Okay, this whole SUV thing is getting out of hand, and Audi is on the front line of a new car market assault that’s rapidly knocking conventional sedans and hatches into the weeds.
In March this year, at the Geneva motor show, Audi’s chairman, Rupert Stadler, was asked by our very own Matt Campbell, whether there were any more gaps to be filled in the brand’s SUV line-up.
There’s already a Q2, Q3, Q5, and Q7, with the Q8 shown in concept form and on track for production next year.
In response, Stadler simply said, “Definitely. Believe me, we will fill the gaps.” And it looks like he means business, with 2019 likely to see the arrival of a coupe-style Q4, and all-electric ‘e-tron’ Q6.
But with all this furious niche-plugging going on, the Q5 quietly remains the backbone of Audi’s determined push into the wonderful world of SUVs.
And this particular Q5 is an ‘S line Black’ limited edition. A total of 70 are scheduled to come to Australia, and a week behind the wheel gave us a chance to reacquaint ourselves with this evergreen premium mid-sizer.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
Emerging from Audi’s corporate garage a decade ago, the Q5 was the second SUV in the Bavarian maker’s line-up, following the larger Q7, which kicked things off in 2005.
This limited edition features a 'Titanium black' styling package.
It received a relatively mild facelift refresh in 2012, and this new, second-generation version still doesn’t stray a million miles away from Audi senior designer David Caffrey’s original vision.
Angular (standard) matrix LED headlights, sitting either side of a blacked-out version of the brand’s distinctive ‘Singleframe’ grille, give the car a mildly annoyed expression. It feels like it’s staring you down, and large gill-like vent apertures, also housing the front fog lights, enhance the imposing look.
The edges of the broad, subtly straked alloy bonnet close neatly over the top of the front fenders, with shutlines so even and accurate they’d make a Swiss watchmaker proud. This is partly down to the fact Audi uses laser sensors to measure how the sheet behaves during forming, and to make fine pressure adjustments if necessary.
A clear, undulating character line confidently defines the side of the car, and continues around to the rear, which conforms strictly to Audi’s corporate design philosophy. There’s a spoiler at the top of the hatch door, inward-tapering (LED) tail-lights, and dual exhaust pipes neatly integrated in a single graphic piece under the bumper.
As the name implies, this limited edition features a ‘Titanium black’ styling package, including the black highlights around the grille, black trim strips on the side windows, roof rails and mirror caps, plus heavily tinted privacy glass, as well as 20-inch Audi Sport alloy rims finished in ‘Anthracite Black’. Our test example’s non-metallic ‘Quantum Grey’ paint looked uber cool.
Overall, it’s an evolutionary take on a proven design theme, but adventurous competitors like the Range Rover Velar will appeal to those looking for a more contemporary approach.
The cabin, while not exactly black, is definitely dark, with many square metres of top-shelf nappa hide used to trim the seats, complete with impressive diamond pattern quilting on the centre panels, and beautifully detailed contrast stitching.
The interior treatment is classy but relatively conservative.
There’s also Alcantara in the door inserts, and patches of the same tough material on the inner front seat bolsters to handle wear from buckling and unbuckling the seat belt. A thoughtful touch.
The interior treatment is classy but relatively conservative (again, next to the Velar, or the flashy Lexus RX) with the broad centre console a familiar Audi element.
The dash is borderline plain, with a compact binnacle surrounding the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ digital instrument display, and the 8.3-inch high-res colour display up high in the centre, although brushed ‘Aluminium rhombus’ and carbon fibre highlights add a premium, high-tech look and feel
It may sit in the middle of Audi’s SUV line-up, but the Q5 delivers full-size accommodation for five, and practicality is well taken care of.
Up front there's a pair of cupholders in the centre console, and door bins with bottle holders. The glove box is a decent size, a useful lidded box sits between the front seats, and there are smaller oddments trays in the centre console.
Connectivity and power are covered by a pair of USB ports, an ‘auxiliary in’ socket and a 12V outlet.
In the rear, head and legroom are generous. Sitting behind the driver’s seat, set for my 183cm position, I enjoyed a surprisingly large gap to my knees and adequate fresh air above the bonce. Three adults across the rear would be tight, but do-able for shorter trips.
Head and legroom are generous in the rear.
Backseaters are provided with adjustable ventilation control (including a digital read-out) as well as two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, door bins big enough for bottles, net pockets on the front seatbacks, and a 12V outlet.
Cargo space is bang on for the Q5’s competitive set, offering 550 litres (VDA), with the split-fold (40/20/40) rear seat upright. Thanks to the ‘Black’s’ sliding rear seat (see Equipment) that can grow to 610L.
550 litres of storage is competitive in the segment.
Despite those differences, it’s able to swallow the CarsGuide pram with ease, or our three-piece hard suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres) with room to spare.
Use the neatly positioned release handles in the boot to fold the rear seat down, and that volume grows to 1550 litres, which is the same or slightly less than its competitors, although the Velar ups the ante again, with more than 10 per cent extra space (1731L).
With the seats down, the Q5's storage volume goes up to 1550 litres.
There are netted pockets back there, a pair of bag hooks, two lights, as well as four tie-down anchors and a cargo net, plus welcome additions like a high-vis emergency vest and first-aid kit.
The power tailgate features foot-gesture control (always a winner, just kick your foot and up comes the door), and its opening height can be customised to match your garage. The spare is a space-saver.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 8/10
The Q5 S line Black edition is available as a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel for $82,900 (before on-road costs), with the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol (as tested) weighing in at $86,611.
Based on the 2.0 TFSI quattro S tronic Sport, this Q5 already boasts a healthy standard equipment list including, keyless entry and start, the electric rear tailgate (with kick motion open/close), matrix LED headlights (+LED DRLs), the ‘Audi parking system plus’ (with rear-view camera and visual display), electrically adjustable sport front seats (+4-way electric lumbar support), ‘leather appointed’ trim, three-zone climate-control, adaptive cruise control, the ‘Audi Virtual cockpit’ display (configurable digital instrument cluster with 12.3-inch high-res colour display), ambient lighting, alloy door sill trims, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel.
'Audi Virtual Cockpit' display comes standard on the Q5 S line Black edition.
Then the multimedia system adds, ‘Audi connect’ (including in-car Wi-Fi), Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, 10-speaker audio (including subwoofer and six-channel 180W amp), DAB+ digital radio, ‘MMI navigation plus’ (with 8.3-inch high-res colour display, 3D maps, voice control, touch-control panel with handwriting recognition, live traffic updates), DVD/CD player, as well as two SD card readers and 10GB storage.
On top of all that, the Black LE additions run to the 20-inch Audi Sport ‘rotor design’ alloy wheels, ‘S sport suspension’, the ‘Titanium black’ styling pack, an ‘aluminium look’ lower bumper insert, privacy glass, the nappa leather (with diamond pattern contrast stitching), ‘S line’ interior elements and badging; illuminated front door sill trims with S logo, ‘carbon atlas’ inlays, a tricky rear seat bench (fore-aft sliding, reclining, and remote release for the luggage compartment), plus ‘Manhattan grey’ finish for the wheel arches, sill trims and lower part of the bumpers.
That’s a whole lot of swag for a premium SUV sitting (well) under the $100k price barrier.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 8/10
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol ‘TFSI’ engine features dual-injection, with a multi-point set-up supplementing the main direct-injection system at partial load, for optimal throttle response.
Add Audi ‘valvelift” (variable valve timing on the exhaust side), and of course a turbo (with electric wastegate) and you arrive at 185kW from 5000-6000rpm, and 300Nm from 1600-4500rpm.
Drive goes to a seven-speed dual clutch, and on to all four wheels via the latest gen version of Audi’s ‘quattro’ all-wheel drive, featuring ‘ultra technology’.
What that means to you and I is that the system operates predictively, acquiring and evaluating dynamic data (steering angle, transverse and longitudinal acceleration, and engine torque) in 10-millisecond cycles, to distribute drive to the wheel that can make best use of it, including (amazingly) a seamless shift from all-wheel drive to front-wheel drive (and back).
The Q5 features stop-start, and a fuel-saving coast mode, where the drive system allows freewheeling between 55 and 160km/h if the driver releases the accelerator.
Over roughly 300km of city, suburban and freeway running we recorded a (dash-indicated) figure of 10.8L/100km. Still not shabby for a 1.7-tonne SUV.
Fuel requirement is 95RON premium unleaded, and you’ll need 70 litres of it to fill the tank.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Two things stand out when the Q5’s wheels start moving; the smooth, civilised, and surprisingly urgent nature of the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine, as well as the feelsome response of the variable ratio, electro-mechanical steering.
Maximum power of 185kW is a pretty handy number, and Audi claims 0-100km/h in only 6.3sec. But that peak arrives at a lofty 5000-6000rpm (the rev ceiling is around 6750rpm). It’s more the 370Nm of torque (available all the way from 1600-4500rpm) that gets the job done.
The drive select system allows tuning of the throttle, transmission, and steering. In ‘Dynamic’ mode, mid-range thrust is strong, and delivered in fuss-free, linear fashion, with the seven-speed dual-clutch keeping things in the sweet spot.
The Q5 is so agile it’s easy to forget you’re driving it, rather than it’s more compact Q3 sibling. Suspension is a five-link set-up front and rear, and despite 20-inch rubber and the ‘S sport’ suspension fitted to the Black edition (firmer springs and dampers), the balance between ride comfort and dynamic response is spot on.
Audi says it’s paid particular attention to ‘aero acoustics’ and cruising noise levels are pleasantly low (the car’s claimed drag co-efficient is 0.30).
The sports front seats are grippy and proved comfortable on longer runs, the brakes are reassuringly powerful and consistent, and the ergonomics are top-notch.
For those determined to head off the highway, ground clearance is 208mm, approach angle is 25 degrees, departure is 27 degrees, and ramp angle is 17 degrees.
If you want to hitch something up to the back, maximum towing capacity for a braked trailer is 2400kg, and 750kg without stoppers.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 9/10
Audi’s gone full-tilt on active-safety tech for this Q5, with the headline inclusion being ‘Audi pre-sense city’ with AEB and pedestrian detection.
Also on-board are, ‘Attention assist’, ‘Audi pre-sense rear’ (flashes hazard lights at high frequency), ESC (with electronic wheel-selective torque control), ABS, ASR, EDL and Brake Assist.
Plus, there’s adaptive cruise control, a tyre-pressure-monitoring system, ‘Audi side assist’. ‘Cross traffic assist rear’, an ‘Exit warning system’, auto high beam, and ‘Turn assist’ (monitors oncoming traffic when turning right at low speeds).
If all that doesn’t keep you out of trouble, passive safety runs to eight airbags (front for driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear passengers, head level curtain airbag for front and rear), plus an active bonnet (to minimise pedestrian injury). Even a first-aid kit and warning triangle.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 8/10
Audi provides a three year/unlimited warranty, with three years paint cover, and a 12-year rust perforation guarantee. ‘AudiCare’ 24-hour roadside assistance is complimentary for three years.
The recommended service interval is 15,000km/12 months, and the ‘Audi Genuine Care Service Plan’ is available to cover scheduled servicing for three years/45,000km (whichever comes first). And for the Q5, the indicative price is $1870 (for petrol and diesel variants).
Like just about every SUV in the Australian market, Audi’s Q5 is up against some hot competition, including Range Rover’s new sleek and slick Velar. But it’s popular for a reason, with heaps of standard equipment for the money, a punchy drivetrain, and excellent dynamics. A full-house suite of safety equipment is the icing on the cake.
Is the Q5 still in the premium SUV hunt? Tell us what you think in the comments below.