Audi Q5 has been an instrumental vehicle in pushing the German automaker’s success in India ever since its launch in 2011. Despite bearing an understated design, Indian buyers embraced the Audi Q5 more than any of its competitors. Globally too, Audi sold more than 1.6 million Q5s, making it one of the most successful premium SUVs of its time. However, the Audi Q5 started losing its grip over the market as newer and better-equipped players came in. Overall numbers for Audi too weren’t rosy as they finished 2017 with less than 8,000 units sold compared to 2013 when they breached the 10,000 mark. It was time then to bring in a new avatar of their most successful SUV and just before its launch we got a chance to drive the new 2018 Audi Q5 35 TDI around the holy city of Pushkar. Has it got the right weapons now to fire its way back to the top of its segment? Read on.
The Audi Q5 has always been the most subtle-looking SUV in its segment and the new one’s no different. The changes, although evident are evolutionary, in nature and simply enhance the appeal of the Q5 instead of giving it a new identity. Compared to the older Q5, there isn’t much of a change in terms of the silhouette. The front looks similar to the Q7, lending the Q5 with a sharper and more elegant appeal. The LED DRLs along with the headlamp cluster add a flair of sharpness to the design, giving it the much-needed sleekness.
The new 2018 Audi Q5 is taller, wider and longer than its predecessor and exudes a slightly more commanding road presence. On the side and rear, notable changes include new alloy wheels and redesigned LED tail lamps with an all-new and attractive cluster.
Overall, the new Q5 retains the subtlety of its predecessor but adds a bit of dynamism and athleticism to the package. The new 2018 Audi Q5 now comes across as a more mature, refined and sophisticated SUV. Some people might be disappointed by the lack of an all-new design but the understated looks of the Q5 have been a strong consideration factor for Indian buyers so there is a chance the new Q5 might strike the right chords.
The cabin of the new Audi Q5 is entirely new and similar to that of the new A4 and Q7. A dual-colour dashboard has been used for the first time in Q5 and the result is quite pleasing. The top part of the dashboard is dark, while the lower part is beige and is intersected in the middle by a wood finish panel. The central infotainment screen is placed on top of the dashboard and features Audi’s MMI system. Below it are the controls for the three-zone automatic climate control and driving aids that look minimalistic yet elegant.
The shift selector is one of the best in its segment and also doubles up as an armrest when scribbling away on the touchpad to feed in navigation points or pull up contacts. The highlight of the HMI (Human Machine Interface) is the 12.3-inch HD colour display screen in the instrument cluster. Data such as navigation, speed, engine rpm, trip meters and more can be displayed on this screen in a customisable manner. This makes it possible for the driver to access all necessary information within his/ her field of view and without having to take off his/ her eyes off the road. The HD resolution makes it a treat to watch the screen and the 3D maps add life to the otherwise boring maps we’re used to seeing. The infotainment system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay but supports navigation from Android only. The in-built navigation too is impressive but still isn’t as easy-to-operate as Google Maps.
Seats upfront are excellent and offer great comfort and the rear seats are now adjustable for recline as well as legroom. Storage space is ample as the door pockets can easily hold water bottles and there’s a central armrest cavity too. There are other smaller spaces too that make it possible for occupants to enjoy the drive without having to worry about holding onto belongings. Another smart inclusion is the wireless charging pad for smartphones equipped with the required technology. Audi also claims that this pad uses the car’s antenna to boost mobile signal reception and improves sound quality for voice calls.
Legroom and the headroom at the rear is ample and taller occupants too will have a comfortable time inside the new Q5. Adding to the airy feel of the cabin is the spectacular panoramic sunroof, which can offer a brilliant view at night or during rain.Overall, the cabin experience in the new Audi Q5 is completely different from its predecessor and all in a positive way. There have been improvements made in the right areas and connectivity and HMI are among the best in the segment.
The Q5 in India will be launched in diesel version for now and is powered by a 2.0 litre TDI turbocharged engine. This is fundamentally the same engine used in the older model but with some changes, the engine is now eight percent more powerful at 190 hp and 400 Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a 7-speed S Tronic dual-clutch transmission that is a significant improvement from the older Q5. Upshifts and downshifts are quick and using the Dynamic mode and paddle shifters drown out most of the little lag that exists. Talking of modes, one can choose from Comfort, Dynamic, Individual, Off-Road and Auto. All modes adjust the throttle response, suspension and steering in accordance with the requirements of the mode selected, making for a better driving experience in varied conditions.
The engine itself is responsive from the word go and delivers impressive acceleration across the rev range. Audi claims a 0-100 km/h time of 7.9 seconds and while the Q5 did feel quick we’ll be able to verify this number once we get the car for a detailed road test. Fuel-efficiency too has gone up by 20% over the older Q5 and now delivers 17.01 kmpl as per ARAI certification. The mentioned figures are also helped by the fact that the new Q5 despite growing in size is lighter by 65 kg, owing to generous usage of aluminium all-round.
On the highway, the Q5 had more than adequate power and overtaking moves were performed with great ease. Couple that to the engine’s smooth operation and a quick transmission and the new Audi Q5 ensures it can perform impressively in almost every terrain and condition, making it a highly versatile SUV in its segment.
Audi is known to make some fine handling SUVs, mainly due to the famed Quattro all-wheel drive system, which is present in the new Q5 also. The system effectively manages torque transfer between all four-wheels to ensure maximum possible grip on any surface. Add to this an adaptive suspension and the Q5 just builds further on its versatile nature. We tested the new Q5 on broken roads, highways and went off-road too and it didn’t flinch for a second. Although the ride quality is inclined slightly towards the firmer side, using the Comfort mode improves things greatly over rough surfaces. The Dynamic mode, on the other hand, stiffens up the suspension and reduces body-roll through fast sweeping corners. The steering too is a lot better than the older Q5 and isn’t vague and lets one know what’s happening with the front tyres.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with the way the new Audi Q5 transforms its character when required. Not only is it a fun car to drive on weekends, it’s a good vehicle to be chauffeur-driven as well. It is this versatility that will set the Q5 apart from most of its competitors, especially for buyers who prefer to take the wheel only for weekend outings and not daily office commutes in rush hour traffic.
It’s almost a given that Audi vehicles are at par with global safety standards and the new Q5 follows the same approach. The SUV comes with a 5-star crash certification from Euro NCAP, testifying its crash-worthiness. Other key safety features include 8 airbags, ABS, ESP, Hill Descent Assist and TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System). There are parking assist sensors too along with a reversing camera but the display quality of this camera could have been better. From a perception perspective too the Q5 scores well as the doors close with a solid thud, giving the assurance of good build quality.
Audi India has packaged the new Q5 quite generously and there have been significant improvements made in some critical areas such as connectivity, comfort and efficiency. Other areas such as performance and user-friendliness too has improved. However, I would have liked to see a few more changes to the rear design.
Apart from delivering impressive performance on the tarmac, the new Audi Q5 is equally good when the going gets rough. The vast array of electronics combined with Quattro mean the Q5 will prove to be a good companion for weekend and adventure trips. However, keep in mind that the Q5 has good off-road capabilities but not a hardcore off-road vehicle. A new cabin offers a comfortable, luxurious and connected experience to users and not only is the SUV good to drive, it serves well for rear seat occupants too.
Put all this together and the new Audi Q5 does emerge as a vast improvement over its predecessor in almost all areas. That said, like always the success of this SUV will largely depend on its price, which will be announced on 18th January. We expect the Q5 to be priced at a starting price of just under Rs 50 lakh, a price-point at which the Q5 will offer good value-for-money.
Sounds like a great recipe for success then, right? Reality though is that the path to success isn’t going to be easy this time around for the Q5 as the competition is extremely tough. The new Q5 will have to take on the Mercedes-Benz GLC, Volvo XC60 and its main rival, the BMW X3, which will be showcased at the Auto Expo 2018 in February in Greater Noida. While these competitors are tough to get past, Audi has ensured the Q5 has the right arsenal of weapons to go into battle. Well, almost the right arsenal to be more accurate.
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