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Audi Q5 3.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic

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“Audi’s recent new
  headline models
  include the flagship
  R8 V10 supercar,
  the sleek A5 Coupe
  and Cabriolet and
  the Q5 premium
  SUV. While some
  might consider the
  Q5’s big brother —
  the commandingly
  imposing Q7 —
  a shade too big for
  British roads, the
  Q5 is a perfect fit...

FOR THOSE WHO DON'T ALREADY KNOW, the Q5 is a five-door, five-seat medium-size premium SUV with all-wheel drive. More significantly, it has the same 'footprint' as a commonplace estate or saloon. And before you get all crossed-up by the 'SUV' tag, note that underpinning the Q5 is the platform/chassis also found beneath the bodywork of the latest Audi A4 saloon and A5 Coupe.

Although intended primarily for on-road use, the Q5 can safely handle off-road conditions too, thanks to the latest generation version of the company's renowned quattro permanent all-wheel drive system: in normal driving conditions, quattro provides 40:60 front-to-rear power distribution but, if required, can deliver sixty-five per cent to the front and eighty-five per cent to the rear. And enhancing the Q5's state-of-the-art status is Audi's new, unique-in-class Drive Select system.

Hi-tech aside, and perhaps even more pertinent for most customers, the Q5 has, at 2.81 metres, the best wheelbase in its class — which not only means loads of room but also room for loads.

On the road the Q5 quickly makes you forget any preconceptions you may have harboured about SUVs being big, blundering behemoths because the Q5 serves up the sharpest, most car-like driving experience. Looks-wise, the classier Audi has the edge over its rivals — Audi's designers have cleverly blended 'tough' with 'tasteful' and the result is a distinctive body with a coupe roofline that looks like a smaller Q7 — sleeker, yet equally imposing.

Sit inside and you can luxuriate in a genuine premium cabin while physically appreciating that class-leading wheelbase and its spaciousness. There's generous room in all directions for the driver and front passenger, with large well-sited outer armrests on the door panels. Audi hasn't stinted on the equipment, either. The 3.0-litre TDI in the top spec S line trim comes with power-operated heated and folding door mirrors, sports seats, rear acoustic parking system, light and rain sensors, Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED rear lights, 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, 3-Zone electronic climate control and a 10-speaker Audi concert sound system with single CD player and 180-watt output.

A top-notch cabin
that’s without doubt
the best in class,
one that is
flawlessly designed and
showcases first class
fit and finish
And that's not all. You also get a Start/Stop button with keyless start/stop and keyless locking/unlocking, Milan leather upholstery, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, 4-spoke leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, full-colour driver's information system, electro-mechanical parking brake, front and rear electric windows (all one-shot auto up/down), S line body styling (exclusive front and rear bumper design, S line grille, sill extensions) and matt brushed aluminium cabin inlays plus automatic 'drive-off' central locking.

There is also a host of extra-cost options taking in front seats that 'cool' as well as 'warm', a Bang & Olufsen audio unit with a new evolution of the Multi-Media Interface infotainment control system, adaptive cruise control (keeps the Q5 within a driver-specified distance from anything travelling ahead) and Audi side assist and lane assist blind spot and lane departure warning systems, to mention but a few. The options list is as long as your credit rating is good.

Worthwhile and practical factory-fitted add-ons fitted to our test car included: Audi's Drive Select, panoramic glass sunroof (one-shot operation with a power inner sun-blind — a definite 'must-have'), adaptive cruise control, Lane and Side Assist, Hill-Hold Assist, electrically-adjustable and heated front seats, heated/cooled climate-controlled cup-holder (don't leave home without one — actually very useful), excellent 3D SatNav (with updatable hard disk drive that can also store up to 4,000 music tracks), the highest level of the Multi-Media Interface control system, rear camera screen, electric tailgate (open and close functions) and Adaptive headlights with Xenon-plus headlamps.

But even if you opt for an entry-level Q5 you can still be sure of sitting in a top-notch cabin that's without doubt the best in class; one that is flawlessly designed and showcases first class fit and finish — there's a palpable feeling of top-drawer solidity from the upmarket trim and upholstery materials, and the controls all have that 'engineered' feel to them.

Drivers will find it a treat every time they get behind the Q5's wheel. For a start, the commanding driving position ensures maximum visibility and all four corners are easily 'placeable'. Front and rear visual and audible parking sensors make things even easier. The leather-wrapped steering wheel adjusts extensively for height and reach, the powered, multi-adjustable S line sports seats have power lumbar adjustment and extending under-thigh support and are superbly supportive — and proved comfortable on the longest trips.

Audi's intuitive Multi-Media Interface for the Audio/SatNav/System Controls is now even better than ever (it was always very good!) — it's foolproof, simple to use and is by far the best such system of its kind. The dash is ergonomically perfect, the dials classy and crystal clear, and the cabin detailing first class — just check out the satin chrome filigree around the switchgear. Oh, and another excellent feature: the digital speed read-out in the Driver Information display between the rev-counter and speedometer. Perfect!

Audis clever Drive
Select set-up enables the
driver to fine-tune the
dynamic characteristics
of the Q5...”
There are four engine options to choose from — 2.0 TFSI with 208bhp; 3.2 FSI with 266bhp; 2.0 TDI with 168bhp; and the 3.0 TDI with 237bhp. All are excellent choices but we tested the top common-rail turbodiesel powerplant: the 3.0-litre V6 TDI. It's a seriously powerful unit, generating 237bhp of power and 368lb ft of torque from an impressively low engine speed of 1,500rpm. As our Australians cousins would say, it's 'a real beaut'; and a perfect partner for Audi's latest seven-speed S tronic automatic transmission.

Zero to 62mph acceleration takes an impressively quick 6.5 seconds. Maximum speed is 139mph, and the official fuel consumption figures are: 37.6mpg combined; 30.7 urban; and 42.8mpg extra-urban. A week's hard driving saw a very respectable real-life 34.9mpg overall. At 199g/km, the Q5's CO2 emissions are also relatively green. And until the Chancellor needs some more spending money, that means just 260 for a full year's road tax.

The turboed V6 is a lovely engine: muscular, eagerly responsive, flexible and quiet. And mated to Audi's seven-speed double-clutch S tronic transmission, it's a smooth and flawless performer. Steering wheel-mounted paddle-shifters (standard on this model along with the multi-function sports steering wheel) mean you can take control of the gear changes at any point. All that torque and 237bhp adds up to a lot of punch wherever and whenever you need it — the almost indecently-quick 0-62mph time of 6.5 seconds makes passing slower moving traffic a near-effortless manoeuvre, and steep hills are conquered at a rate of knots that gives the impression they've been ironed flat. And when you need to slow down you'll find the progressive brakes to be completely reassuring.

Added to which the V6 TDI it so refined: even under full-bore acceleration it doesn't really sound diesel-ish at all; and at motorway speeds you're hardly aware of it, which means long-haul journeys can be made in an extremely relaxed manner — helped by the great seats and refined ambience. You'll find that road, wind and mechanical noise are all as well suppressed in the Q5 as they are on a similarly priced executive car.

Get behind the wheel of a Q5 and you don't have to travel many miles to discover its core appeal — it's very enjoyable to drive and probably the most car-like to drive of all SUVs. Contributing to its fluid driveability is a lofty driving position and steering that lets you know exactly what the wheels are doing, and which reacts with a consistent and accurate response to driver inputs.

Very enjoyable to drive
and probably the most
car-like to drive
of all SUVs
The ride is fine, quite amazing given that our test car was running on the standard 19-inch alloys shod with 235/55 Bridgestone rubber. Surprisingly, the big wheels don't ruin the ride or degrade the Q5's off-road performance by anything like as much as you might expect. And with permanent all-wheel drive, the Q5 corners with a grip you can feel in your body, staying level through bends and corners.

Overall it rides and handles with agility, taking speed humps and bumps smoothly, and is without doubt one of the best mid-size SUVs to drive in. At motorway speeds it is reassuringly stable and secure and it's easy to believe it would remain so even at its 139mph maximum.

Audi's clever Drive Select set-up enables the driver to fine-tune the dynamic characteristics of the car — including suspension settings, steering behaviour, throttle response and, where the S tronic transmission is fitted, transmission shift points — to suit personal preferences or prevailing road conditions. There are three pre-set modes: Sport/Dynamic, Comfort and Auto.

You'll get great results by leaving the sytem in Auto and letting Drive Select get on with it for you. Our Q5 spent most of its week with us in Auto because it really does do such a competent job — automatically tightening up the steering and firming the suspension for the twisty bits, then smoothing everything out when you're back on the straight and narrow. Select the Sport setting and you'll discover that it, too, does exactly what it says — provides a genuinely sporty drive.

For the record, as well as monitoring and controlling the attitude of the Q5 in everyday driving, the Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) has also been configured to maximise traction off-road — its integral anti-lock braking system automatically recognises the consistency of the driving surface and selects the ideal strategy for sand, gravel or loose rocks. Hill Descent Control, which enables safe navigation of steep inclines by regulating a pre-selected speed when driving at below 19mph, is also built in.

A neat touch: the system even incorporates a roof-rack sensor that 'tells' the ESP if a roof rack has been mounted and adjusts its parameters to suit the resulting shift in the centre of gravity. Other neat and very effective touches include the switch-operated electric parking brake. This can also be set to come on automatically whenever you stop — a real boon in heavy stop-start traffic — and the real good news is that you can drive away without further ado as it releases automatically once you press on the accelerator.

Front accommodation is roomy and there's an impressive amount of space in the rear of the Q5, not only for back seat passengers but also for load carrying. As well as the usual fold/recline, the rear seats can be slid forwards by as much as 100mm. And even with five aboard the boot is pretty large — 540 litres. But fold down the rear seats — easy using the remote release levers in the luggage compartment — and you'll have a flat cargo bay capable of accommodating up to 1,560 litres of whatever you want to load into it.

Would we buy one? Absolutely! This is a car that's as close to all-round perfect as you can hope to buy. Plus points include the first class image, performance, refinement, spaciousness, comfort, build quality, all-round ability and, compared to the competition, a reasonable price. As you can see from our comments, it's truly hard to fault. But most of all we like the Q5 because it really is so good to drive. Buy one! —

Audi Q5 3.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic | 36,755
Maximum speed: 139mph | 0-62mph: 6.5 seconds | Overall test MPG: 34.9mpg
Power: 237bhp | Torque: 368lb ft | CO2 199g/km | Insurance group 17