by Craig Duff
BIG things are expected of the new Q5, not least of which is reclaiming the mantle as the most popular mid-size prestige SUV.
First impressions indicate the bigger, better appointed Q5 could pull it off, despite serious opposition from the likes of the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Porsche Macan.
A new chassis and the usual focus on shaving weight make the new car up to 90kg lighter than its predecessor.
The combined effect is to make the Q5 a better-handling and performing vehicle, while cutting claimed fuel use to 5.3L/100km.
The safety suite is also improved, with autonomous emergency braking up to 85kmh, cross-traffic assist, exit warning to prevent "dooring" cyclists, blind-spot warning and semi-automated parking.
The Q5 won't appear in dealerships until late June and there will be a pair of four-cylinder engines at launch. Starting at $65,900 before on-roads, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel gets a "Design" styling package. Standard kit includes 18-inch wheels, powered tailgate, three-zone aircon, seven-inch infotainment screen with satnav and digital radio and Apple/Android mirroring.
Opt for the Sport line - as Audi expects 70% of buyers to do - and the Q5 TDI rises to $70,700, adding adaptive LED headlamps, sports front seats, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, 8.3-inch screen, DVD player, 10-speaker audio, 20-inchers and Audi's acclaimed digital display.
Initially, the 2.0-litre petrol engine will be the headline act and is priced from $73,500. With 185kW/370Nm, it propels the Q5 to 100km/h in a lively 6.3 seconds.
Sports line is standard on the petrol variant. An SQ5 will arrive soon after launch.
On the road
The Audi is quite the revelation. On coarse-chip roads around Canberra there's a whisper of wind noise at highway pace; a muted murmur from the 285mm wide tyres and a vague impression the turbo diesel engine has changed note as a result of a heavy right foot.
The subdued auditory experience is matched by a studiously neutral drive. There's more feel through the steering wheel, less roll in the corners and little reaction to big bumps and potholes that would have shunted the previous model a little off line.
It is still tuned for comfort rather than outright cornering prowess but it is evident this chassis is going to let the engineers develop a much more engaging SQ5.
Keen drivers may want to tick the box for adaptive dampers but there's little to fault with the standard suspension at speeds most Q5 drivers will observe. Push too hard and there's a near-imperceptible impression of the torque vectoring moderating the power to help you get through.
Inside and out, the technology is easy to use and effective, right down to the aircon controls that no longer have printed indicators for their functions.
As your finger falls on the buttons a digital display above them highlights their respective functions - at first bewildering, it becomes intuitive. The configurable "virtual cockpit" driver's display is just as hi-tech and just as easy to use.
The adaptive cruise control is among the better examples, though there's no facility for the car to temporarily take over steering duties.
The only blemish on the Q5's character - at least with the turbo diesel - is the delay in resuming progress at the lights when the auto stop-start is active. The accelerator is depressed, the car fires up … and then considers its options before taking off.
I switched it off for the sake of sanity but choosing the dynamic mode in the seven-menu drive select options has the same effect.
As refined as white sugar, the second-generation Q5 whets the appetite for the raw version that is the SQ5.
Audi Q5 TDI
WARRANTY: 3 years/unlimited km
CAPPED SERVICE: $1870 for 3 years/45,000km
SERVICE INTERVALS: 12 months/15,000km
SAFETY: 5 stars (EuroNCAP)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/400Nm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed dual-clutch auto; AWD
TOWING: 2000kg (200kg ball weight)