Audi’s mid-sized SUV, the Q5, made waves for the Ingolstadt brand when it first launched here in 2008 and set out to tackle the BMW X3, which at the time was the only premium offering locally.
Mercedes-Benz had the rather hideous GLK, which was only built in left-hand drive and thus was never offered in SA. Fast forward to 2017, however, and all three manufacturers have their latest advocates available on the local market with BMW making the latest X3, which you can read about in this issue, available next month.
The latest Q5 resolutely takes over the baton from the previous model and looks a bit more like an evolution, an extensive facelift even, but below the skin there have been some major changes. The new model, for starters, uses a similar MLB platform as its predecessor, although in the latest incarnation it is dubbed MLB Evo, which in essence it shares with other big Audi models, including the Q7.
From a design perspective, the Q5 looks every bit like its bigger brethren, including a similar front visage, while the rear could be considered an updated version of the previous model. Audi played safe with the new model, trying not to stray from the silhouette of the original.
Hop inside, though, and it becomes quite apparent where most changes have been made. Appointments, typical of the brand, bristle with a premium polish that makes the cabin a calming sanctuary. In fact the entire architecture is similar to the highly lauded A5 we drove a few months ago, thanks to the optional Audi Cockpit digital instrument cluster, which elevates the overall ambiance.
However, the Q5’s main trump card is its unparalleled refinement. It is apparent in just a few moments of driving in the vehicle the engineers paid close attention to cabin acoustics.
On test here is the 2.0-litre TFSI variant that makes 185kW and 370Nm through a silky smooth seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. Perhaps not the best engine derivative of the model — the 2.0l TDI likely to be the better version — it nonetheless proved effortless and refined. Allied to the high profile tyres, the ride quality was exemplary as it soaked up road imperfections with aplomb.
We drove the vehicle mostly in eco mode and our best consumption was 8.5l/100km — not great, but acceptable for a vehicle of this size. While it manages the rigours of cut and thrust urban traffic, the model’s main forte is the way it manages to gobble up the kilometres in the most serene manner. It is the sort of vehicle that begs you to load up the family and drive to far corners of our picturesque country. Boot space is decent at 550-litres standard and can be expanded to 1 550-litres with the rear seats folded.
So, where does the Q5 fit into the grand scheme, then? The BMW X3 is the more dynamic of the trio and the Merc GLC tries to cover both spectrums of comfort and dynamism. The Q5 is truly sublime as the most comfortable and neutral of the trio. Some may say that it might prove too anodyne or clinical, but I like its unpretentious disposition and the way it goes down the road will put it in good stead with buyers looking for the utmost in refinement from a mid-size SUV.
It probably comes as no surprise that the model was recently announced as a finalist in the 2018 South African Car of the Year competition and this speaks volumes of the vehicle’s impressive nature.
In a segment where perception and expectation need to meld together, I feel that the German offerings have truly pushed the envelope, particularly in the instance of the new and imminent X3 and, indeed, the new Q5. In isolation, though, the latter has really made significant strides in the areas of refinement and it will be intriguing to see how it fares in the SA Coty competition next year.
From my encounter with the vehicle, it is a strong contender for the title and an all-round exemplary proposition by all accounts. Granted, the Porsche Macan remains a stellar offering, but you do pay more for its prestige and it is only offered with six-cylinder engines. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: 2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport S line
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder turbo
Power: 185kW at 5000rpm
Torque: 370Nm at 1600rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
0-100km/h: 6.3-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 237km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 6.8l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 154g/km (claimed)
Price: From R822 420