An early drive in the new Audi Q5 reveals a classy and competent car, but not an exciting one.
What is it?
The Audi Q5 – a decent, nicely built, but somewhat unspectacular SUV – is Audi’s best-selling car globally these days. Some 1.6 million Q5s have found homes since the car’s 2008 launch, a period coinciding with Audi’s vast growth. And now there is a new one. So popular has the Q5 been that Audi has erected a new factory in Mexico just to build it, some 1,50,000 a year at first (you can, of course, expect local assembly in India eventually). Those new workers will be building a car that ticks all the usual new car boxes of a new exterior look, plusher interior, lighter body, and more efficient engines. In the Q5’s case, that weight saving comes from the adoption of the new mixed-material MLB Evo platform, seen in other guises on the A4, A5 and Q7. It’s said to be up to 90kg lighter than the current model despite a slight increase in footprint, and that weight saving teams up with a more aerodynamic body for even greater efficiency.
The initial engine line-up includes a 2.0-litre diesel with 190hp, a 2.0-litre petrol with 252hp, and a range-topping 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 286hp that will follow very soon after launch. Quattro four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox are likely to be standard for the UK (and India). We’ll have to wait until later in 2017 for the fruitier SQ5 model, which is set to get a more potent version of the V6 diesel. A plug-in hybrid version is also in development.
What's it like inside?
We’ll skip over any description of that exterior design, as you’ve doubtless read a description of it for any other Audi launched in recent years, but they tell us the look is a new one - and sportier. It’s inside where the real progress has been made in the new car over the ageing current car. The perceived quality of Audi interiors is beyond reproach, and the interior of the Q5 is its undoubted high point. The choice of materials, sophistication of the technology, and overall fit and finish are all excellent, and cannot currently be matched by any rival.
Your eyes will be drawn first to the excellent 12.3-inch virtual cockpit colour screen where the instrument binnacle once lived, displaying everything from the navigation screen to the speed. It’s very good in other Audis, and the same applies here. The MMI infotainment system, displayed on an 8.3-inch screen in the centre stack, is also as good as ever, ticking every type of usability and connectivity box you’d like including Wifi, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions.
Not only is the interior of a higher quality, it’s also more spacious, with room for five adults and an increase in boot capacity to 610 litres. The Q5 will also allow you to access that boot easier by waving under a sensor to opening it, and also lowering the car on air suspension-equipped models to aid loading of larger, heavier items. The boot lip is a bit high though.