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2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro review: First drive

4

The Good

  • Excellent refinement
  • Solid base spec
  • Great interior

The Bad

  • Hill-Hold is clunky
  • Somewhat uninvolving

The 2017 Audi Q5 is here. We took the 2.0 TDI diesel model for a long drive around Hastings and the surrounding countryside to see what the BMW X3, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jaguar F-Pace rival can do.

Before 2005, Audi offered a grand total of zero SUVs. Now it has four, including the dinky Q3, Q5 on test today and its larger Q7 sibling that got the ball rolling.

Since its launch, the Q5 has proven to be a best-seller in Europe and highlighted a worldwide thirst for this kind of jack-of-all-trades family wagon. A thirst that continues to this day.

That is why a great deal of effort has gone into the 2017 Audi Q5, which we were given the keys to on a sunny day at the seaside town of Hastings. Where a certain important battle took place in 1066, in case you never really listened to your history teacher.

It is actually a fitting location to host the UK launch because the battle for the mid-sized SUV market is bloodier than ever, with the BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Volvo XC60, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus NC200t all serious combatants.

Has the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer done enough to keep the increasingly tough competition away from the gates? There was only one way to find out.

2017 Audi Q5: What are we looking at?

The Audi Q5 is a medium-sized SUV that now uses the MLB Evo platform as a basis, the same one used for the Q7, A4 and A5. It can also be found underneath the new Porsche Cayenne and Bentley Bentayga.

Virtually everything that could be made better in some way has been, which is in stark contrast to the fact the aesthetic changes, though beneficial, are rather tame. It looks more aggressive, has grown in size and retains a somewhat confused design, but this is no radical departure.

It now has quattro all-wheel drive as standard on all models, even the entry-level 2.0 TDI SE. The system uses something called 'ultra technology', which is Audi's way of saying it can disconnect certain mechanical elements when not in use to improve efficiency.

The 2017 Audi A5 is also lighter. Depending on the engine, up to 90kg (198.4lb) of weight has been saved, with much of the saving down to using more aluminium. The unladen weight is 1,720kg (3,792lb) if you go for the 2.0 TFSI petrol, making it nearly as light as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio AWD.

You can also expect to perch your derrière on new front seats, make use of a now standard automatic tailgate (the foot swipey opening sensor costs extra) and see the gears handled by a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.

2017 Audi Q5: Is it practical?

As practical as you would expect a coupe-SUV-estate thing to be. The loading bay is now wider so it is easier to fit items in the 550-litre boot, an increase of 10 litres on the older Q5. Just a little less, then, than the GLC but more than the XC60 and NX 200t.

Convince the rear passengers they need less leg room and you can slide the seats forward for 610 litres. Or tell them to walk and have 1,550 litres with them folded down, which is 50 litres shy of the X3. As for towing, a trailer up to 2,400kg in weight (braked) can be pulled along.

Then there is the level of interior space, which is generous, and the passenger leg room and head room is ample for all but the tallest passengers. Admittedly, the middle seat in the back is a little tight, owing to the sculpted design, but small people, kids and pets should be fine.

It is worth pointing out that only the Discovery Sport offers seven seats in this class, so although a weakness it is common among its other rivals. Really big families would be better off looking elsewhere.

2017 Audi Q5: How well does it drive?

Refinement was Audi's buzzword of day and it is clear why. Like the new A5, the Q5 is delightfully quiet and even the 190PS diesel can speed up with ample pace without having to get too revvy. The Discovery Sport's equivalent Ingenium is far louder and slower.

There is little incentive to push that particular engine too hard anyway as acceleration is on the edge of brisk and it seems a shame to interrupt the quiet hum of the tyres on tarmac and a touch of wind noise, which a drag coefficient as low as 0.30 helps reduce.

Reducing the weight has helped with overall agility and the traction of the quattro all-wheel drive system gives it a dependable quality that suits an SUV better than a coupe. There is still a clinical edge to the way it drives, but it has more soul than it did before.

The ride height provides a commanding view of the road ahead and the level of visibility is better than its Coupe siblings, but you do sit lower than in, say, a Land Rover Discovery Sport. It feels more like an estate on stilts than a proper SUV.

Pushing hard along winding country bends, it is apparent the new Q5 is better at handling and has understeer more under control. It barely rolls at all with the S Sport suspension in tow and only makes a meal of the really big bumps.

As for the brakes, they offer plenty of punch and let you scrub off speed gently but the level of travel for full power felt a bit long. We also felt braking power could be stronger, but then perhaps that stems from forgetting you are in a rather big vehicle.

The overall feel of the new Audi Q5 is one of dependability and versatility. Go for the adaptive suspension setup and it can raise ground clearance by up 45mm for off-roading; opt for Sport and it firms up for spirited drives.

We did find the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic somewhat hesitant when tasked with overtaking and it very occasionally lurched between third and second, making it feel less capable than what you get in the new BMW 5 Series. For making progress though, it changes gear imperceptibly.

Another annoyance is the Hill-Hold assist and stop/start, which make it too slow to pull away and the mechanical clunk of the brake coming off is noticeably loud. For such a refined machine, it feels somewhat jarring. It does, however, hold the car indefinitely unlike some of its rivals.

Points are clawed back when it comes to other little touches. The icon that says when you can coast is very useful and helps you save fuel, while the auto start-stop kicks in before you come to a total halt, indicating a greater level of intelligence and efficiency.

Dare we say it, the Q5 will never be the car you look back at after a drive, unlike, say, the A5 Sportback. But it does get you from A to B without fuss and some people appreciate that muted approach to motoring.

2017 Audi Q5: What about the interior?

What can we say, the cabin is hard to fault. The switches in the centre console are all of a solid finish and are intuitive to use. Audi's MMI infotainment system continues to work very well and offers enough functionality to ignore the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support as standard.

The speakers are excellent, too, even if you stick to the ten-speaker system as opposed to the optional Bang & Olufsen option with 19 speakers, 3D enhancement and 755 watts of power.

The main point is that the Audi Q5, like the A5, feels expensive without going mad with the extras. The seven-inch entry-level display does the job nicely and the standard seats are comfortable and supportive in equal measure. Not Volvo comfortable, but close.

Though not as visually interesting as what you get from Mercedes, the materials are of better quality overall and there is no real weak link when you start poking and prodding around.

2017 Audi Q5: How do the engines stack up?

Two engines will be available at launch and a bigger diesel and sporty SQ5 variant will arrive in the summer for those who want more performance.

The 2.0-litre 190PS TDI is expected to be the volume seller and for good reason. Not only can it be had from £37,240, it offers a claimed 56.5mpg and CO2 is 132g per kilometre if you keep the alloy wheels to 18 inches in size. That puts it top of the class, although the difference is marginal.

The 2.0-litre TFSI petrol, meanwhile, starts from £38,305 and manages 40.9mpg and 157g/km of CO2. The 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds is fast, but the 190PS diesel is only 1.6 seconds slower, owing to 400Nm of torque versus 370Nm.

A 3.0-litre TDI V6 will also be available from June, 2017, if you want more oomph but lower fuel bills than the SQ5. Power is 282bhp (286PS) and torque is a thunderous 457lb/ft (620Nm) so expect impressive grunt.

While we are being all crude and talking about money, we should point out the 2017 VED changes that will apply to the new Audi Q5, which will see it costing an extra £310 a year in addition to the standard car tax rate if you spec it beyond the magic £40,000 threshold.

2017 Audi Q5: What is the S-Line trim?

Until the SQ5 arrives later in the year, the Q5 Line and Q5 Sport will have to suffice. The Sport model includes sport seats, while the S Line gets a leather multi-function steering wheel, illuminated door sill trims, stainless steel pedals, 19-inch alloys and S logos everywhere.

Below that is the Sport trim, which has sporty seats, SD-card-based navigation with a 3D map display, three months of Audi Connect infotainment services, ambient lighting throughout the cabin and some exterior revisions to jazz it up a bit such as matt black air inlets.

At the bottom of the range is SE. It comes with 18-inch alloys, Automatic Stop-Start with coasting, Comfort Dynamic Suspension, Audi Drive Select (Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, Efficiency modes), quattro all-wheel drive, 3-zone climate control, leather steering wheel, seven-inch MMI screen, DAB digital radio, two USB charging ports, cruise control, keyless go and an electric parking brake.

In terms of safety, all cars feature six airbags, pop-up bonnet for pedestrians, ISOFIX child seat mounting and autonomous emergency braking that will warn the driver and then brake for you at speeds of up to 52mph.

2017 Audi Q5: So an Audi SQ5 is coming?

Oh yes, which means you will have the option of whizzing your family around in a family wagon with 349PS and a 3.0-litre V6 TFSI petrol engine from June, 2017.

CO2 and fuel economy comes in at 189g/km and torque is 368lb/ft (500Nm), while the seven-speed S tronic automatic is replaced by an eight-speed alternative. We know the top speed is restricted to 155mph, but there is no official 0-62mph time just yet.

Prices start from £51,200 for the 2017 Audi SQ5 and that hefty sum includes 20-inch '5-twin-spoke star' alloys, S suspension with damper control, S bodykit, Fine Nappa leather S Sport seats and the 8.3-inch mid-range MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system.

2017 Audi Q5: Should I buy one, then?

Audi has managed to improve the 2017 Q5 in every area that mattered and some that didn't. The result is a more nimble and frugal car that is a bit of a winner. Think more William the Conqueror than King Harold II.

It offers plenty of space, feels expensive and the level of refinement is nothing short of impressive. As for value for money, even the lowly SE model comes with enough standard equipment to help justify the price tag and forgetful styling.

Those seeking more driver involvement will be better off with the F-Pace and even the BMW X3. Or, if you need seven seats, the Discovery Sport. But for everyone else, based on first impressions, the Q5 deserves a look.

The new Audi Q5 will launch at dealerships on the 25th of March, 2017. The SQ5 will be available from June, 2017.

Key Specs

  • 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder diesel
  • 187bhp (190PS) from 1,750-3,000rpm
  • 295lb/ft (400Nm) from 1,750-3,000rpm
  • 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds (top speed 135mph)
  • 132g/km of CO2
  • Up to 56.5mpg (combined)
  • From £37,240 (tested £45,140)

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