THE 2017 AUDI Q5 might not look very new at first glance, but its familiar looks belie a car that shares hardly a screw with its predecessor. However, it’s easy to see why the designers were reluctant to make sweeping changes. The outgoing Q5 is not only Audi’s best-selling SUV, but its best-selling model full stop. The new car is lighter and therefore more fuel efficient than the eight-year-old model it replaces. It has a more spacious, high-tech five-seat interior, more efficient engines and, so Audi claims, one of the class’s best driving experiences.
The new Q5 comes at a time when competition in its class has never been stronger, with the recent arrivals of the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Jaguar F-Pace and a new BMW X3 due before the end of 2017. The Land Rover Discovery Sport also costs similar money, and has extra practicality with its seven seats.
Initially, the Q5 will be available with a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 249bhp and a 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp. Shortly after the Q5 goes on sale, a top-of-the-range 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 282bhp will arrive. Later, there will also be a plug-in hybrid and an SQs performance model.
We drove the 2.0-litre petrol and 3.0-litre V6 diesel models in Mexico. Both engines are smooth and offer impressive performance. The diesel is a bit noisy when worked hard, but it has so much pull from low revs that you rarely need to push it On the motorway, you’ll barely hear it, and it has lots of torque in reserve for overtaking. The petrol engine needs more revs to get it up to speed, but once it’s in its sweet spot, it lopes along nicely.
It sounds good, too. The Q5 has steel suspension springs as standard. Air suspension and adaptive dampers from the larger Audi Q7 are options, and these were fitted to our test cars. With them, the Q5 is a very comfy car, with a smooth, forgiving ride. Audi says it looked to the GLC for a benchmark for comfort in the class, and it shows, with the Q5 absorbing bumps well, even on rutted and broken surfaces. It’ll be interesting to see if cars fitted with standard suspension share this quality.
The car’s handling is safe and predictable, but short on steering feedback and involvement. It’s not as good to drive as a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-Pace in this regard. Buyers can have one of two smooth-shifting automatic gearboxes: a conventional eight-speed for the V6, and a seven-speed dual-clutch for the 2.0-litre models.
All Q5s get Audi’s quattro four-wheel-drive system as standard. The V6 is permanently four-wheel drive, whereas lesser-engined cars send all their power to their front wheels most of the time, with power only going to the rear as well if the front wheels start to slip. However, such is the smoothness of operation that you can’t really tell the difference between the two systems.