Audi Middle East brings the new Audi Q5 and Audi SQ5 to the region with a media event in Salalah, Oman. We drove the cars there. Our first drive review assessment follows
Author: Raj Warrior
The new generation of Audi’s mainstay crossover has finally made its way into the region. We drove the Mexican-made pre-production pieces of the Audi Q5 and Audi SQ5 in Mexico at the end of last year, at a time when the specifications of the petrol SQ5 were not yet finalised. Now that the cars have finally landed here, two clear versions of the new platform of the Q5 are here, with a 2.0-litre TFSI as the regular offering and the 3.0-litre V6 TFSI unit on the SQ5.
The new Q5 is not such a huge departure from the existing one visually. It uses the company’s MLB platform which tells you that the engine axis is longitudinal. But you don’t get the aggressive wheels on the corner look that you get from typical rear-wheel drive layouts because the primary transfer is to the front-wheels.
Design and exteriors
The new larger grille rendition has been carried over to the new car as is the aggressive LED rimmed headlight treatment. The car gets Matrix LED headlights at the top of the range. The overall shape has got an additional bit of edginess, with the taillights moving to a increased horizontal feel. The profile of the car is dominated by the shoulderline that runs from front to rear fender. The glasshouse also runs part of the way into the the combined C and D-pillar area.
The Q5 seems to be marginally larger from its ratios and stance. The wheelbase has gone up to 2819mm and the car now measures in at 4663mm long. But it’s more a function of the puffed out wheelarches, tucked in waist and a feel of flowing lines as the car’s design uses the fenders and doors to create an impression of rises and dips along the length of the car. Both the headlight and taillight assemblies curve around to the sides.
Interiors and Seating
The inside of the car seems roomier. The S-line interiors with its focus on padded seats, sporty trims and touches of leather is definitely the best of the lot but even the base grades of the 2.0-litre TFSI units get a touch better interiors than you were used to on gen 1.
However the bulk of the activity is centred around three zones – the steering wheel, the Audi virtual cockpit (the instrument panel area) and the centre console with its tab like interface.
The steering wheel in the S-line spec brings the cut-off bottom end along with the hollowed out bottom spoke that makes the steering wheel a four-spoke arrangement. The embellishments range from the larger Audi rings on the boss to the metallic hue and touch of red of the trim callout. The rest of the controls are pushed onto the two horizontal arms, with the +/- of the paddle shift controls peeking over them.
The virtual cockpit has evolved nicely, making its way through various Volkswagen group brands and models and always skinned with the particular feel of the specific brand. Here you get a choice of traditional dial layout or choices where you can use the background to show the map while it is overlaid with driver information. Of course, you may want to see that bit on the available head-up display that projects on to the windshield. But you can also enjoy the way it switches colours and character as you select drive modes, always allowing you to toggle a view if you so choose.
The central display is linked tightly to the MMI and now takes inputs from the controller with its elaborate knob and rocker switches as well as touch surfaces, from voice commands spoken in natural language patterns and from the controller on the steering wheel too. The track pad comes with built in shortcuts for the presets, left and right click zones and tactile feeback. The audio volume control and jump controls are on the right of that. The two zones you notice on the centre stack are firstly the air-conditioning control with proximity sensors and capacitive switch surfaces that allow for different functions on bringing your finger close, touching the switch and pressing it. The next zone is dedicated to the driver controls for drive mode selection, engine shut-off overrride and descent control.
The tray at the bottom serves as a mobile phone dock with wireless charging built in.
In addition the gearshift is now the new generation arrangement, with P brought up through a button, while you need to tap back to get into S and tap back to get back into D. Manual override is still off to the right, albeit with the + and – arranged the wrong way (in our opinion).
Engine and Drivetrain
That being said, the car has not departed too much from its tried and tested arrangements in terms of elements under the floor although the changed elements are significant. The Q5 gets air suspension, some tuned up and new engines and offers both its regular quattro arrangement (on the SQ5) and debuts quattro with ultra technology on the SUV.
Among all of these, we were most impressed with the amount of thought that has gone in to the Ultra quattro. What the system does is to change the way the company looks at quattro from something that is almost off-road oriented to a more intelligent on-demand service. The logic goes that any efficiency in the drivetrain will translate into better fuel efficiency, so this quattro iteration tries to disconnect as much of the idle power loss as possible. In a front only delivery, the system not only isolates the delivery to the rear axle, but it also disconnects the rear differential completely through a dog clutch, taking its 17kgs of spinning weight out of the equation and turning the rear axle into a free-wheeling follower. According to experts, the system is able to do this at will but selects both the engagement and disengagement of these two clutches depending on the sensed driving pattern. There is no visual indicator on the dashboard of whether the quattro is in any particular mode. Apparently the system calculates its mode from inputs and plots ahead for a window of 500 milliseconds. It is able to judge the driver’s aggressiveness, terrain and steering angles along with yaw, slip and roll so as it judge the exact time to bring in the rear axle and more importantly when to disconnect it.
We did get to drive both the 2.0 TFSI Q5 and the 3.0 TFSI SQ5. The quattro with ultra is on the former while the larger engine had the traditional permanent all-wheel drive mechanical quattro because the new system can only take up to 500 Nm of torque, while the V6 peaks at that figure, leaving no operational leeway.
The 2.0-litre TFSI unit is uses technology and some keen tuning of its turbocharged delivery to offer such impressive output. Power delivery is at 252hp and torque max is 370Nm and the drivetrain is connected to the newly designed 7-speed S-tronic with dual clutches that operate separate sub assemblies, with the disconnected unit idling while the gear is selected and waiting to be engaged. The larger 3.0-litre V6 TFSI gets an eight speed tiptronic gearbox along with its traditional quattro, the torque-convertor being necessary for the higher torque transfer. But it also gets the benefit of an optional sports differential that reacts better to hard sporty driving by allowing power splits that push the car into turns, eliminating understeer.
The 3.0-litre engine itself uses the latest generation of turbocharging from the family, with output of 354hp to match the 500Nm of torque.
Salalah has its share of straight roads, hill climbs with switchbacks and hairpins as well as narrow undulating roads.
The 2.0-litre car is a joy to drive. You never really feel any lag as it springs into action, power delivery is smooth and seamless and you can feel the car’s stability control kick in when you take a corner too hard. The car now gets a whole host of electronic driver assist features including park assist and adaptive cruise control with collision avoidance and pedestrian recognition. One of the visible symbols of this is the minder graphic that pops up in the virtual cockpit telling you that you are too close to the car ahead. The car does brake when really pushed into a danger spot and you feel the feedback as you cheat and shift lanes without indicating.
The air suspension is also a much needed feature that finally makes its entry here. The cars with the air suspension also make for the better sprung sporty units as well as offer you the ability to raise the suspension as you go over the so called rough terrain. You may also get the regular steel spring setup on base models of the Q5.
The 3.0-litre TFSI is a hoot to drive. It pushes the SQ5 right back into competition with the Porsche Macan, going well with the air suspension and dedicated sport tuning of the suspension and drive modes. It of course gets the 8-speed gearbox although our suspicion is that the extra gear is also an overdrive.
The quattro with the Ultra arrangement is something we can relate to as a feature for the new breed of Audi but it isn’t necessarily a huge plus performance wise. Yes you get far better efficiency and it helps that the entire process is being calculated and plotted in a hugely powerful computer sitting in your car’s mechanisms. Its beauty is in the silent way it takes over the thinking behind AWD, in effect giving you the new generation terrain response algorithm of the Jaguar F-Pace as opposed to the Range Rover Terrain mode. The message from Audi is clear – the car knows better than the driver ever can as to what exactly to do with the power and torque delivery to the wheels. It is able to calculate faster and deliver in milliseconds, in most cases having the system online before it is even needed. And we also loved the regular quattro on the SQ5. Why would we be bothered about some amount of mechanical loss with all that power and torque on offer?
The Audi Q5 isn’t an unknown – it appeals to a certain segment of buyer combining utility with more than a fair share of technology and creature comfort. Is it as luxurious as any of the other German competition? And does the badge have enough clout to project the car upwards in the value chain? Those are questions that will need to be answered. Especially since the main competition we see is from the Mercedes-Benz GLC and the Porsche Macan. And the Macan is priced rather competitively in the 2.0-litre guise.
2017 Audi Q5 and Audi SQ5
|Length Width Height (mm)||4663 x 1893 x 1659||4671 x 1893 x 1635|
|Engine||2.0-litre TFSI Turbocharged||3.0-litre V6 TFSI Turbocharged engine|
|Power HP@RPM||252 @ 5000-6000||354 @ 5400-6400|
|Torque Nm@RPM||370 @ 1600-4500||500 @ 1370-4500|
|Gearbox||7-speed dual-clutch transmission, with ultra quattro AWD||8-speed tiptronic with DSP and sport, quattro permanent all-wheel drive with self-locking center differential|
|Fr Suspension||Independent-wheel suspension, five-link axle with front track rod,aluminum transverse link, subframe||Independent-wheel suspension, five-link axle with front track rod,aluminum transverse link, subframe|
|Rr Suspension||Independent-wheel suspension, five-link axle with rear track rod,resiliently mounted subframe||Independent-wheel suspension, five-link axle with rear track rod,resiliently mounted subframe|
|Brakes||Front: ventilated discs / rear: ventilated discs||Front: ventilated discs / rear: ventilated discs|
|Wheels||8.0J x 17 lightweight forged wheels||Cast aluminum flow forming wheels, 8.0J x 20|
|Tyres||235/65 R 17 tyres||255/45 R20 tyres|