The most profitable cars often don’t get credit. Audi Q5 has been a sales phenomenon since 2007, Audi’s most successful SUV ever, and a conqueror of premium customers for Ingolstadt.
It’s been a long wait for the second-generation Audi Q5 and beneath the new car’s subtle styling, there’s a tremendously accomplished vehicle, one that is perhaps truer to Audi’s Quattro heritage than smaller Qs. Sweet spot of the range is Q5 2.0 TFSI, which doesn’t come cheap just shy of R800 000.
For that rather significant investment, you get everything expected in an A4, with 208mm of ground clearance, 75kg greater mass and one optional feature which is unavailable in most cars: air-suspension. Granted, it’s a R27 150 option, but a crucial one, transforming the Audi Q5 with 60mm of ride height adjustment – which makes all the difference, configuring Q5 to purpose, whether that be N1 cruising or trail exploring.
You risk spoiling the air-suspension’s benefit by rolling oversized rims, of which Q5 has many options. What you want, ideally, are the five-spoke 18-inch alloys, rolling 235/60 profile tyres, a combination which gifts great bump cushioning, with notably reduced puncture potential. Speaking of potential, with a 185kW 2-litre turbo motor and proper permanent four-wheel drive, new Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI has the potential to be all things to all people, something many SUVs claim to be, but aren’t – disappointingly.
On-road, Audi Q5 is remarkably swift for something of its size: 0-100kph in 6.3 seconds and vast overtaking flexibility courtesy of the VAG 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. As a high-speed cruising vehicle, it’s wonderfully suited to South African conditions, with directionally stability and comfort provided by the air-suspension, and sufficient tyre volume to insulate you against the unhappy consequences of a pothole strike.
Mechanically faultless at speed, Q5’s amazingly composed. The air-suspension manages to mask Q5’s weight, preventing that fidgety nervousness which afflicts many SUVs when they’re tracking at speed over substandard surfaces. You’re never required to make those annoying mini-corrections all of time.
Transition from tar to gravel and all you’ll notice is a change in pitch generated by those tyres crunching gravel instead of humming over bitumen – Q5 remains unflappable. Boost the air-suspension to its full 208mm ride height extension and you can revel in the calibration of Audi’s latest quattro system. Tread carefully, to preserve bodywork, and you can navigate up gradients a great deal more extreme than most SUV owners will ever feel the need to explore.
Q5’s off-road button adjusts the transmission shift points and most importantly, throttle sensitivity, which means you can churn peak momentum over dunes, and edge across shale strewn cross-axle terrain. With 370Nm and virtually no shift lag in off-road mode, you won’t even notice the absence of low-range. The styling might exude urban glam, but there’s a huge reserve of off-road ability in the mechanical package beneath.
The option of air-suspension revolutionises Q5’s offering, improving high-speed cruising stability and off-road ability. It’s a true quattro, and Q-car too. LANCE BRANQUINHO
- Price: R937 400 (as tested)
- 1984cc 4-cyl, turbo, AWD, 185kW, 370Nm
- 6.9l/100km, 157g/km
- 0-100km/h 6.3secs, 237km/h
- Tester’s notes:
- A crushing long-distance gravel machine. The kind of car you’ll go sit in, just for the comfort and serenity of it.