The 2017 Audi Q5 might not look particularly new at first glance, but that familiar styling belies a car that shares hardly a single screw with its predecessor.
Still, it's easy to see why the designers were reluctant to make sweeping changes; the outgoing Q5 is not only Audi’s best-selling SUV, but its best-selling car full stop.
The new car is lighter and consequently more frugal than its eight-year-old predecessor. Plus, it's been equipped with a high-tech and more spacious five-seat interior, efficient engine technology, and dynamics that Audi claims will make the Q5 one of the best driving cars in its class.
It will need to. The new Q5 arrives at a time when competition in its class has never been stronger, with the recent addition of the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Jaguar F-Pace, and a replacement for the BMW X3 due before the end of 2017. The Land Rover Discovery Sportis also available for similar money, and offers extra practicality thanks to a seven-seat interior.
At launch, Audi will offer the Q5 with a choice of two engines: a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 249bhp, and a 2.0-litre diesel with 187bhp.
A top-of-the-range 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 282bhp will follow shortly after launch. Later, we’ll also get a sporty SQ5 version and a plug-in hybrid.
What's the 2017 Audi Q5 like to drive?
Audi gave us a chance to drive the Q5 in Mexico – which is where it will be built – just days after the car was unveiled to the world at the Paris motor show.
We tried the 2.0-litre petrol model and the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, both of which are smooth and offer impressive performance. True, the diesel is a bit noisy when pushed hard, but it has so much pull from low down in its rev range that you rarely need to extend it. Conversely, on a settled motorway cruise you’ll barely hear it, and it has plenty of torque in reserve for overtaking on faster roads.
The petrol needs more revs to get it up to speed, but once it's in its sweet spot, it lopes along very nicely. It sounds good, too.
The Audi Q5 gets steel springs for the suspension as standard, with air suspension and adaptive dampers borrowed from the larger Audi Q7 model as an option, and it's these that were fitted to our test cars.
In this form, the Q5 is a very comfortable car, with a smooth, forgiving ride. Audi says it looked to the Mercedes GLC for a benchmark for comfort in the class, and it shows here, with the Q5 riding well even over rutted and broken surfaces. It’ll be interesting to see if the same is true of it when we try the standard, cheaper cars without the air suspension option.
The Q5 also handles safely and predictably, but is short on feel and enjoyment. It’s certainly not as good to drive as a Porsche Macan or Jaguar F-Pace in this regard.
Two types of smooth-shifting automatic gearbox are offered: a conventional eight-speed auto for the V6, and a seven-speed dual-clutch type for the four-cylinder models. All Q5s have four-wheel drive as standard.
The V6 is permanently all-wheel drive, whereas the four-cylinder cars send all their power to the front wheels most of the time; it only goes to the rear as well if the front wheels start to slip. However, such is the smoothness of operation that we couldn’t tell the difference between the two systems.
What's the 2017 Audi Q5 like inside?
The interior of the new Q5 is its strongest feature, and no rival can live with its quality feel, ease-of-use, or its technology.
All the materials you interact with feel soft to the touch. Meanwhile, the technology standouts are Audi's Virtual Cockpit (a wide digital screen that sits in place of the traditional instruments to display driving, navigation and infotainment data) and the main Multi Media Interface infotainment system in the centre console that’s controlled by the intuitive combination of a rotary wheel, touchpad and shortcut buttons. The new Q5 also features Apple Carplay and Android Auto for full smartphone integration.
The Q5’s increase in dimensions has made for a more spacious five-seat interior. Visibility for the driver is good, and leg room and head room decent for two adults in the rear. However, the middle seat should really be reserved for shorter journeys only.
Boot space is officially rated at 610 litres. That's not quite at the level of the class-leading Jagur F-Pace, which has 650 litres, but the boot is still a large, usable space, with two convenience functions to help loading: a sensor to allow you to open the boot when your hands are full and the ability to lower the air suspension to bring the boot level closer to the ground.
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