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Audi Q5 Road Test Review: The Best ‘Q’ SUV

Audi Q5 Road Test Review: The Best ‘Q’ SUV

The Audi Q5 sits between the Audi Q3 and the Q7 and by the looks of it, it could offer the best of both worlds. We find out if it really does.

The Audi Q7 is the biggest SUV that you can buy from Audi’s portfolio and for the longest of time, it has been the range-topping SUV. Yes, now the flagship SUV from Audi is the Audi Q8 but again, that is not the biggest one and is not on sale in India, yet. The smallest Audi SUV you can buy, and which is also the most affordable one, is the Audi Q3. The Q5, on the other hand, sits between the two models in terms of size and pretty much gets most of the fancy bits that you would need while still wrapping it all in a more compact package. More for less. So could this be, then, the best Audi SUV on sale right now in India?

The Looks

Let’s start with the first thing that you will notice about the Q5, which will be its sheer size. Well, at least technically it is only slightly bigger than the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the BMW X3 – its direct competitors, but it is how it all comes together that gives it a beefed up stance. This is mainly because of the fact that this generation of the Q5 actually borrows its design language heavily from the Q7. So much so, that if you look at it from the side, it looks almost identical to the Q7. The only major difference from that angle, if you look closely, is the shoulder line which rises slightly over the rear wheel arch.

From the front too, it looks almost exactly like the Q7 with the huge, bold grille up front which leads into the sharp rectangular-ish headlamps. The only major visual difference between the two is how the LED Daytime Running Lights are shaped.

Audi Q5 from the back. (Photo: News18.com)

From the back, too, the Q5 looks similar to the Q7 but not almost identical like from other angles. This is due to the fact that it is from here that it looks a lot more compact and the size difference becomes evident. However, at a fleeting glance, you might actually think that it is the older generation Q7 or maybe that’s just me.

So overall, there are two key takeaways to sum up the Q5’s design. First, I did wish that, perhaps, it could have used a more distinctive design which would have given it its own identity because as of now, it just seems like a shrunken Q7. Secondly, I think because of the lesser mass that it has to hide with its design, it does end up looking a lot sharper and proportionate than the Q7. And yes, it does look a lot ‘fuller’ than the Q3, too. So despite being very similar to the Q7, the Q5 is actually the best-looking SUV in Audi’s stable right now.

Stepping In

It is when you step inside, though, is when the Q5 really comes into its own. Yes, here it has a resemblance to the Q7 too, and yes, I do wish that the fantastic-looking single grille AC vent design of the Q7 made it to this model as well, but then it won’t be very unique, would it?

Audi Q5 interiors. (Photo: News18.com)

The absolute best thing about its interiors, in my opinion, is the build quality and the quality of materials used inside the cabin. Everything is nice to touch and feels premium. Especially when it comes to the rotary knobs for the air-con controls and the volume knob which has a nice knurled design. Then, comes the wooden finish on the dash and around the gear knob that looks great.

The biggest highlight inside of the cabin is usually the infotainment system in most of the cars but in the case of the Audi Q5, it is what Audi calls as the ‘Virtual Cockpit’ – which is basically a screen that lies in front of the driver. And it is not just the fact that it is a screen that makes it so nice, it is the fact that how good that screen actually is. It has great colours, a great User Interface (UI) and is a high-resolution screen too. Being a screen, you can alter the layout of the instrument cluster, change the size of the tachometer and speedometer or simply switch it to a navigation system instead – all of which can be done from the well-built steering-mounted controls. So basically, you never actually need to use the infotainment system and take your hands off of the steering wheel. It is hands down the best instrument cluster in the segment with other systems not even being close to it.

Audi Q5's Virtual Cockpit makes it, hands down, the best insrtument cluster in the segment. (Photo: News18.com)

Coming to the instrument cluster, however, it is a completely different story. While it is decently sized and the graphics processor is quite fast making for a smooth experience, well, it is not a touchscreen. You can operate through the centre-console mounted dial and touchpad but there is always a disconnect as it is never as good as a touchscreen. And at this price and segment, it really should have been a touchscreen.

The infotainemnt system on the Audi Q5 is not a touchscreen. (Photo: News18.com)

As for practicality, there is enough space all around and the ergonomics are spot on. The rear passengers, too, have a comfortable seat with ample knee room, shoulder room and headroom.

Ample knee room, shoulder room and headroom on the Audi Q5 for rear passengers. (Photo: News18.com)

There is no USB socket at the back but you do get a power port.

Rear passengers in the Audi Q5 get thier own climate zone control. (Photo: News18.com)

Then, the boot space is also big at 550 litres that can be taken up to 1,550 litres if you fold down the rear seats. But while the boot has a not-so-high loading height, there is a bit of a bit lip that you have to lift things over.

The Audi Q5 offers impressive 550 litres of boot space capacity. (Photo: News18.com)

The Driving Experience

The variant we drove was powered by a turbocharged 1968cc in-line four-cylinder diesel engine that makes 190 Ps of power at 3800-4200 RPM and churns out an impressive 400 Nm of torque at 1750-3000 RPM. This makes the car capable of reaching a claimed top speed of 218 km/h and can do a 0-100 km/h sprint in just 7.8 seconds. Power is sent to all four wheels as it gets Audi’s famed quattro technology, and it comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The Audi Q5 we tested came with a 2.0-litre diesel engine. (Photo: News18.com)

This generation of the Audi Q5 comes with Adaptive Damping as standard and this means that now you can adjust the SUV to different driving modes. There is the Comfort mode, Dynamic mode and an Off-Road mode which adjusts the suspension, gearbox and steering setup to make the car behave appropriately for the self-descriptive driving modes. Then, there’s Individual which lets you choose the setup you like and then finally, there’s also the Auto mode which lets the onboard computers do it all for you. Now usually, we would have gone ahead and customized the Individual mode and tinkered around with it but in the case of the Audi Q5, the onboard computers get it pretty much right all the time.

The Audi Q5 gets a 7-speed Dual-Clutch Transmission. (Photo: News18.com)

The same can be said about the gearbox too which gets the upshifts and downshifts when you would want it to, which makes you rarely reach out the steering-mounted paddle shifters. The gear shifts themselves are smooth but the gear ratios are quite tall which means if you are cruising at 100 km/h, you would be in the highest gear – 7th. What’s incredible is the noise insulation inside the cabin. There is no wind noise and it is one of the quietest cabins in the segment which simply takes the premium feel of the car way higher.

Coming to the engine, this 2.0-litre diesel unit is frankly one of the best that Audi makes. It is so refined that you might mistake it for a petrol engine with minimal clutter and progressive power delivery. There is minimal engine clutter and you can feel the turbo kick-in post the 2000 RPM mark but still, even that is not jerky or upsetting. The ride quality is amazing too with the suspension taking up the bad roads and potholes like a champ while still being able to make the car feel planted with only slight body roll if you push it through corners in Dynamic mode. Also, since the Q5 wears thick 235/60 profile tyres, it further helps it in keeping the sharp bumps from creeping in into the cabin.

The steering of the Audi Q5 lacks feel. (Photo: News18.com)

The only let down, to an otherwise amazing drive train and driving feedback is the steering wheel which feels numb and lacks feedback. But then again, the Q5 isn’t exactly meant to be a sporty SUV in the first place. Can it be a good off-roader? Sure, but how many of these cars do you often see getting dirty, pushed to the max on the roads less taken in proper off-roading conditions?

The Verdict

At the end of the day, the cars that are offered in this segment largely stick to city and highway roads and in these conditions, the Audi Q5 is very impressive. The good part is that no matter if you are driving it or being driven around in, it is a good place to be in. It has an excellent build quality and the interiors ooze premiumn.

Yes, it is not perfect and also yes, the competition has caught up to the Q5 lately, but this Audi holds its ground firmly and gives you the proper big, bulky SUV feel. It is not humongous like a Q7 and it offers pretty much everything you would need, except a touchscreen infotainment system. But then, it more than makes up for it with its Virtual Cockpit.

So if you want a classy, well-built, premium SUV, then the Audi Q5 has to be on your checklist. Because, well, it is indeed the best Audi SUV out there right now.