It’s like sitting in your own private club! For independent practitioners who can get their driving thrills elsewhere, this Audi ticks most boxes for business and family needs, says Dr Tony Rimmer.
However, once reached, this is quite a fragile position to be in. It takes only a mild slackening off or a few publically-aired reports of poor service to threaten this hard-fought character.
In the world of cars, premium brand Audi is always looking over its shoulder at competitors like BMW, Mercedes and – most recently – Jaguar, who constantly edge closer with regard to high build quality both inside and out. Every new model is a new challenge and standards cannot slip.
When Audi released the mid-sized Q5 SUV in 2009, it seemed like it was taking a big risk. This was a new market sector. Would people pay more for a car with the same space as a conventional estate car but with a rugged and more ‘off-road’ appearance?
Well, lots of people have and it turns out that Audi got it just right. BMW and Mercedes were quick to respond with the X3 and GLC models and we now have the excellent Jaguar F-Pace challenging too (see our May edition).
However, nothing stands still and Audi has released an all-new Q5 that is lighter and more efficient than the model it replaces. It also benefits from all the newest high-tech electronic equipment that is a must in the world of premium vehicles.
Mist of distrust
For those with a thirst for more performance, there is a 3.0 litre V6 diesel model with 282bhp and the range-topping £51,200 SQ5 with a 3.0 V6 petrol engine producing 349bhp. Audi predicts most sales will be of the more fuel-efficient diesel variants
However, in the current environmental mist of distrust of all things diesel-powered, particularly VW group products, I thought it apposite to review a petrol-powered version of the new Q5. My test car was the £40,170 2.0 TFSi S line with the 250bhp four-cylinder petrol turbo engine.
All Q5s have Audi’s Quattro ultra four-wheel-drive system that, when cruising, allows drive to the front wheels only. This reduces friction and increases efficiency. The S-Tronic dual-clutch automatic box shifts smoothly between seven available ratios.
The Audi family front grille is quite imposing and the smart LED lights give it some individual character.
Feeling of luxury
It is in the cabin that Audi wins most fans and the new car does not disappoint. An excellent driving position, comfortable seats and high-quality dashboard materials make you feel like you are sitting in a private club.
Rear passengers get a great deal too. Plenty of headroom and the ability to slide the rear seats fore and aft as well as reclining only adds to the feeling of luxury.
High-tech equipment abounds and notable features include the adaptive cruise control and the virtual cockpit with head-up windscreen display. Be careful though, options are expensive and, like my test car, you can end up paying an extra £10,000 quite easily.
Out on the road, the Q5 immediately impresses with the supremely comfortable and quiet way that it goes about its business.
My test car had the optional adaptive air suspension and although it is pricey at £2,000, it transforms the fidgety ride of lesser models into a limousine-like experience.
You could travel many hundreds of miles in this car without blinking and it is the closest to an Intercity Pullman train than anything I’ve experienced before.
The downside to this smoothness is that, off the motorways, the Q5 is not a great performer on twisty roads. The steering feels numb and body control becomes a bit wallowy. Select Dynamic mode and unfortunately not a lot changes.
I have to praise the engine though. Despite having only four cylinders and being only 2.0 litres in size, it performs very smoothly and quietly. Although the petrol unit lacks the torque of diesel versions, performance is surprisingly good. I certainly did not miss the start-up rattle of a diesel engine either.
So the new Q5 is a supremely well made comfortable and practical premium family SUV. It does everything really well, but does not excite the keen driver.
You will need to look towards top of the range Jaguar F-Pace models and the Porsche Macan to get some dynamic satisfaction from your driving. But for independent practitioners who can get their driving thrills elsewhere, this Audi ticks most boxes for business and family needs.
Dr Tony Rimmer (right) is a former NHS GP practicing in Guildford, Surrey