I see it when I approach the driverís door, and itís always staring back at me from the steering wheel. Audiís familiar S line branding is hard to miss on the Q5; itís a constant reminder that Iím driving the sporty mass market version. In the past, S line meant overly firm suspension, equally firm ñ read ësupportiveí in Audi parlance ñ sports front seats, and a suitably appropriate sports bodykit to match.
The results were often mixed and didnít always please the performance motoring faithful. Recent years have seen a softening of Audiís approach to suspension settings, and some models can even be selected with the S line look, but without the sportier driving experience, illustrating the broadening appeal of this sub-brand beyond the enthusiastic driver fraternity.
I think my Q5 has got the balance about right. Itís kept the more practical round steering wheel over the sportier flat-bottomed device, which Iíve always thought was better suited to a TT than a full-blown SUV anyway. The carís bodykit is so subtle that youíd have to be an Audi superfan to spot it, while its front bumper and nose strike a good balance between being distinctive, without replicating the stereotypical aggressive SUV look. Crucially, ride comfort is also good. Yes, Iím benefiting from Audiís optional air suspension package, which allows plenty of user adjustability, but the tyres also play a pivotal role, thanks to their comfort orientated tall sidewalls.
Could this all point to this S line specification Q5 being the Goldilocks of SUVs? From a driving angle itís as close to being ëjust rightí as can be. Outwardly it suggests a sporty experience, yet on the road itís capable of delivering a broad spectrum from comfort to high performance. Itís not the outcome I was expecting when I first drove the car, yet its flexible character has ensured that Iíve kept my own teeth and not had to resort to a chiropractor to stop my spine from crumbling. Well played, Audi. Well played.
Given the chance, Iíll still grumble about the low speed performance of the Q5ís gearbox though. Itís the only fly in the otherwise rich and fragrant ointment. Opting for the 3.0-litre diesel engine gets you the more appropriate torque convertor automatic gearbox, which would do much to smooth out the hesitancy of the S tronic-equipped 2.0-litre variant. Granted, the S tronic unit is more engaging on spirited drives, but itís rarely a happy bunny when dealing with urban stop-start motoring.
Still, I do finally get why some detractors label SUV drivers as ësmugí ñ itís easy to feel superior when battling with the elements. With summer firmly in the rear-view mirror, rain, motorway spray, poor visibility and low grip all play into the Q5ís competent hands. The carís LED headlights are great, and the lofty driving position is hard to beat. The clincher is the quattro-enabled traction; the additional security it affords on greasy roads and through standing water isnít to be sniffed at. ëWinningí, as a certain American president might sayÖ
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Date arrived 10th April 2018
Fuel economy 55.4mpg (combined) 42.6mpg (on test)
The S line experience is a much better and more rounded experience than it used to be.
I’m still not feeling the love from the S tronic automatic gearbox when on stop-start urban driving duties.