FIRST DRIVE | Sampling the sleek new Audi Q5 Sportback
The Q5 was a crucial addition to the Audi sport-utility vehicle family. Joining the full-sized Q7, which was their first contribution to the genre, the medium-sized stablemate made entry into the fold a little more accessible.
Nowadays, of course, the line-up has expanded considerably, with the junior Q2 as the beginning point and the luxurious Q8 as their flagship. But the Q5 still occupies an important place. Audi launched the updated version of the second-generation model in the Western Cape last week to an unrelentingly rainy climate. Aside from the assortment of enhancements customary with these life cycle refreshes, the big talking point is the addition of a new body format. Yes, the BMW X4 and Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class coupé have a new rival: Audi has given the sleek roofline Sportback treatment to their Q5 as well.
We spent a full day with the latest offering from Ingolstadt, driving through waterlogged roads, ideal conditions for a true test of stability and composure. Our test unit was the 40 TDI, which uses a familiar 2.0-litre, turbocharged-diesel motor delivering 140kW and 400Nm of torque.
It is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and is equipped with Quattro Ultra: basically, on-demand four-wheel drive, not the permanent variety, in a bid to boost efficiency credentials. That means the Q5 40 TDI is front-wheel drive most of the time, but in instances of reduced traction, a pair of clutches activates torque distribution to the rear axle.
We were able to maintain steady velocities, despite the inclement weather, with great confidence. Even under more spirited manoeuvres, the traction control light of the instrument cluster did not engage its illuminated warning —there were no instances of slippage or unnerving losses of grip. Cruising in the diesel-powered Q5 proved most pleasant, and if you had asked me to keep driving all the way back to Johannesburg, there would have been no hesitation.
If you seek a bit more exuberance, the 45 TFSI packs the same displacement and number of cylinders, but with the greater responsiveness expected of a petrol motor. It packs 183kW and 370Nm but also benefits from a 12-volt hybrid system, using a starter-alternator that stores energy in a lithium-ion battery. Under certain conditions the vehicle is able to coast along using battery power alone.
Upping the ante in more dramatic fashion is the SQ5 Sportback, armed with a 3.0-litre, boosted V6 engine. Here you get 260kW, 500Nm and the 0-100km/h sprinting potential of just 4.9 seconds. In this case, an eight-speed automatic is on duty, while the Quattro system is of the more conventional, full-time variety. It also wields a standard pneumatic suspension setup, adaptive and self-adjusting dependent on load.
The interior is typically Audi, with superb finishes and faultless build quality. But there are some hints to the age of the Q5 overall: the fascia and centre console retains traditional switchgear, in contrast to the button-free layouts of newer Audi products. Some may prefer the familiarity, others may yearn for the sparse, screen-intensive cockpits that are fast becoming the standard in the premium class.
As is always the case, buyers have a lengthy options list at their disposal when considering an Audi. The 40 TDI test unit we spent our time with (the one in these pictures) came loaded with nearly R200,000 worth of extras!.
Items included a panoramic sunroof for R25,100; 19-inch alloys for R5,000; keyless entry with a sensor-controlled tailgate release function costing R10,800, and; a R15,500 Bang & Olufsen sound system. If you want a suspension system with adaptive damping, that will be R19,000, please. Some additions were a little more curious. Audi charges R9,100 to paint the brake callipers red and will make you pay R1,800 so rear passengers can have their own USB ports.
Costly options are par for the course in this category, but ticking too many might inflate the price to the point where the Q5 Sportback might seem less appealing in light of what else could be had for similar outlay.
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