Audi Q5

Getting the strong, silent type requires a degree of specificity

ANDY ENRIGHT

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE OTHER than brackish lagoons and miles of arrow-straight roads, thereís not a lot to see in South Australiaís Coorong region. If youíre in the latest Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI, thereís not a lot to hear, either. At an indicated 110km/h itís eerily quiet. You hear your passengerís jacket zip clinking as the car sits into the odd dip, a welcome spritz of treble over the blanketed bass tones of tyre and suspension.

The carís computer tells us weíve been in front-wheel drive mode for 99.8 of the last 100km, the Q5ís Ďquattro ultraí drive system reading the low-mu gravel exit of a car park and engaging the spring-loaded rear dog clutches silently and imperceptibly.

The Q5 isnít in the business of loudly overpromising and underdelivering. Itís Audiís quiet achiever, having racked up over 24,500 local sales in the last seven years, forming an integral part of a Q family that now accounts for 42 percent of the companyís Australasian sales.

This all-new car has been a long time coming, riding on the nextgen MLB Evo chassis that now distances it from its Porsche Macan cousin. Aussie buyers get the choice of a 140kW/400Nm 2.0 TDI diesel, offered in either Design or Sport trims, or a 185kW/370Nm petrol version sold exclusively in Sport trim.

Both drive through seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions, but it wonít take too long behind the wheel to convince anyone that the petrol engine is the smarter choice. The diesel does the job, but lacks zest, getting to 100km/h in a leisurely 7.9 seconds.

The petrol engine is usefully quicker, stopping the clock in 6.3 seconds, and with 50kg less in the nose, it tips into a corner more crisply, holds a line more faithfully and takes less effort to bring to a halt. With respective fuel economies of 5.5 and 7.3L/100km, the petrol car will cost an additional $290 per year to fuel.

Thatís money well spent.

The Q5ís fundamentals donít brook too many surprises. Itís about the same width as before, but 34mm longer, 4mm wider, and with 12mm grafted into the wheelbase. Luggage space is up by 10 litres to 550L, or you can opt for the sliding rear bench to extend that to 610L in exchange for the odd passenger DVT.

The interior is a magnificent place to sit, with a broad spar across the dashboard that visually lowers and widens the fascia and thereís a formidable suite of electronics, from Android Auto and Apple CarPlay mirroring to Google Earth, a WiFi hotspot, and, if you opt for Sport trim, Audiís Virtual Cockpit instrument panel and a head-up display.

The Q5 2.0 TFSI gets solid scores for go, stop and steer, but the one blot on its copybook is ride quality.

Itís not trolley jack stiff, but itís a good deal more interactive than youíd probably appreciate.

The fix lies in the options box marked Ď1BKí, which is adaptive air suspension. Itíll set you back $3990 but will transform ride quality and, as an added bonus, increase the carís ground clearance by 45mm if you should venture off road.

You can even drop the rear end by 15mm to load the car.

The Audi Q5 rewards a certain specificity. Itís possible to go wrong and land yourself something that will always seem like a lot of money spent. Invest a little more initially in the 2.0 TFSI Sport with air suspension and the value propositionís really not that hard to grasp. Straight to the top of the class? We wouldnít bet against it.

PLUS & MINUS

Depth of engineering; efficiency; feel-good interior; sweet steering petrol Diesel could use more go; busy ride with big wheels; big-ticket options

BIG QIS 01

Audi offers Qi (pronounced Ďcheeí) wireless inductive charging for your phone. Works great with an Android but youíll need to buy an accessory case to amp up your iPhone.

TENSING UP 02

New Q5 features a gesture control tailgate, so if youíre staggering around with your arms full of shopping/kids/other, you have the option of hopping around on one foot like a Sherpa with gout.

SPECIFIC RIM 03

The launch cars rode on 20-inch alloys, although an Audi engineer recommended 19s instead. When asked if 18s rode better he claimed nobody will buy the car with 18-inch wheels.

SQ5: Slightly Quicker

As much as we like the Q5 2.0 TFSI, there is a faster option in the shape of the $99,611 SQ5. To that, youíll need to add $2150 worth of air suspension in order for it to ride acceptably on the standard 21-inch wheels. The SQ5 gets permanent all-wheel drive and a 3.0 V6 petrol engine under the bonnet, in this instance good for 260kW/500Nm, translating to 100km/h in 5.4s, so itís slower and thirstier than the old diesel SQ5. Couple that with a bit of a meek personality and the SQ5 feels like it could use a bit more mongrel about it.

OR TRY THESE...

Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 $68,705

Its 2.0-litre four-pot cedes a little power and torque to the Q5ís engine, but the price is a bit lower by way of compensation. Like Audiís new SUV, it needs the optional suspension to deliver a composed, comfortable ride.

Volvo XC60 T5 $70,000 (estimated)

Swedenís new offering arrives late this year with two petrols, two diesels and a hybrid, plus an alluring sheen of Volvo-ness. Weíre yet to drive it without the optional suspension, so the jury is out on that one, and boot space is tighter than the Germans.