2018 Audi Q5 3.0 TDi quattro Business (I)

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With examples of Audi’s Q-badged range of crossovers a common sight on our roads, it is hard to remember that this brand was relatively late to this sector of the market. Dread rivals Mercedes, with the ML Class and BMW with the X5 launched their first crossover/SUV models before the turn of the century, and although they had been a little unsure of the reaction they would get, soon found that buyers were attracted to these models, even if in absolute terms they were not the best model that either brand had produced. It was not until late 2005 that we saw a production response from Audi, with their Q7. Like their German rivals, they started at the top end of the market with a large model, and then introduced successively smaller crossovers, ending up with the four-model range of Q2, Q3, Q5 and Q7. And each of those has been made available in a wide variety of versions including sporting ones which take an S as a prefix to the Q and in the case of the second smallest car, there is an RS version on offer. Commercially, it is the Q5 which is the most important. First appearing in late 2008, this model, based on the platform of the Audi A4 and A5 family soon started to notch up significant sales and in many markets became Audi’s best-selling model, with global sales in excess of a quarter of a million cars a year every year. A second generation Q5 was launched at the 2016 Paris Show, going on sale a few weeks later. Visually, this looked like a very cautious evolution from the successful first generation car, but in fact almost everything was changed. Based on the latest MLB Evo platform, the new Q5 was slightly larger in every dimension, to create more space, though quite a bit lighter in weight and it had the latest range of engines and technology to ensure it remained competitive against a class stuffed full of rivals, with and without premium badges on their nose. Surprisingly, despite the model being on sale for 10 years, and as an Audi owner until 2016 which meant that getting hold of most of the range was not that hard, often as dealer courtesy cars, I’d never driven a Q5 of either generation until this trip to Torino (Turin). For reasons that defy any logic, Hertz Italia, who stock most of the Audi Q family, were offering a Q5 for less money than anything else in their entire fleet, so that is what I booked, and when I arrived on a rather wintery Saturday morning in early February, that is what I got. Sadly, this particular car sported a fair amount of bodywork scrapes, so you won’t see pictures of one side of it, and the combination of my planned activities for the weekend and the limited daylight means that there are fewer photos in this report than you usually find, but I did drive this Q5 just enough to be able to form a decent impression of the merits of otherwise of the car.

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The vast majority of Q5 sales in Europe have been for cars with a diesel engine, and that is only starting to shift now in the post-Dieselgate and pro hybrid era. Diesel fuel is still significantly cheaper than petrol in Italy, so it was no surprise to discover that this rental car had a diesel engine. What perhaps was a surprise is that rather than the familiar 2.0 TDi 4 cylinder unit to power it, this one was a 6 cylinder with the 3.0 litre engine, and quattro all-wheel drive. Thus equipped, there is 286 bhp available, which is enough to make this Q5 feel faster than just brisk, and for those who want more still, well there is always the SQ5 version. There is an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox. Pressing the button to fire the engine – the key being happily left in my pocket – there was none of the once-typical diesel clatter. This was a very refined sounding engine even when cold – which it would be every time I had left the car, as snow fell during my visit – and once underway, it remained very civilised, with just a slight whoosh emanating from under the bonnet as the car gathered speed. There is something pleasing about a 6 cylinder engine and this car exemplified it. With plenty of torque available from low down in the rev range, no less than 457 lb/ft between 1500 and 3000 rpm, there is no need to drive this car hard at all. and yet there is still acceleration aplenty. The transmission is well-matched, so I was generally unaware of when it had selected a different ratio, either when going faster of when slowing down. I only had a few miles on the autostrada from the airport towards the city, but noise levels overall were very low, with the wind and road as well suppressed as the engine. My test distance was just 81km, and when I filled the Audi up, it took 7.6 litres, though it as then very full indeed, probably rather more so than it had been when I collected it, so it is hard to be sure of the true fuel economy that the car would achieve. There is a Stop/Start feature and this cut in and out lots as I was driving across the centre of Torino, but it reacted very quickly and was never jerky in operation. Assessment of the other driving dynamics was necessarily limited, too. The steering is light, making the car easy to manoeuvre, though a touch more feel would perhaps be beneficial. I could not really test the handling as most of the roads I went on were either motorway or very urban, and although it did snow on the Saturday afternoon, it was very slushy and largely was gone from the roads by Sunday morning, so the extra potential traction from the quattro system was not really put to the test. Unlike the 4 cylinder cars where the all-wheel drive is not permanent, with this one it is. The ride certainly was something I could assess, and as some of central Torino’s streets are cobbled, so it is good to report that on the standard 235/60 R18 wheels, this Audi dealt well with the surfaces I travelled on, always proving comfortable. Also important when driving in a busy European city is the visibility and this was also good, with plenty of glass and a good field of view from the mirrors. This version of the car had all-round parking sensors and a rear-view camera which made it easier to judge potential obstacles around the car.


Audi has built an envious reputation for the quality of their interiors and the Q5 only furthers that, as this really is superlative to look at, and to touch and to use. There is plenty of leather on the dash, door casings and wrapping the steering wheel and this is combined with the very best quality plastics that you will find in a relatively affordable car and milled metal effect inlays which simply look classy. Fit and finish is beyond reproach. As well as looking good, everything here is easy to use. Audi’s much-acclaimed virtual cockpit is an option, but it was not fitted to the test car. The digital instruments are grouped together in a single cluster, with large dials for speedometer and rev counter joined by those dot charts for fuel level and water temperature and there is a digital display area in the centre of the cluster for trip computer functions, which you can cycle through using a button on the steering wheel boss. There you will also find audio repeater functions. Twin column stalks are from the corporate parts bin, but they work well, so why develop anything different? Lights, with an Auto function, operate from a rotary dial on the dash to the left of the wheel. The centre of the dash contains a 7″colour touch screen for infotainment functions which sits up high, above the central air vents where it is easy to see and reach. Unlike the smaller A3, where it powers up when the ignition is on, this one is in a fixed position, but the unit is thin and does not look as out of place as those on some other cars. Sadly the buttons in the console to operate this have gone, so you need to resort to the screen itself, a haptic touchpad in the centre console or voice control, but it proved easy enough to use, and I certainly appreciated the navigation function as I drove across the centre of Torino. Beneath this unit are the remaining knobs and buttons for the audio unit and buttons for the tri-zone automated climate control. The centre console has the touch pad for the MMI system, the engine start button and the electronic handbrake and this is obviously where you will find the small stubby gearlever, with a separate button for Park position, leaving room for a slim recess which would take a pen, or your phone standing on its edge.

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Slightly surprisingly, for a posh car, the seat upholstery in this particular Q5 was cloth, though that was not entirely a bad thing, as this proved warmer to the touch on what was a cold weekend. There is plenty of adjustment of the seat position, though this is all manual, with a bar under the seat and levers on the side. You do feel to be sitting quite high up, but then that is rather the point of crossovers and as headroom is plentiful, it is not really an issue. Space in the rear is generous, with plenty of legroom and there is enough width for three adults though the central tunnel is quite prominent and the centre console does extend well back, so the middle occupant would not have as much space as those on either side, and again headroom is more than adequate. There is a drop-down armrest with cup-holders in the upper surface. I was slightly surprised to see that there are neither map pockets on the seats or bins on the doors for those sitting here, though. The boot is good, too, with a nice regular-shaped area available. There is electric assistance for the rather heavy boot lid, which proved welcome. A space saver is to be found under the boot floor but this is tightly packed in, so there is no space around it for odd and ends. More space can be created by dropping the asymmetrically split rear seat backrests down, and the resulting floor area is both long and flat. Inside the cabin there is a decently sized glovebox, pockets on the front doors, a recess in front of the gearlever and a cubby under the central armrest.

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Audi offer a wide range of Q5 models. As is usual with this brand, you start by choosing the engine, with 4 cylinder 2.0 TFSi petrol (252 bhp) and 2.0 TDI units (163 and 190 bhp, though only the latter has been available in the UK) both on offer, as well as the 3.0 litre V6 diesel of the test car, or the potent 354bhp SQ5 range topper with a 3.0 litre petrol engine. All UK market cars have the 7 or 8-speed auto box, but there are some markets where a 6 speed manual has been available, and all models have the quattro-plus all-wheel drive system. Audi’s customary SE, Sport and S-Line form the backbone of the trim options, but there have been other variants which combine items which are otherwise available from the options list. Even the SE model is well-equipped these days, with features including xenon headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, three-zone climate control, automatic emergency braking, cruise control and Audi Drive Select – the latter offering a choice of driving modes from Comfort to Dynamic. Upgrading to Sport gets you the excellent MMI navigation, while S Line offers larger, 19-inch alloys, sporty body styling, leather sports seats and LED headlights. As you’d expect, there’s also a lengthy and potentially ruinous options list. Highlights include Audi’s show-stopping Virtual Cockpit (which replaces the standard dials with a 12.3-inch screen), adaptive air suspension, head-up display, park assist (steers the car into a space while you control the pedals), adaptive cruise control (maintains a set distance from the car in front) and a ground-quaking 17-speaker Bang and Olufsen hi-fi. There are subtle differences in spec for other markets. from launch, the Italian market has been offered five trim versions. The entr level car has projector-style Xenon plus lights, 10-spoke 17″ alloys, seat upholstery in a cloth trim that Audi call Synonym, Audi Drive Select, automated climate control, MMI Radio plus, auto wipers and lights, Bluetooth and USB connectivity. Next up is the Sport which has 18″ alloys, sports front seats, a multi-function and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Design, for an extra 1,.850 Euro has a titanium coloured front grille, the external lighting pack and a different design of 18″ alloys. Business, which was the spec of the test car, and another 1.650 Euro, has navigation, parking sensors and a speed limiter control, and the top of the range Business Sport (3.500 Euro) combines the features of the Business and the Sport. Numerous Option Packs are available. .

Although I had the Q5 for a complete weekend, I only managed to cover 81 kms, which was little more than the journey from Turin Airport to Lingotto, where I was going to the AutoMotoRetro event, and location of my hotel, and a return back the following morning, with just a short deviation off the Raccorda in quest of a location for the few photos I took. That makes this one of the shortest test distances of any car that I’ve sampled for quite some time, and means that my assessment cannot really pronounce definitively on the qualities of the Q5. A longer test is certainly called for, as it felt to me that this Audi has considerable merit, and would prove to be a very accomplished, if slightly clinical companion. No weak points were apparent at all during my limited experience with the car, but as to how I would ultimately rate it against its competitors, such as the very agreeable Alfa Romeo Stelvio, I remain unsure. I managed to secure this test car for the bargain price of just £55 for the weekend – it was the cheapest rate of anything in the Hertz Italia fleet when I booked it, for some reason – though whether I will get that lucky again, I am not sure. I shall certainly be looking to do so.

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