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Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro S line S tronic

Click to view picture gallerySpace. The final frontier. In a
  shrinking world, space is at
  a premium, especially premium
  space. And getting around in
  the world
s limited space calls
  for making the right choice
  size-wise. Which brings us to
  Audi’s Q range of premium
  SUVs, all of which will let you
  boldly go wherever you want

FITTING IN on the worldwide web of roads while still providing plenty of your own personal space within is the mid-sized Q5. And going the 'perfectly-sized' Q5 route now gives you more it's fresh from an update both inside and out.

That said, it's a very subtle refresh and the changes, though visually beneficial, are hard to spot. Most noticeable are the shaplier bonnet (crafted from aluminium) and squarer headlights, now redefined by new-look LED daytime running lights.

Size aside, for the majority of buyers what's under the bonnet is the next (after badge) most important buying 'decider'. Q5 customers get to choose from five powerplants: a pair of petrol engines and three diesels.

“Don’t make the mistake
of associating
mechanically softly-
spoken with a lack of aggression: press
down hard with your
right foot and keep
it there and this Q5 will
get you to the
benchmark 62mph from
standstill in a drama-
free 7.1 seconds
TFSI petrol-drinking Q5s can be had in either 180PS or 225PS 2.0-litre guise. For those drivers who prefer filling up from the now more expensive black pumps, there's a choice of two 2.0-litre units (143PS and 177PS) and a 245PS 3.0-litre V6.

Four-wheel drive is, of course, standard — Audi's trademark quattro (with a small 'q', if you please) permanent all-wheel drive system ensures grip is maximised under all circumstances. Generally, drive is split 40:60 to the front and rear axles but this is adjusted automatically to suit prevailing conditions — consequently corners can be taken reassuringly in a Q5; it won't lose its grip come hell or high water.

The new four-pot 2.0-litre TFSI puts out a polished 225bhp, a useful step-up from its previous 211bhp. Fire up the engine and you'll be hard pushed to hear the turboed four-pot idling; factor in excellent soundproofing and you have the basis for a very quiet and restful cabin.

But don't make the mistake of associating mechanically softly-spoken with a lack of aggression: press down hard with your right foot and keep it there and this Q5 will get you to the benchmark 62mph from standstill in a drama-free 7.1 seconds. Once it surges past the 3,000rpm mark it's well into its performance envelope and palpably on song, but even then the engine note remains pleasant and non-intrusive.

The 2.0 TFSI S line S tronic I've been driving for the past week comes fitted with an eight-speed tiptronic auto; transmission modes, selected using the selector lever (topped with a shapely, perforated leather knob that fits your palm perfectly) are the usual Drive, Sport and manual modes. Alternatively you can finger-shift using the steering wheel-mounted paddles (left 'down'; right 'up') and appreciate why Formula One pilots favour them.

Shifts through the eight-speed, twin-clutch, S tronic semi-automatic 'box are seamless, and make intelligent use of the engine's meaty pulling power — 258lb ft on tap from a low 1,500 through to 4,500rpm.

For the record, the top speed is 138mph. Officially, this 225PS motor averages 35.8mpg and emits 184g/km of CO2. Seven days spent behind the wheel, over all kinds of roads and in mixed traffic and weather conditions, saw us better the offical figure — we logged an average overall consumption of 35.9mpg. Pretty good stuff for a two-tonne all-wheel drive SUV.

“The Q5 even cares for
its driver’s well-being:
a ‘driver rest’
function comes as
standard — if the system
detects that the
driver’s attentiveness
is waning (benign
big brother really is
watching you!)
it recommends that
the driver take a short
break from driving
The Q5's cabin is a very good place to be — and easy to access from all four doors. The non-Audi alternatives, as dictated by the market, are BMW's X3 and Range Rover's Evoque, both of which the Q5 sells well against. No surprise if you've gone for the plusher S line Audi — the brand's desirable cabin ambience is an acknowledged success.

Meticulously-fitted and subtly-applied satin chrome highlights to trim, switchgear and controls add to the high-end look and feel. Everywhere you look build quality is first rate.

And the Q5 cares for its driver's well-being too: a 'driver rest' recommendation function (part of the sophisticated Driver's Information System) comes as standard — if the system detects that the driver's attentiveness is waning (benign big brother really is watching you!) it recommends that the driver take a short break from driving.

In addition to the centre stack's 6.5-inch colour monitor, there's also a driver's information display between a lovely pair of crystal clear dials for the speedo and rev-counter. Accessed via the steering wheel-mounted controls, it's directly in the driver's line of sight.

No excuses for a messy cabin either, because there's plenty of storage spaces including lidded bins built into the leading edges of the front seats, large door pockets on all doors, and a two-tier glovebox, as well as a bin under the height-adjustable, sliding centre front armrest.

Standard equipment on the S line model includes Nappa leather upholstery, sports front seats, climate control, cruise control, Driver's Information System, Audi's easy-to-use MMI (Multi Media Interface) linked to a 6.5-inch colour monitor, rear parking sensors, auto lights 'n' wipes, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a hill descent assist function, split/folding rear seats, daytime running lights, Xenon headlights with automatic range adjustment, Bluetooth, slots for SD multi-media cards, tyre pressure monitoring, electric parking brake, one-shot power windows, drive-away central locking, power-operated heated door mirrors, glasses holder, and stand-out 19-inch alloys.

Large glass areas create a light and airy interior. The well-cushioned Sports-style seats — chairs, really) are extremely comfy, and surrounded by plenty of space for heads and legs, while the commanding driving position makes for excellent all-round visibility. The deeply-bolstered sports seats hold you in place and even hours behind the wheel don't leave you tired or fidgety.

“Some of the Q5’s
recent upgrades involve
the suspension.
All you need to know
about them is that
Audi’s mid-range SUV
now rides and handles
better than ever
The driver and front passenger get height-adjustable seatbelts, extending thigh support, power lumbar adjustment as well as seat tilt and height adjustment — real comfort (both seat- and ride-wise) is definitely one of the Q5's strong points.

Whichever seat they choose to sit in, four large adults can travel comfortably with room to spare — in the back that means six-footers relaxing behind six-footers; and sitting several inches higher than those up front. A third person sitting in the middle won't fall out with those either side — unless they want to use the wide central armrest with built-in cupholders. Adding to the appeal of travelling in the Q5's spacious rear cabin are backrests that can be set at different angles for some genuine business class lounging.

The powered tailgate opens onto a big boot — 540 litres. Lighty pulling levers in the boot sides releases the 1/3;2/3 split/fold rear seatbacks for you, and opens up a 1,560-litre loadbay — easily loadable thanks to the floor being level with the rear bumper. A nice safety touch is that the rear backrests lock down in their folded flat positions.

Also handy are the bag hooks, the pair of large deep trays under the boot floor and a net 'hammock' strung under the rigid rear parcel shelf-cum-luggage cover. And the sturdy chromed tie-down eyelets look strong enough to hold King Kong.

Some of the recent upgrades to the Q5 involve the suspension. All you need to know about them is that Audi's midrange SUV now handles better than ever. The suspension tweaks have also noticeably improved the Q5's ride quality, proof of which is that even rolling on large 235/55 Michelin-shod 19-inch alloy wheels the ride remains pleasantly compliant.

On-road grip is consistently strong and the newly-fettled Q5 feels sure-footed wherever you take it, driving with a great deal of assurance whatever the weather and whatever the road. Adding to the driving pleasure is the excellent new electromechanical steering that at urban speeds is acceptably light but weights-up sympathetically as your road speed rises.

The Q5 also has Drive Select — a computer-controlled ride and handling package that lets you change the vehicle's dynamics in a button-pressing instant. There are four settings to choose from: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and Individual.

“Off-road the Q5’s
ground clearance,
four-wheel traction,
hefty torque and
Hill Descent Control
make it as
reassuringly capable
as it is on-road
The Auto setting leaves it to the on-board electronic brain to oversee and decide what's best for the prevailing conditions at any given moment — and it does so faultlessly. But no matter how clever these systems are, there's no substitute for a bit of what you fancy, when you fancy it…

For instance, while you might be in a sporty driving mood you may prefer a different steering weighting than the pre-set Sport mode serves up. No problem; select Individual and you can then fine-tune (Comfort, Auto, or Dynamic) the engine, the suspension, and the steering parameters to suit.

Select Dynamic from the Drive Select menu (sharper throttle response, upshifts at higher revs, firmed-up suspension, and weightier steering) and the Q5 feels discernibly sharper, handling persuasively with body roll kept in check — as you'll appreciate if you're pressing-on along winding roads. Add in a set of excellent brakes and a clever Electronic Stability Programme (that also senses and adjusts for off-road use) and you have a dynamically well-rounded package.

It even goes off-road, where its ground clearance, four-wheel traction, hefty torque, and Hill Descent Control together make it as reassuringly capable as it is on-road. So should you ever need to get down-in-the-mud-dirty in your Q5, you won't be left floundering.

Behind its desirable badge, the tweaked and stylistically polished Q5 is, to be sure, a sure-thing. It's a breeze to drive, makes a first class long-distance cruiser, plus its paddle-shifting eight-speed S tronic transmission lets you drive as smoothly or as spiritedly as you're in the mood for. A definite star trekker!

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro S line S tronic | £38,985
Maximum speed: 138mph | 0-62mph: 7.1 seconds | Overall MPG: 35.9mpg
Power: 225ps bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 184g/km