From £38,0358
An early drive in the new Audi Q5 reveals a classy and competent car but not an exciting one

What is it?

The Audi Q5, a decent, nicely built but somewhat unspectacular SUV, is Audi’s best-selling car these days. Some 1.6 million Q5s have found homes since the models' 2008 launch, covering a period coinciding with Audi’s vast growth.

And now there is a new one. On a business level this thing really matters, even if the heartstrings aren’t exactly strumming along at the news in the way the noise of an old Quattro Group B rally car would elicit.

So popular has the Q5 been that Audi has built a new factory in Mexico just to manufacture it, some 150,000 a year at first. This plant will be the global production hub for the Q5 and is the first factory Audi has constructed outside of Europe to export to a global market.

The new workers in the factory will be building a car that ticks all the usual new car boxes of a fresh exterior look, plusher interior, lighter body and more efficient engines.

In the Q5’s case, that weight saving comes from the adoption of the new mixed-material MLB Evo platform, already seen in other guises on the Audi A4, Audi A5 and Audi Q7. It’s said to be up to 90kg lighter than the current model despite a slight increase in footprint, and that weight saving teams up with a more aerodynamic body for even greater efficiency.

The initial engine line-up includes a 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp and a 2.0-litre petrol with 249bhp, with a range-topping 282bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel due to follow very soon after launch. Quattro four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox is standard on Q5s that will reach the UK.

We’ll have to wait until later in 2017 for the fruitier Audi SQ5 model, which is set to get a more potent version of the 3.0 V6 diesel. A plug-in hybrid model is also in development.

We haven’t seen any indication of pricing yet, but expect an entry price of around £38,000 when sales start in the UK early next year. There are three trim levels, SE, Sport and S Line, with equipment levels expected to closely match those of the A4.

What's it like?

The models we’re driving are the first off the new Mexican factory's production line. The Audi engineers we're with point out the odd quality niggle here and there, but to all intents and purposes these are the models we’ll be getting in the UK early next year.

We're driving the higher-powered V6 diesel and the four-cylinder petrol model, each with the optional air suspension and adaptive dampers fitted. The former gets an eight-speed torque convertor automatic transmission and permanent quattro all-wheel drive, and the latter a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic gearbox and the quattro Ultra technology, which under certain conditions can prevent drive being sent to the rear wheels in order to save fuel.

It’s the V6 diesel that intrigues most, and my word it is smooth and refined - which is perhaps a good description of the car as a whole. The V6 produces a wide spread of torque with even the occasional sledgehammer effect to its delivery, such is the potency. You certainly won’t be wanting for any extra performance, and the eight-speed auto’ to which it is mated is complementary and not obtrusive.

But you wouldn’t ever call the car overtly sporty, which has as much to do with its chassis tuning as anything else. The Q5 is a very competent and predictable SUV, which is fine by its customers, but you can tell there’s probably quite an involving car in there waiting to get out given the chance.

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It turns in okay and grips well while body movements are well controlled and understeer is kept in check by the standard torque vectoring system, but you never come out of a corner with a smile on your face. Nor, however, do you end up in a ditch, even when taking corners at some speed, which highlights the fact that the chassis has plenty of slack in there.

It was a compliment to the old Q5 that Porsche sourced the base for its class-leading Porsche Macan SUV from the same underpinnings, and it’ll be interesting to see what Porsche can achieve when it gets its hands on this one. Or, indeed, what Audi can conjure up for the S version, development of which is well under way.

What does impress is the ride quality, which matches the smooth, quiet and comfortable characteristics of the engine. Even the most broken of road surfaces failed to really unsettle the car.

There’s also a discernible difference between the car in its different driving modes, seven of which are offered via the Audi Drive Select system. The standard Comfort mode does what you’d expect, but selecting Sport lowers and stiffens the air springs so the car corners a touch flatter and communicates what it's doing through your backside a bit more. It’s still not involving, mind, not helped by the lack of feel from the steering.

The air suspension has 60mm of adjustment in it, the maximum height being the reserve of the Off-Road mode. Audi claims as much off-road ability as you’d ever need, and it even matched a Range Rover on Audi’s ‘real-world’ off-road course, they say.

The 2.0-litre petrol we also tried needs to be worked a bit harder than the V6 in order to get it going, but once the revs are up it moves the Q5 along at a brisk pace. It’s a nice flexible engine, with a good spread of torque and a better sound than the larger diesel. It makes the car feel a touch more sprightly and agile, too.

Audi tells us the Q5's exterior design is a new look, and sportier one, too, but it’s inside where the real progress has been made over the outgoing model.

The perceived quality of Audi interiors is beyond reproach, and the interior of the Q5 is its undoubted high point. The choice of materials, the sophistication of the technology and the overall fit and finish are all excellent and cannot currently be matched by any rival.

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Your eyes will be drawn first to the excellent 12.3in virtual cockpit colour screen where the instrument binnacle once lived, displaying everything from the navigation screen to the speed. It’s very good in other Audis, and the same applies here.

The MMI infotainment system, displayed on an 8.3in screen in the centre stack, is also as good as ever, ticking every type of usability and connectivity box you’d like, including wi-fi and Apple Carplay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring functions.

Not only is the interior of a higher quality but it’s also more spacious, with room for five adults and an increase in boot capacity to 610 litres. The Q5 will also allow you to access that boot more easily, now by waving a foot under a sensor to open it, and also by lowering the car on air suspension-equipped models to aid loading of larger, heavier items. The boot lip is a bit high, though.

Should I buy one?

The new Q5 has so much going for it: it’s quiet, comfortable, lovely to sit in and unlikely to cost you too much to run thanks to competitive fuel economy and emissions and probable residual values that will befit such a desirable brand. Anyone who buys one will do so for one or all of those reasons and not be disappointed with what is a very impressively engineered car.

But it’s not much fun to drive, which is a bigger shame in the Q5’s case as you can tell it has a mighty fine chassis just waiting to be tuned in a more involving way. The Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan prove that SUVs can be entertaining, so if Audi doesn’t do it itself with the SQ5, you bet Porsche will with the next Macan.

Audi Q5 3.0 TDI

Location Mexico; On sale January; Price £44,500 (est); Engine V6, 2976cc, diesel; Power 282bhp at 3750-4000rpm; Torque 457lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight na; 0-62mph 7.0sec (est); Top speed 140mph (est); Fuel economy 37mpg (combined, est); CO2 rating/tax band na; Rivals Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC


Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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Spanner 11 October 2016

Can someone define an enthusiast?

Are they a special breed?
winniethewoo 9 October 2016

I think a lot of commentors

I think a lot of commentors here need to be reading Whatcar, not Autocar. Autocar has and always will be slanted towards enthusiasts. They have recently tried to pretend to be more objective, say with the new Vauxhall Astra, but its a bit like seeing a fat man reviewing a salad pretending its delicious. Autocar will always value lift off oversteer more than comfortable motorway manners.
Spanner 11 October 2016

In that case

So why review bread and butter cars then? Lift off oversteer or any oversteer for that matter is not useful in a suv. I understand when reviewing something designed to be sporty, and it is interesting which is why I read autocar. But is it relevant for a Hyundai i20 and its ilk?

Is sporty now shorthand for fun? Or is that too narrow a definition.

Albeit you could argue that Audi wants all of its cars to be seen as sporty, even the hippos (q7) so the statement is fair.

Horses for courses, reviews focused on what is important to the type of car perhaps?

5wheels 8 October 2016

wow about the 15th paragraph

Journo's have always but always got to have this gripe which started 15 years ago. Hey fellas its been fixed honest!!! just annoys me so much
"not helped by the lack of feel from the steering." Now go and drive it again taking out this stupid idea from your mind.