2012 Audi Q5 review
* Face-lifted Audi Q5 driven * Cleaner engines and a new flagship 'S' model * On sale now, priced from 33,430...
The Audi Q5 has just been face-lifted, but you'd be forgiven if you struggle to spot the differences. The bumpers, front grille and bonnet have been reshaped and there are new light lenses, too, but these look very similar to the current car's.
Don't go thinking that Audi has been lazy, though. Four engines will be available at launch of the updated Q5, all of which are either new or heavily revised. All are stronger than the engines they replace, and they're significantly cleaner and more fuel efficient, too.
What's the 2012 Audi Q5 like to drive?
Most buyers will go for diesel power, and the most popular engine in the previous range, the 168bhp 2.0 TDI, has been upgraded to 175bhp. It's a real cracker quiet and flexible when you're in relaxed mood, yet capable of properly useful pace.
The seven-speed twin-clutch S tronic gearbox, to which it's mated, only serves to improves things because its shifts are exceptionally fast and smooth.
New or revised engines now available in Audi Q5
You'll get the same gearbox if you go for the more powerful diesel engine, the 242bhp 3.0 TDI. Again, it's a hugely impressive combination the big V6 is creamily smooth and effortlessly fast. The only trouble is, the smaller diesel is so good, and so much cheaper to buy and run, that it renders the bigger version a little pointless.
It's a similar story with the two petrol engines that are available; both of which come with an eight-speed auto gearbox.
The bigger of the two, a supercharged 3.0-litre, has a stonking 268bhp and can see off the 0-62mph dash in less than six seconds. However, with what it'll cost to buy and run (it starts at more than 37,000 and does 33.2mpg), the only reason to choose one is if you really can't stand the thought of diesel power. If that's the case, then the fizzing performance you get from the 33,500 222bhp 2.0-litre turbo (which is capable of 35.8mpg) should be plenty.
What if you want the ultimate Q5? Well, come the end of the year, there'll be a new flagship model, the SQ5. Interestingly, it's the first of Audi's S-badged models to be powered by a diesel engine.
The twin-turbo 3.0-litre unit gives 309bhp, so the SQ5 is even faster than the range-topping petrol. Squeeze the accelerator enough to make the eight-speed gearbox kick down, and you're hurled forward.
Sound actuators in the exhaust system make the engine sound as fearsome as it feels. What's more, it still manages to return an acceptable 39.2mpg.
Like all Q5s, the S has the handling to match the pace. With bags of grip and impressively tight body control, it munches through corners more like a hatchback than a 4x4. The steering is quick and direct.
Loads of grip and tight body control
In the standard car, the stiff suspension means you feel too much of the road surface, while potholes and sunken drain covers give you a proper jolt. Things get particularly irritating on the motorway, where there's a constant jitter to the ride. Also, be warned the ride deteriorates further if you go for bigger wheels, so stick with the SE trim's standard 18-inchers.
The SQ5, meanwhile, sits on 20-inch rims, and has lower, stiffer suspension. As you can imagine, it's not the most comfortable 4x4 you'll ever drive.
What's the 2012 Audi Q5 like inside?
It's an Audi, so it was always going to be pretty classy. Standard leather trim and lashings of expensive-looking soft-touch material see to that. However, the Q5's cabin doesn't quite have the attention to detail of Audi's best interiors; one or two panels let it down.
Q5 doesn't have the best Audi interior
It's still a luxurious place, though, thanks to the impressive passenger space four adults will travel in total comfort. The rear seats can be slid back and forth to juggle space between the passenger compartment and the boot, but wherever you set them, the boot is pretty huge.
The comprehensive standard kit helps towards the luxurious feel. Aside from the leather seats and alloy wheels already mentioned, all versions get three-zone climate control, four powered windows, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker stereo.
The high driving position means you get a good view out, and there's lots of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel.
The infotainment interface has been upgraded to the latest version of Audi's MMI system, which is simple to use once you get the hang of it. The four corner buttons are the sticking point, because they perform a different function depending on which menu you're in. The air-con controls are a little fussy, too.
Audi Q5 is good but the BMW X3 is probably better
Should I buy one?
The Q5 is undoubtedly a good car, but it has one big problem the BMW X3. The BMW has most of what's good about the Audi a classy, spacious cabin, lots of luxury equipment, good refinement and sharp handling but it also has the slick ride that the Audi can't deliver.
There's another thing; although the Q5's engines are now more efficient than ever, the BMW's corresponding engines are cleaner still, making them cheaper to run.
Most of them are more powerful, too, and engine-for-engine, most versions of the BMW will cost you less to buy (provided you don't specify the optional automatic gearbox).
If you wait until the autumn, however, some new entry-level versions of the Q5 will be introduced that should make more financial sense. The 178bhp 2.0 petrol and 141bhp 2.0 diesel will be much cheaper to buy, and if Audi keeps chopping fuel consumption and emissions in the way it has been, they're likely to be pretty cheap to run. Watch this space.