AUDI’S AMBITIOUS NEW Q A rear tyre was indeed punctured, but a suspicious hole in the side suggested it was deliberate. Phew, I had just come uncomfortably close to being the first person in the world to have a Q5 stolen. This is the Q7’s slightly smaller brother, and Audi’s second premium SUV. There will eventually be a third. Over dinner at the launch, Audi chairman Rupert Stadler promised a “firework of products” ahead and admitted that there was still room for another, smaller Q car below this one. So perhaps a Q3 one day, then.
Although the Q5 is shorter and lower than a Q7, it is still a big car. At 4.63 metres it is longer than its most obvious rivals, the BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander. It is a handsome brute, with the familiar deep front grille that has become an Audi trademark. Attention has been paid to weightsaving, including an aluminium bonnet and tailgate. Daytime LED running lights are an option, and the rear lights are LEDs. Hill Descent Control is standard. Inside, the Q5 has the cossetting, high-quality cabin we’ve come to expect of Audi. There is the MMI (man machine interface) central control dial for all the main functions. To save space, the parking brake is electronic, and there is a chilled cupholder in the centre console beside the driver.
The back seats can be reclined and there are handles in the boot sides to let you drop the backrests forward. With the seats in place, the boot is 540 litres, bigger than a BMW X3’s (480 litres) but smaller than a Freelander’s (755 litres). Fold the seats, and the space goes up to 1,560 litres.The front passenger seat can also be folded to accommodate extra long items. The Q5 feels very secure on the road with its quattro four-wheel-drive system, biased 40/60 towards the rear in normal running. The 168bhp 2.0 TDI with a manual gearbox is expected to be the best-seller, and it is an eminently civilised, strong performer. But for ultimate refinement the 236 bhp 3.0 TDI teamed with a seven-speed double-clutch S tronic auto is the most impressive.
Audi is at pains to stress the sporty character of the Q5, but it wasn’t particularly evident on the test route around rural Spain. With an array of electronics looking after you, the lingering impression is of a more highly civilised and sybaritic cruiser than sports car.
RIVALS: BMW X3 2.0d SE, LAND ROVER FREELANDER 2.2 TD4 HSE, VOLVO XC60 2.4D SE LUX
- Engine: 1968cc, 4 cylinder, turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Max Power: 168bhp at 4,200rpm
- Max Torque: 258lb ft at 1,750 – 2,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,400kg
- Combined Consumption: 42.1mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 175g/km (E)
- 0-62mph: 9.5secs
- Max speed: 126mph
- Insurance Group: tba
Audi’s Q5 is clearly a very desirable car. Someone in Valencia obviously thought so, and tried a cunning ruse to acquire the one I was driving at the international launch based in the Spanish city. “Puncture, puncture!” shouted the driver of a battered Fiat Panda, as he cut me up at a roundabout and gesticulated frantically at the Audi. Suspicious of a notorious carjacking trick employed by Spanish criminals, I flicked on the door locks and kept driving. When it was safe, I stopped to check