Audi Q5: The new mid-sized SUV range has the power
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The new Q5 models strengthen Audi's SUV stable
Audi’s power play in the SUV market continues with the new generation Q5 and SQ5 duo arriving in New Zealand this month.
The new mid-size Q contender follows the early-2017 introduction of the new Q2 compact SUV and the late-2016 debut of the top end SQ7 performance model that has raced to early success and represents half of Audi Q7 sales in New Zealand.
Each product move has strengthened the Audi SUV portfolio and the slice of Audi sales contributed by Q models has spiked from about 45 per cent in 2016 to 53 per cent year-to-date. And there’s no sign of that trend reversing with recently confirmed Q4 and Q8 lines on the horizon.
The Audi focus on SUV models is also reflected in wider market trends. SUVs accounted for 34 per cent of passenger vehicle sales in 2012 and had reached 52 per cent last year.
And the move to high-riders is even more prevalent among the luxury brands where 56 per cent of sales are now SUV models.
The new Q5 is based on Audi’s MLB Evo modular vehicle architecture — north-south engine location— which is also shared by the new A4 and A5 family and the Q7.
Commonality is immediately evident beyond the platform and powertrain options with strong similarities in cockpit layout and cabin materials. From the driver’s view, the seating position and visibility gained from a raised eyeline are the prime points of difference between an A4 and the Q5.
Compared to the previous generation the new Q5 is 34mm longer overall with the wheelbase extended by 12mm. It’s a touch roomier inside with a 10-litre increase in cargo space while wider use of lightweight materials has trimmed 20kg from the bodyshell. Overall the new Q5 models are up to 90kg lighter than equivalent predecessors.
In terms of all-wheel-drive technology the four-cylinder Q5 models are a significant departure from previous Quattro systems.
The new system is called quattro Ultra and allows drive to be disengaged to the rear axle as a fuel-saving measure when the Q5 isn’t traction limited.
Audi says quattro Ultra is both predictive and reactive and can respond in 0.2secs with progressive application of all-wheel-drive when required — based on 150 different data inputs being monitored 100 times per second. It will engage all-wheel-drive because of rain sensor and outside temperature inputs or if Dynamic mode is activated from the Drive Select menu.
The system claws back about 60 per cent of the fuel consumption penalty usually associated with an all-wheel-drive vehicle.
On V6 models the familiar quattro system with a Torsen centre differential has been retained.
Audi NZ was keen to demonstrate the new Q5’s town and country skillset and the Christchurch-based media launch offered Canterbury highway driving and an offroad session at High Peak Station near Mt Hutt.
Rocky farm tracks, shallow ford crossings and some slippery paddock work demonstrated the fast-reacting electric control attributes of quattro Ultra.
The terrain was tricky enough to require a little care but didn’t pose any kind of offroad challenge. The Q5 TFSI Sport I was driving provided sure-footed traction and its suspension comfortably soaked up the uneven surfaces.
The close connection between Q5 and its A4 siblings also extends to the model range with Design line chosen as the designation for the entry level 2.0-litre TDI model and Sport line being the identifier for the 2.0 TFSI version.
Pricing for the Q5 TDI Design begins at $92,900 and matches the 140kW 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine with the paddle-shift equipped seven-speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission. The TDI offers 400Nm of torque from 1750-3000rpm.
The entry level Q5 runs on 19-inch alloy wheels and equipment highlights include LED headlights and tail lamps, three-zone air conditioning, a powered tailgate, MMI Navigation Plus, Comfort Key access and ignition while power adjustable and heated front seats have a driver’s seat memory function.
Technology content is boosted in the second generation Q5 with the Audi Virtual Cockpit dash display, Audi Phone Box with wireless charging and Audi Smartphone Interface as standard equipment.
And there is a significant increase in Driver Assistance technologies — eight systems were available when the original Q5 debuted in 2009 and the count goes as high as 26 systems for the new Q5.
The rapid trickle down of features first seen on the Q7 includes traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, active lane assist, collision avoidance assist, pre-sense systems, traffic sign recognition, turn assist and cross traffic assist features.
The step to Sport specification has a $99,900 price point and delivers the 185kW 2.0-litre TFSI engine with 370Nm of torque and the seven-speed S-tronic.
Additional TFSI Sport content includes 20-inch alloys, sports seats, Milano leather trim and Parking Package with 360-degree camera. There’s also a convenience bonus with the rear seat Bench Plus arrangement that allows the 40-20-40 split rear seat to slide fore-aft to vary load space between 550 and 610 litres.
The new SQ5 is priced from $121,900 and gains Audi’s Matrix LED headlights as standard, SQ5 specific 5-star design 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive air suspension, nappa leather trim with diamond seat stitching, interior LED ambient lighting package, head-up display and flat bottom steering wheel.
The adaptive air suspension is a $5000 option on four-cylinder Q5 models while the Head-Up display option costs $2750 and there is the usual list of optional wheels (up to 21-inch diameter) plus sunroof ($4200) and Bang&Olufsen audio upgrade ($3250).
S Line packages can be added to four-cylinder models and the dynamics of the SQ5 can be further sharpened with the optional quattro sport differential ($3800).
The notable storyline to accompany the SQ5 involves the high-performance diesel appeal of the original version being initially superseded by the new 3.0-litre V6 turbocharged TFSI petrol engine recently launched in S4 and S5 models.
That means 260kW output and 500Nm of torque matched to an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission.
The TFSI engine offers a 10kW increase in power over the previous generation SQ5 Plus TDI model but the petrol engine falls well short of the 700Nm of diesel torque that the muscled-up TDI delivered and 0-100km/h in 5.4secs with petrol power doesn’t match the diesel at 5.1secs.
Audi has built a strong following for its performance diesel SUV models and it will be interesting to see if current SQ5 owners considering an update will happily make the shift to petrol power or will delay their move till a new SQ5 TDI becomes available in about 12 months’ time.