audi when viewed from the side, with a defined waistline above the door handles. Go to the front and it’s all straight lines and sharp angles that flank the LED headlamps with integral Daytime Running Lamps. The Audi corporate grille is huge here, but not too chromed. At the rear, the surfaces are flatter and the tail lights have some interesting designs within. There is no exhaust visible from the rear, just a metal design element at the bottom that stretches the full width of the car. Our test Q5 was clad in Matador Red Metallic paint, and rode on 18inch alloys. Aluminium roof rails were present too, as was the optional High Gloss Package.
Mech & Tech
The Q5 now has a massively simplified engine choice (barring the SQ5). Petrol or Diesel. The Petrol model we tested packs a 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that puts out 252bhp between 5,000 and 6,000rpm, and a twisting force of 273 lb ft between 1,600 and 4,500rpm. The engine features start-stop to eke out that extra bit of economy when possible. All this power reaches the four corners through a seven-speed S-tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission that can be shifted via steering wheel paddles. The steering is electric and the suspension is five-link at all corners. Ventilated discs at the front and rear help stop the Q5. Electronic nannies such as Anti-lock brakes, EBD and stability control are present and the stability control is switchable (you can turn it down and you can also turn it off). Audi drive select is present, as is hill descent control. A virtual cockpit is an option whereby the gauge pod is replaced by a digital screen that can be customized to show you GPS info in the middle, flanked by speedo and revs or your choice. Our test Q5 packed a more conventional analog meter panel. Our Q5 also had Parking System Plus whereby the car will park itself (parallel, straight or diagonal) and you only need to control the speed and transmission.
Step into the Q5 and sit on the 8-way adjustable driver’s seat. The view all round is pretty good. Audi’s take on an electric gear selector has resulted in something that’s nice to use, but for manual shifting the paddles take the cake. Yes they are plastic but they feel great to use. In some cars, you don’t feel like using paddles but the Audi encourages you to do so. In no time, we are off, threading the Q5 through the narrow lanes in Wattala on the way to enter the expressway. Drive select is set to Comfort mode.
A few prods on the gas as we drive along shows that the Q5 has more than enough urge to overtake slowpokes with confidence. The engine will rev happily in Comfort, shifting on part throttle around 3,000rpm. Should you wish to shift manually, just flick a paddle! Soon we enter the highway and I select “Efficiency” mode on the Drive select. Throttle response and steering response are dulled down and the Q5 is less eager to shift down (unless you engage the kick-down at the bottom of the throttle’s travel), relying on its torque instead to gather speed. Even when it does shift, the shifts are lulled Engage cruise control and it works with no fuss. The Q5 is so quiet and calm at 100km/h that you could actually doze off, and your passengers most certainly will! You have been warned…
Trying out “Dynamic” mode on Drive select brings an instant kick down to fifth gear from seventh and the engine revs jump up. The Q5 is in its most potent mode here. On some impromptu accelerations from rest to 100km/h along a road devoid of any traffic, humans or animals, the Q5 feels every bit the claimed 5.9 seconds for this sprint. Not a squirm or squeal is heard, just a swift gathering of momentum. The throttle response and steering are at their quickest settings in “Dynamic” and the gears change with a crisp action.
In all drive modes, the steering is finger-light at parking speeds but firms up nicely at speed. On Q5s with the optional air suspension, the drive modes alter the suspension properties as well.
We turn off into a sandy beach area for our photo shoot. I engage “Offroad” on the Drive select and the Q5 steadily tracks along the loose sand as I feather the throttle. A harder prod shows impressive composure with nary a horsepower being wasted as the computers calculate exactly how much power can be laid down. Of course, if you turn the ESP off, you can have some fun in the sand. However, SUVs are not meant to be all-out mud pluggers so keep that in mind.
There are some rare occasions where the gearbox will give a slight jerk, this is a characteristic that afflicts most DCTs and to understand why, we must go into their operation (see box).
Living with it
The leather-trimmed interior is a cozy place to be. You get decent space and a whole bunch of toys too. While dual-zone climate control is a must in this segment, your rear seat passengers can have a say in the temperature of their zone too. Two small buttons on the centre console box below the rear vents allow temperature selection. I like how the temperature displays for driver and passenger are within the control knobs itself, and the metal toggles that control air flow direction and fan speed. In general, the Q5’s centre console controls were tactile delights to use although you do need to take your eyes off the road to use the MMI or change drive modes, at least until muscle memory gets used to the locations. The rear seats can be slid (optional) and their backrests can be reclined a bit also. The tall centre tunnel (for the rear driveshaft) means that its ideal for two at the rear, but three can make do. I climbed into the rear seat and found the space to be more than enough. The boot is 540 litres, rising to 1600+ litres with the rear seats folded. That’s more than enough space for your large, friendly Doge! You get a cargo net and luggage cover too, and beneath is a full-size spare wheel with the typical Audi “subwoofer in the spare wheel space” configuration.
Talking about subwoofers, our test Q5 was specced with the 19-speaker 755-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system which is a huge step above the base 10-speaker 180-watt system. Driven through Audi’s much-developed MMI (MultiMedia Interface), you get Bluetooth, USB, memory card and Audi’s Smartphone interface that is compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Interestingly, the base system has a CD player while the B&O doesn’t. The B&O system sounds fantastic, even under Bluetooth streaming and it seamlessly interfaced with my Android smartphone.
The driver information system shows a myriad of information, such as media playing, service status, trip meter data, fuel economy and much more. I was interested in the “Energy Consumption” display which showed that on idle, the air conditioner was consuming the largest chunk of power.
Other conveniences include no less than four cupholders, charging ports for smartphones, a cigarette lighter (been a while since we saw one of those in a new car), an electric boot lid, a very nice electric panoramic sunroof that really adds that “touch of class”, a frameless auto-dimming rear view mirror, ISOFIX mountings in the rear seat and ambient lighting. The much-desired Reverse Camera is present too. Ambient lighting gives the interior that additional soft touch at night. Prospective buyers should delve deep into Audi’s catalogue of interior and exterior trim options – a full black interior will gel well with some, not so well with others. Anyways if you are shopping at this price point, it’s worth speccing the car to your liking.
As with most German cars nowadays, you are practically wrapped within airbags and the Q5 is no exception, packing at least six airbags with multi-stage deployments for some of them. The central locking automatically unlocks upon airbag deployment. Of course, all that means that the Q5 scores a five-star EuroNCAP rating with 93% Adult Occupant and 86% Child Occupant scores. The vehicle also has an anti-theft system with immobilizer, tyre pressure monitoring system and the electronic nannies mentioned in the Mechanicals & Technology section.
Fuel Econ & Price
Let’s not pretend that this is an eco-car. The Q5 is a turbocharged SUV with four-wheel drive and a large complement of luxury fittings and it does not pretend to be a fuel sipper. Town running consumption will be in the region of 7km/l, while that out-station jaunt can see about 10km/l average. Hit the highway in Efficiency mode and you can see 14km/l.
Let’s talk price now. And that amounts to 19.6 million smackers. That’s not pocket change but it’s what you should expect for a European mid-size SUV with all these trimmings. The tax on the 2.0L engine alone amounts for more than two thirds of your dough, which also explains why the literal elephant in the (show)room, the Q7 is in the region of only 3 million more; it packs the same engine and thus same duty! Drive One (Pvt) Ltd also offer a two-year unlimited mileage warranty which includes three labour free services, free registration, revenue license and number plates.
So why would you buy a Q5 rather than a Q7? Well, the Q5 is a smaller, lighter and nippier SUV that makes a great choice if you don’t need a seven seater. The smaller size also means driving around and parking will be easier in the city. It’s an SUV that you are meant to drive, while the Q7 is more an SUV that you are meant to be driven in. So head down to Drive One’s showroom on R.A. De Mel Mawatha and have a look. Don’t forget to explore the colour and trim choices, and option packages too.
DCTs – Why Do They Jerk?
A DCT is a wonderful gearbox with intelligence in that it “pre-selects” gears of sort, anticipating what may come. This is great in theory and for most practical cases, but sometimes it may make an incorrect selection, especially on our wildly unpredictable traffic conditions. For example, let’s say you are in traffic and accelerate hard. The DCT will “predict” an upshift and prepare for it, but the driver may brake hard instead, and then jump on the gas again (like when you are passing through a junction and an errant vehicle decides to change lanes mid-junction). The DCT did not anticipate this and thus will falter when you demand that burst of power again. Even high-strung sports cars with DCTs that can change gears like the crack of a whip under full power can jerk badly in traffic, so rest assured you are in good company.
2.0L 4-cylinder, turbo
252bhp @ 5,000-6,000rpm
273lb ft @ 1,600-4,500rpm
Dual Clutch, paddle shift
Five link suspension
Ventilated disc brakes
Five link suspension
0-100km/h in 5.9s
Top speed 230km/h
Kerb Weight: 1,800kg
Boot Space: 540L
Fuel Tank: 70L