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Audi Q5 review (2012 onwards)
Summary: Audi's mid-size SUV gets new engines and a posh pair of headlights - but is it enough to keep the Q5 at the top of the class?
We like: Refinement, ride quality, efficiency improvements
We don't like: More expensive than rivals, generic Audi styling, no lower-powered diesel yet
The Q5 is Audi's middle 4x4 model, sitting between the baby Q3 and mammoth Q7, and it's been given a touch of mid-life nip/tuck to spruce it up next to its rivals. There are two new engines in the range, while updated LED 'light band' headlights now glare down at you from either side of the new grille.
For those looking for an off-roader that's big enough to be practical and small enough to be, well, practical, too, the Q5 is worth consideration. But with competition from the BMW X3, Volvo XC60 and the Range Rover Evoque, the Q5 has its work cut out.
Especially given the Audi's rivals undercut it by £1,945, £3,435 and a whopping £4,735 respectively. That said, the Volvo and the baby Range are 14 and 27hp down on the Q5, but the Bee-em packs seven more than the four-ringed 4x4.
Even with a 14% reduction in CO2 emissions, the new 177hp 2.0 TDI motor feels just like it did in the old Q5. It's got a decent level of punch, though, and the engine is smooth - it even sounds OK, with a muted growl that only truly reveals its fuel source at higher revs.
The new 225hp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor is a bit of a peach. It won't be the biggest seller, but with 52lb ft more torque and 15g/km less CO2 over the engine it replaces, it's impressive.
It's eager to rev, with a raspy, urgent engine note, and mated to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox you can make swift and effortless progress: keep your foot pinned to the floor from stationary and you'll be doing 62mph 9.0 seconds later.
it'll go like a scalded cat if you ask it
The story is the same with the new 3.0-litre turbodiesel. Packing 428lb ft of torque, this 245hp V6 is strong: 0-62mph takes 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 140mph on offer.
It's not about flat-out performance, although it'll go like a scalded cat if you ask it. Instead, you feel compelled to use the engine's torque and utilise the dual-clutch transmission's snappy, smooth shifts - it helps fuel economy and is a much more relaxed way to make progress.
There'll be a 143hp diesel joining the range later in the year, completing what is an already impressive line-up of engines.
Ride and handling
We sampled the Q5 on the smaller standard-fit 18-inch alloy wheels and it was all the better for it. The Audi is compliant but controlled - it doesn't feel wallowy or soft but it's never stiff or uncompromising - and is geared well to the type of driving the Q5's audience will is likely to undertake.
It gives a fair account of itself if pushed a little harder though. Body and wheel control is good and roll levels are fair for a 1,755kg car. There is plenty of grip too, but just like the pokier SQ5 we drove back-to-back with the rest of the range, the lack of feedback through the wheel means you're never quite sure of how much margin you have left.
The hot Q5's lifeless steering is replicated in the standard car, and on skinnier tyres with the optional Audi Drive Select mode in Comfort, the wheel feels spongy and a little inaccurate.
It's the trade-off for a more relaxed ride. Dynamically the X3 is better, but it's firmer and arguably less tranquil to drive day to day.
Even in base spec SE trim the Q5's interior is richly equipped, with the new range now getting Bluetooth and cruise control fitted as standard.
It's almost a cliché to talk about the fit, finish and build quality of Audi interiors, but it's that way for a reason. The Q5 continues this trait with a real sense of solidity and quality - the materials feel expensive and well crafted, even if the interior looks pretty gross in the beige hue of our test car. Opt for black and you'll be in familiar Audi territory, however.
not the most interesting or inspiring place to be
Despite being a big car boasting plenty of room in the cabin, the Q5 cocoons you with a deep dash and good ergonomics. It's not the most interesting or inspiring place to be, but it's generally quiet and comfortable.
We've only got a few complaints with the Q5's interior - firstly, the size of the Q5's wing mirrors means you get a good deal of annoying wind rush at motorway speeds.
Secondly, with all models but the soon-to-be-available 143hp 2.0 TDI receiving Audi's Quattro four-wheel-drive system, legroom in the middle rear seat is pretty limited due to the propshaft running the length of the car.
Economy and safety
It's not just the two new motors in the range that are the efficiency highlight. The existing engine line-up has received extensive tweaks - including stop-start fitted as standard to all engines - to improve fuel economy across the board by as much as 15%.
That means a best of 47.1mpg combined with 159g/km CO2 for the 2.0 TDI - respectable stats for a 1,755kg car. Still, it's not quite as good as the X3, which returns identical efficiency even with a larger 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine.
The Q5 was always a safe soft-roader, scoring a full five stars in Euro NCAP's crash tests, so with the revisions centring almost wholly on styling and efficiency, the new car's safety credentials will certainly be convincing.
The MSN Cars verdict
The revisions to the Q5 range aren't night and day, so if you're expecting a different character or completely 'new' car you'll be disappointed. But it doesn't mean you should discount the Audi.
It's more expensive than its rivals, granted, but then it arguably offers more equipment as standard, more power than some and a mature driving experience that's dynamic enough for a bit of fun but excels in terms of comfort.
The previous Q5 was the best seller in its class. The updated car is more than capable enough to continue that roll - especially with a smaller, cheaper diesel making an appearance later in the year.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||petrol 2.0 turbocharged, 3.0 supercharged|
|Engines, diesel||2.0, 3.0 TDI|
|Power, hp||177 - 272hp|
|Torque, lb ft||280 - 428lb ft|
|0-62 mph, secs||5.9 - 9.0 secs|
|Top speed, mph||124 - 145mph|
|Mpg combined||33.2 - 47.1 combined|
|CO2, tax||159 - 199g/km|
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