Nine years have seemingly elapsed in a blink. In July, 2008, I found myself in Valencia, Spain, and the occasion was the launch of Audi’s first-generation Q5. At the time, it was only the second entrant in the SUV sector for the four-ringed brand, following in the wheeltracks of the full-size Q7 that had debuted a couple of years previously.
History has shown the original Q5 was a runaway sales success, racking up over 1.6m global sales over its lifespan. The only Audi model that chalks up more sales worldwide is the A4 range, and that’s made up of three different variants (saloon, wagon and allroad). So, it’s clear the Ingolstadt brains trust nailed the sweet spot in conceiving the original Q5. No pressure, then, in coming up with an all-new successor to the compact crossover SUV.
The regional launch venue for the second-gen model couldn’t be more far removed from Valencia. Salalah was formerly the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, but what gets the tourists flocking these days is the monsoonal rains during the Khareef season, transforming the otherwise brown landscape into a lush green oasis. Even coconut and banana sprout forth during this period.
If one were to really go out on a tangent, one could argue that Audi is hoping Q5 sales will flourish in the same manner that the local vegetation proliferates in Salalah during Khareef. On paper, the ingredients seem promising. The new Mexico-built Q5 derives its basic hardware from its latest A4 sibling (the platform is dubbed MLBEvo, in case you’re interested), and the switch to the new architecture has yielded weight savings of up to 90kg, even though the newcomer has grown slightly in length and width. Its lighter girth obviously contributes to sharper performance and handling, plus marginally better fuel economy than before.
In terms of visuals, Audi’s crayon wielders have resisted busting out any wild design elements in penning the second-gen model. Heavily evolutionary it may be, but stand the new vehicle next to its predecessor and the contrast is actually quite stark. Where the oldie stands relatively upright and appears somewhat slab-sided, its successor has more heavily sculpted design language, with the expansive sheetmetal of the flanks punctuated by a scalloped section in the lower half of the doors and a sweeping, sharp-edged shoulder line that runs all the way from the headlight to the taillight.
Up front is the familiar single-frame grille — with LED headlights or optional Matrix LEDs — and standard-issue Audi face that seemingly fronts everything from an A4 to the Q7. Audi isn’t big on individuality in terms of differentiating its model line-up (R8 excluded), so we shouldn’t exactly be surprised here. Company execs say their customers liked the way the old Q5 looked, so there was nothing much to be gained by creating something entirely different.
The new Q5’s mechanical package is fresh, but the basic formula is as before. This means there’s a 2.0-litre TFSI (direct-injection turbo) four-cylinder engine sitting under the snout, and said unit channels a robust 249bhp and 370Nm to all four wheels via a seven-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission and upgraded quattro all-wheel-drive system. Further up the range there’s a power-packed SQ5 variant (from Dh249,000) propelled by a 349bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 that sprints to 100kph in 5.4sec, but we’re focusing here on the 2.0 TFSI as that will be the volume seller of the Q5 range.
In the interests of minimising fuel consumption, drive normally goes through to the front wheels only, but a percentage of torque is channelled to the rear wheels in a fraction of a second as soon as there’s a loss of traction at the front. Let’s be clear, the Q5 isn’t an all-terrainer, even though our test vehicle was equipped with optional adaptive air suspension (that can raise ride height on rough terrain) and Hill Descent Control. You’re not going dune bashing in it, but the Q5 is fit for light-duty off-roading on rutted gravel tracks and so forth.
It’s on the blacktop that Q5s will spend most of their working lives, and the good news here is that the latest-gen car builds on the strengths of its predecessor in this domain. For starters, that punchy 2.0-litre engine and seamless seven-speed dual-clutch ’box combine to deliver an unexpectedly brisk turn of speed. Even on a winding ascent in the Dhofar Mountains, the Q5 scoots from one corner to the next with a great sense of urgency. Audi claims a 0-100kph split of 6.3sec for the Q5 2.0 TFSI, and this on-paper rapidity is reflected out in the real world.
Encouragingly, the brisk straight-line performance is backed up by a chassis that doesn’t mind being hustled across the twisties. The Audi is a decently grippy device, especially in the case of our test car, which is equipped with optional 20in rims and low-profile rubber. But even with the oversize wheel/tyre combo, ride quality never deteriorates to the jarring end of the spectrum — despite being subjected to some distinctly patchy Omani roads.
Refinement levels are impeccable and cabin quality is up to the usual Audi standards, with high-quality trim to be found wherever your eyes or fingertips come to rest. Our car is equipped with the optional Audi virtual cockpit with 12.3in screen, and this set-up makes it a breeze to configure the display to your liking. Other options include a Bang & Olufsen Sound System with 3D sound that Audi claims “introduces the spatial dimension of height”. Hmmm…
And while the Q5 isn’t the autonomous driving showcase that the upcoming new A8 limo is, it still tops its segment with the optional availability of rear cross traffic assist rear (warns you of oncoming traffic when reversing out of perpendicular parking spots), collision avoidance assist (helps you steer around obstacles) and turn assist (monitors oncoming traffic when you’re turning left across intersections). Handily, there’s also a birds-eye view camera to alleviate parking woes.
Seating is excellent in the front and rear and luggage capacity of 550 litres is about as good as it gets in this segment. In fact, the luggage bay stretches to 610 litres if you specify the optional Rear Bench Seat Plus pack, as these pews can slide forward a few inches. The only slight negative is that when you fold the rear seats down they leave a slight step in the load bay, which makes it tricky if you’re trying to slide in a long, heavy object.
All things considered, the new Q5 is a very polished and thoughtfully engineered package. Apart from being great to drive, it’s also attractively styled (albeit not as suave as the latest Volvo XC60) and a highly practical day-to-day proposition.
We see no reason why it won’t extend the monumental sales success of its predecessor.