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2018 Audi Q5 First Drive Review

What is it?

The luxury midsize SUV segment has been booming recently. With the introduction of the brand-new Mercedes GLC and the Volvo XC60, the competition is sterner than ever before. The latest entrant in this flourishing segment is the brand-new Audi Q5 which is larger, edgier, lighter and more capable than ever before. But the new Q5 has to be really special, as beating the likes of the impressive GLC and the feature laden XC60 won’t be easy. We travelled all the way to Kishangarh in Rajasthan to find answers.

On first impressions the new Q5 looks like a mix of the first generation Q5 and the new Q7. It appears very similar to its bigger cousin especially when viewed upfront. The large single-frame hexagonal grille, slim high-tech full LED headlamps and the shapely bumper reminiscent of the larger sibling. When viewed in profile, it has a very similar stance to the old car but thanks to the more pronounced shoulder line it comes across as more dynamic. From the back it looks more like a jacked up estate than a SUV but those fantastic tail lamps with dynamic turn indicators and the bulging boot section lends it a stylistic touch. What could have been better executed are the fake dual exhaust recesses in bumper, which look more Korean than German. Overall the new Q5 will appeal to most, but it’s hard to get excited by the design.

Under the skin the new Q5 is based on the MLB evo platform which also underpins the A4, A5 and the Q7. This modular platform uses lot of aluminium and high strength steel in its construction, as a result of which the new car has shed almost 90kg as compared to the old Q5. It is longer and taller than the outgoing car which should aid interior space and packaging. 

How is it on the inside?

When you first enter the new Q5, it reminds you of older Audi’s than the new ones. You get a conventional dash layout with a well-defined centre console and missing are the distinctive vents that expand across the width of the dashboard like in the new Q7 and A4. What is thoroughly modern though is the Virtual Cockpit system which we have come to love in all newer Audi’s. It high-res instrumentation screen is crisp, easy to use on the move and gives you information like navigation, trip data and phone notification right in front of your eyes. The MMI system is quick and easy to get use to but not as intuitive as the BMW’s i-Drive system. There’s a touchpad, too, which we used mostly for inputting addresses on the navigation or to search contacts which makes your life easier when you’re on the move.

As you would come to expect, quality is top drawer in this Audi. Right from the knurled finished air-con controls, to the beautifully textured dash top, everything just feels right on the money. Thankfully Audi hasn’t fallen for the minimalistic design approach like some of its rivals and have sensibly kept separate buttons and switches for the air-con, drive modes and so on. It does look less fancy as compared to a Volvo but when it comes to functionality, it surely gets our approval.

You sit high up in the new Q5 and the low dash and slim pillars give you a clear view of your surroundings. The large front seat is well bolstered and there is loads of space up front. At the rear you get more kneeroom and the bench itself is comfortable and it can be reclined according to your comfort. The 510 boot is large and well-shaped. You can also slide the rear seat forward to add space and you also get 40:20:40 split folding function which adds to the Q5’s practicality.

In terms of equipment the Q5 we had on test was well-equipped. It came with panoramic sunroof, electric leather seats, parking assist with rear camera, three-zone climate control, electric boot opening, cruise control with a speed limiter, 8 airbags, LED lighting, Matrix Beam headlamps, and the Virtual cockpit instrumentation. A glaring omission though is the keyless door opening which is present even in cars that cost less than Rs 10 lakh.

How does it drive?

At the time of launch the Audi Q5 will be only available in the 2.0-litre diesel variant. It is powered by the same EA288 1968cc four-cylinder turbo-diesel motor as in the Audi A4 and power and torque rating have taken a huge jump over the old car.

This motor is so refined that you don’t even realize its running at idle and combined with the impressive sound insulation the Q5 might be the quietest cars we have driven recently. The blend of the lighter chassis and extra oomph from the motor makes new Q5 feel light-footed from the word go. The motor’s strong midrange makes overtaking easy and the tall seventh gear makes it a potent long distance vehicle.

The 7-speed dual clutch transmission works really well in tandem and makes full use of this impressive engines potential. It responds quickly to the change in position of your right foot at all times and ensures that you are in the meat of the power band. It does get a bit jerky at times in Dynamic mode especially when you manually shift using the paddles. In Comfort, it feels relaxed and unhurried yet quick enough and was our preferred mode all through the drive.

The biggest improvement in the new Q5 is in terms of ride comfort. Gone is the fidgety ride of the old car and now it feels suppler and low speeds ride is really good. In comfort mode the dampers are in the softest setting and the car just glides over the broken roads without much fuss. On the highway though there is quite a bit of body movement, especially over undulating surfaces. It’s best to switch to Dynamic out on the highway and in this mode the Q5 displays a much flatter poise and a more comfortable ride.

Handling is a bit of a mixed bag though. In Dynamic or in Auto mode this SUV has great composure with minimal body roll. There is leech like grip thanks to the Quattro system too. But the steering which is lifeless, gives you a disconnected feel and takes away from what would have been an otherwise fun to drive SUV. In Comfort mode the steering feels too light and with Dynamic mode just adding more resistance than feel. Still we preferred the Dynamic setting and we ended up driving the Q5 in Individual mode, with the Engine set in Comfort and Suspension and and steering left in Dynamic. You also get an off-road mode which alters the ESP and power delivery to give you maximum traction possible when the going gets slippery. Although the Q5 won’t be a potent off-roader it does get hill-start and hill-descent control when the going gets tough. The brakes on the Q5 are reassuring with good initial bite and strong stopping power.

 

Should I buy one?

It’s a very well-rounded SUV with no big drawback. It might come across a bit boring in the way it looks or the way it drives but as a no-nonsense, easy to drive and live with SUV the Q5 just feels right on the money. It is a huge leap forward over the old car and the beautifully made cabin makes it feel premium and luxurious. The Q5’s fate though will all depend on how well Audi manages to price it, which we will know on the 18th of January 2018. If priced right, the new Q5 is definitely in the hunt to take top honours.

Where does it fit in?

The Audi Q5 is directly targeted at the BMW X3, Volvo’s new XC60 and the GLC 250d. 

 

Pictures: KAPIL ANGANE

 

Audi Q5 launch confirmed for 18 January 2018

 

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