GOOD just got better. The second generation of Audi's star premium SUV has arrived and the Q5 has upped its game.
Once star of the medium plush SUV genre between 2009 and 2015, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan and BMW X3 evened the playing field along with a fleet of smaller offerings including the marque's own Q3. Wholesale changes have the potential to woo more back to the four-ring realm with option packages better value than ever and improved driving prowess.
Lighter and more efficient, the bread-and-butter Q5s come with a choice of two four-cylinder powertrains, diesel or petrol.
Entry prices have risen to $65,900 before on-roads, although Audi says the extra kit is valued at $4000 which trumps the $2300 increase.
Most buyers are expected to stump up an extra $5k to get the "Sport” trim which comes with better kit, which is the only specification available on the petrol model which starts at $73,211.
Looking similar to the outgoing variant, it's actually larger in just about all dimensions.
Audi product planner Peter Strudwicke calls Q5 "the Goldilocks car” - just the right size. For families or those looking to get more than a small suitcase in the boot, he's right.
With a European five-star rating all the usual suite is included, like eight airbags, drowsy driver warning, cross traffic alert for when reversing out of parking spaces, blind-spot warning and semi-automated parking.
Upgrades include autonomous emergency braking up to 85kmh, as well as an exit warning to prevent "dooring” cyclists or hitting other vehicles.
ON THE ROAD
Engineering smarts are at the heart of the Q5.
Using Audi's famed quattro all-wheel drive system, it now has "ultra” functionality. What makes it so ultra-special is essentially impossible for the driver to detect.
Operating predominantly in front-wheel drive, two clutches (one in front of the prop shaft, another in the rear diff) ensure all-wheel drive is only engaged when it's needed.
Terrain, acceleration and slippage is predicted and handled within miliseconds. The driver needs to do nothing, yet up to 100 per cent of torque can be sent to either end of the car to maintain a sure-footed feeling.
The benefits are that there are no fuel consumption penalties for quattro, in what's a safer and more adept system. It's something which will become commonplace on nearly all Audis of the future.
On the open road the Q5 was whisper-quiet with only a hint of tyre rumble and wind intrusion on coarse-chip roads from Melbourne, through the Grampians and South Australia's South East.
Eating up the kilometres with consummate ease, the cabin is generous with excellent rear leg room and ample shoulder and head space. Boot room is expanded 10 litres to 550, more than capable of swallowing the weekly grocery trip or two large suitcases with some real estate remaining for smaller bags.
Common-sense prevails with dual cupholders front and back, along with the capacity to handle bottles in each door. Storage and USB/auxiliary access is via the console, and there are enough spots for phones, keys and other gear.
"Design” models get leather trim, 40-20-40 split-fold seats, 18-inch alloys, electric tailgate with gesture control which just requires a kick below the boot to open, seven-inch colour screen with sat nav and three-zone climate control.
Spend the extra coin on "Sport” models and pick up 20-inch alloys, radar cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, larger infotainment screen and 10-speaker sound system, and the awesome virtual cockpit for a configurable digital driver display.
Unusually, we would be tempted to add the Technik package which at $5600 for head-up display, matrix LED headlights and the cracking Bang and Olufsen sound system.
Maintaining the quintessential Q5 silhouette, the second generation looks fitter than the outgoing model. The lines are more prominent for a more muscular look.
"It really emphasises the wheel arches and emphasises the quattro nature of this car,” Strudwicke said.
Horizontal themes are used inside and out to emphasis width, and while the touch controls take some initial analysis, you soon find your way intuitively around the various controls.
There really isn't a poor option among the stable. Sitting within the basement diesel doesn't feel like you've skimped - in fact, you would struggle to find fault.
The Q5 shares the same underpinnings as the Q7, A4 and A5, and both engines are faster yet more efficient while the vehicles are up to 90kg lighter.
Previous Audi generations had light steering which had a tendency to feel beige and lack feedback, but this new breed feels more dynamic and capable.
An adept cruiser at highway speed with beautiful manners in rural and metropolitan confines, the Q5 improves in all facets.
At a glance
PRICE From $65,900-$73,211.
ENGINES 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel 140kW/400Nm; 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol 185kW/370Nm.
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.
THIRST 5.3 litres/100km; 7.3L/100km.
DIMENSIONS 4663mm (L), 1893mm (W), 2659mm (H), 2819mm (WB)
SPARE Space saver.
TOWING 2000kg (braked), tow ball 200kg.
PERFORMANCE 0-100KM/H 7.9 seconds; 6.3 seconds.
WHAT MATTERS MOST
WHAT'S IT GOT Impressive dynamics on the open road and twisty stuff, good-value option packages.
WHAT IT HASN'T A full-size spare and you can't add it through the options, SQ5 diesel engine.
WARRANTY Three-year unlimited kilometres.
CAPPED PRICE SERVICING Plans available covering three years or 45,000 kilometres for $1870.
SERVICE INTERVALS 15,000km or annual.
SAFETY Five star, eight airbags.