At the head of the Q

At the head of the Q

Audi’s second generation Q5 looks set to become as popular as its best-selling forerunner. Wynter Murdoch reports.

Audi’s Q5 made its initial appearance about a decade ago. Launched at a time when questions surrounded consumer reaction to a mid-sized SUV that promised off-road capability, it delivered emphatic answers by smashing its sales targets and, in Europe, becoming the best-selling car in its class.

Since its international launch in 2008 it has sold more than 1,6-million units worldwide, setting benchmarks that rival manufacturers have tried hard to emulate. In South Africa – where it was launched in 2009 – it has racked up sales of more than 11 300 units. Now, the recently unveiled second generation model looks set to become equally popular.

Produced in Mexico and built on Audi’s MLB platform – which is also used for the company’s A4 and A5 derivatives – the new Q5 has grown in stature. However, despite its increase in size – it is longer, wider and taller with a lengthened wheelbase – the model is lighter than its predecessor by about 90kg.

Styling appears more assertive than that of the old derivative, with body panels – a mix of aluminum and steel – less slab-like to the eye thanks to the series of bold folds, creases and geometric shapes that adorn bonnet, flanks, tailgate and roof.

Pillars are steeply raked, helping to promote an elegant, forward-looking outline. Despite the increase in girth and height, Audi claims top of the class ratings for aerodynamics, quoting a coefficient of drag figure of 0,30 for four-cylinder versions.

New to the line-up is revised quattro technology for the powertrain – billed as quattro on demand – which automatically disengages drive to the rear axle when it is not needed. The electronic, sensor-based system has been introduced with a view to boosting fuel efficiency without diminishing the ability to provide all-wheel traction when required.

Further, underpinnings have been revised to better refine handling characteristics, Audi attempting to combine sportiness and comfort by employing a newly developed five-link suspension system that features active damper control and, as an option, air suspension to raise the body for off-road conditions.

The car is 4,66 metres long, 1,89 metres wide and 1,66 metres tall, with a spacious and airy interior and a luggage compartment that can carry up to 610 litres of cargo – 10 litres more than the previous model managed. With rear seat backs folded down, volume grows to a copious 1 550 litres.

A choice of diesel or petrol engines is on offer – all of which are routed through dual clutch, auto transmission systems. The most affordable model in the line-up is propelled by a turbocharged, 2,0-litre, four-cylinder diesel unit that makes 140kW and 400Nm yet, in the combined cycle, sips a claimed 4,9 litres of diesel per 100km.

The derivative sells for R678, 000 in standard guise and for R748, 000 in Sport trim, the latter specification adding bigger wheels – 18-inch as opposed to 17-inch – aluminium trim for the body work and aluminium inlays for the interior; LED headlights; sports seats and a line specific look for the radiator grille, diffuser and air intakes.

The four-cylinder, petrol-fuelled equivalent – also turbocharged – produces 185kW and 370Nm and is priced at R747, 500 for the standard version and R797, 500 for the Sport variant.

Faster than the diesel in the zero to 100km/h sprint – it covers the benchmark in 6,3 seconds as opposed to 7,9 seconds – the model also eclipses its sibling at the top end, terminal speed reaching 237km/h against the diesel’s 218km/h. Not surprisingly, fuel consumption is significantly higher than that of the oil-burner, Audi quoting 6,8 litres per 100km in the combined cycle.

The petrol powered, V6 configured, high compression 3,0-litre engine in the range topper – the SQ5 – produces 260kW and 500Nm. The model is fast, its top speed electronically pegged at 250km/h and its zero to 100km/h sprint time listed at 5,4 seconds. Fuel consumption in the combined cycle is a claimed 8,3 litres per 100km.

Unlike its lesser powered siblings the SQ5 gets an eight-speed Tiptronic shifter – as opposed to a seven-speed S tronic equivalent – as well as a host of performance embellishments that include a quattro system with a self-locking centre differential; an optional sport differential; 20-inch wheels; a roof spoiler and upgraded exterior and interior finishes.

The model is genuinely thrilling to pilot, differing from its siblings in terms of handling characteristics in that there’s a lot more rear wheel drive bias in its responses thanks to the incorporation of the central diff. The SQ5’s price tag is also adrenaline-pumping – it’s fixed just north of R1-million.

All models are available with Audi’s virtual cockpit system, in which instrumentation is represented graphically on a high-resolution, 12.3-inch screen. The driver has the option of two views – a classic graphic with large round instruments or a mode in which the navigation map or lists dominate. Also optionally available is a newly developed head-up display.

An MMI terminal in the centre console acts as the main control element for all of the vehicle’s operating systems. It incorporates a touchpad that recognises handwritten entries as well as gestures such as zooming, with operating logic based on the flat hierarchies used in today’s smartphones. A new natural-language voice control function also recognises voice commands.

The Audi phone box connects smartphones to the vehicle’s antenna for optimal reception quality; it also charges smartphones inductively according to the Qi standard. A Bang & Olufsen Sound System with innovative 3D sound introduces the spatial dimension of height. The Audi smartphone interface also brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the vehicle.

Driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist; active lane assist; cross traffic assist; collision avoidance assist and turn assist. There’s also a pre-sense safety which warns of obstacles ahead and which can initiate autonomous emergency braking.

New trim lines provide a host of customisation opportunities for both interior and exterior.