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Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro SE

Click to view picture galleryAudis all-new Q5 joins the premium
  medium-sized SUV market, strongly
  bolstered by the three ‘R
s: the Right
  image, the Right engines and the
  Right specification. A case of
  an orderly Q here

THE NEW AUDI Q5, FIVE-DOOR, FIVE-SEAT, ALL-WHEEL DRIVE medium-sized premium SUV has the same footprint and driving dynamics of a mid-sized saloon or estate and, not unnaturally, looks like a scaled-down version of Audi's large Q7 seven-seat SUV.

At 4.63 metres long, the newcomer is marginally longer than its major competitors: the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander and the new Volvo XC60. The Q5's width (1,880mm) and height (1,650mm) are both the smallest out of its main competitors. Load space with the rear seats in position is 540 litres, second in capacity only to the Freelander. With the rear seats folded, the Q5's load bay capacity is increased to 1,560 litres — that's the same as the X3, less than the Freelander but more than the Volvo XC60. And when it comes to towing, the Audi Q5 has a maximum braked towing weight of 2,400kg — more than its major competition.

Audi expects some customers for the Q5 (which uses the same platform as their current A4/A5 models) to downsize from the large Q7 SUV; and no doubt some Audi customers will move up from A4 Avant estates. However, most will be new conquest sales.

The design brief for the Q5 was for a vehicle providing a blend of everyday suitability with multifunctional seating, variable load carrying abilities and innovative entertainment and driver-assist systems. It had to be distinctive, robust yet sporty, have a coupé roof line and incorporate the latest technologies to maintain traditional Audi driving dynamics.

In addition to Audi's renowned quattro all-wheel drive system, the Q5 has Audi Drive Select damping controls, intelligent ESP (Electronic Control Stability) and the potential to cope with conditions off-road. Impressively, all this comes in a fuel- and CO2-saving, performance enhancing, lightweight bodyshell. There is also a new five-link front suspension and the axle load weight distribution is optimised to maintain the characteristic Audi driving sportiness.

With Standard, SE and S-line levels of specification (depending on the choice of engine), the Q5 offers a clever and customer-focused line-up. With prices up to £37,540, there is a model to meet the demands of most buyers in the 'premium' SUV sector band along with a wide range of options for customers to specify the technical and luxury packages they want. All Q5 versions have the high quality, stylish, well-built, upmarket fit and finish we expect from Audi, including quattro permanent variable-drive split to all wheels.

Standard specification models have 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, leather four-spoke steering wheel, electric front and rear windows, air conditioning, driver information system, six-speaker sound system and metallic interior trim inlays.

SE variants have 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, multi-function steering wheel, upgraded sound system, lights and wiper sensors and a rear acoustic parking system.

S-line spec models have 19-inch alloy wheels, Xenon headlights, sports seats and paddle-shift levers for the S-tronic transmission. In addition, there is a host of extra-cost options ranging from an off-road pack with added bodywork protection, electronically-operated tailgate, climate control front seats that 'warm' or 'cool', climate cup holder and panoramic sunroof. A fully-kitted top-of-the-range Q5 3.0-litre TDI could cost its owner £53,000.

The same clear choice for customers applies to the range of three engines. Between them they cover all needs; and it is difficult to see how this very balanced power line-up could be improved.

The new 2.0-litre TFSI, direct injection, turbocharger with intercooler, four-cylinder petrol engine produces 208bhp — but, more importantly, 258lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm, which gives it the low down 'grunt' of a modern diesel engine. Top speed is 137mph, zero to 62mph takes 7.2 seconds and the official combined fuel economy is 33.2mpg. During my demanding test drive over tough mountain routes in Spain this week, the Q5 I was driving recorded 27mpg. CO2 emissions are 197g/km, giving the 2.0 TFSI a road tax band F rating of £210. For those family users wanting a Q5 and only covering around 6,000 or so miles a year this could well be the best choice, given the lower price of petrol and the brisk performance. A very impressive engine.

The expected main-selling engine is the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TDI common-rail direct injection turbodiesel unit with 168bhp of power and 258lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm. Smooth, quiet and responsive, this engine provides for a top speed of 126mph and accelerates from zero to 62mph in 9.5 seconds. The combined cycle fuel economy is officially 42.1mph (32mph actual on test in Spain) with CO2 emissions of 175g/km (road tax Band E rating: £170 a year). Business and company car users will go for this unit because of the fuel economy.

The third option is the 3.0-litre V6, TDI common-rail turbodiesel engine that puts out 237bhp and a massive 369lb ft of torque from just 1,500rpm. For the driver in a hurry, or those who want a really strong and very powerful engine, it is perfectly matched with the 7-speed S-tronic twin clutch automatic transmission. Top speed is 139mph, 0-62mph takes just 6.5 seconds and fuel economy is an impressive 37.6mpg — 31mpg in real life conditions. CO2 emissions are 199g/km, so a tax band F rating which means £210 per year in road tax (and a proposed £260 from April 2009). This V6 TDI unit allows the Q5 to overtake slower moving traffic very easily and to cover long distances in a very relaxed manner.

All three powerplants are really impressive in their own way, and it is impossible to say which of them is 'the best'. There isn't one to be avoided and buyers will do their own sums regarding the purchase price and running costs best suited to their own pocket.

The Audi Q5 has been eagerly awaited by potential owners and now it's here it doesn't disappoint in any way. It is not quite as sharp in the handling department as the BMW X3; but it is more refined and much more comfortable. Off-road it copes perfectly well with what most people will use it for — tracks and fields — but it is not in the class of a Freelander, although it is not aimed at those off-roading users. The only criticisms I could make were of some wind noise from the door mirrors, and dull steering feel at some speeds. In its favour are those three 'R's: the Right image, the Right engines and the Right specification. The Q5 is also stylish and well built and, overall, it is the best for performance and — importantly in this market sector — image. — David Miles

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro SE | £29,950
Maximum speed: 126mph | 0-62mph: 9.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 32mpg | Power: 168bhp | Torque: 258lb ft
CO2 175g/km | VED Band E £170 | Insurance group tbc