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Rating 8 8

Audi Q5 3.0 TDi Quattro

7th Sep 2009 7:00 am

The Q5 has won our hearts

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  • Make : Audi
  • Model : Q5

Despite looking very much like a 75 per cent scale of its full-size brother, the Q5 shares nothing with the Q7. It is based on a car platform – the new A4’s modular chassis, which is apt enough as it’s more in tune with on-road performance than Humvee- challenging antics. There is no ladder frame chassis or dedicated four-wheel-drive transfer case and the suspension layout is more corner-carver than scenery-climber. It doesn’t use a fancy air suspension system either; instead it relies on steel springs that are fully independent at each corner.

Part of the reason that the Q5 can snap at sports cars’ heels on mountain roads is because it comes with a full-time four-wheel-drive system (which, as a default, distributes power with a 60 per cent rear bias) and a chassis that is stiffer than the average English upper lip. The only concession it makes for off-roading is the hill descent control and an off-road ESP setting, not to mention decent ground clearance. It has little extra technology to help should its owners wish to head off into the wild, which few will of course. The Q5 does have an option of adjustable damper control and variable-ratio steering in other markets, but Audi isn’t offering it in India as yet.

Thanks to the wide stance and high bonnet, the Q5 looks quite brawny and it also comes with the added benefit of a big boot. Despite being compact, it does however tip the scales on the wrong side of 1.5 tonnes. The Q5 weighs a substantial 1,865kg. It also comes with space saver wheels.

From the moment you grip the nicely sculpted wheel of the Q5, you know that this Audi is no slouch. The dashboard design is really interesting too. The red backlit buttons look like an aircraft cabin at night and, barring a few bits of patchy plastic, it is a cabin high on quality and expensive feel. It’s well specced too – you get a reverse camera, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system, Audi’s MMI system and fully powered seats with seat memory.

However, we didn’t like the optional panoramic sunroof – good as it is on a full moon night, it’s the reason the car gets unbearably hot when parked. The air-con takes longer to cool the cabin too. Save yourself some money and perspiration – leave this box unchecked. That said, the cabin is impressively spacious, with plenty of leg- and headroom for four adults, five at a push (the high and wide centre tunnel means the rear centre passenger has to sit with his legs splayed).

The rear seats are comfortable enough to ensure longer journeys will pass without complaint. The deep 540-litre load bay is big and in tune with its activity vehicle tag; the boot has a useful selection of hooks, power sockets and fastenings to keep things tied down. The seats are comfy and the cushioning is almost perfect. However, people of bigger build might find the Audi’s seat contours a bit too narrow.

The Q5 runs into trouble with small- to medium-sized intrusions. The combination of stiff spring rates and damper settings doesn’t allow enough suppleness over less extreme bumps. As a result, the Audi’s ride is always fidgety over town roads. It gets better at speed, but never disappears – there’s a hint of stiffness even at speeds that normally suit stiff suspension setups.

You get permanent all-wheel-drive Quattro on the Q4, with a 40/60 front/rear bias. There's also hill descent, where the SUV automatically does the braking on each wheel when it comes down a steep slope. Even with the regular tyres shod on the Q5, it handles dirt tracks with great aplomb.

Smooth surfaces will rarely unsettle the Q5, though it's never a truly relaxing ride. You will notice the stiff egde to the ride. Handling is good. The Q5 turns with little body roll and changes direction without protest. It steers accurately, too, although with a curious mix of weight. Usually it’s too light, switching to too heavy quite quickly off-centre. There’s fantastic grip from the four-wheel-drive system and, if the BMW X3 didn’t exist, we would even call it nimble.

Audi Q5 3.0 TDi Quattro
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