Just when we thought that Audi would fail in its attempt to attach even more premium status to the compact SUV segment, the Audi Q5 proves that as much as you’d prefer to be indifferent to its existence, you will eventually be bowled over.
I was initially at odds with the Q5’s styling. It appeared to be a tarted-up Tiguan, complete with stylish kinks, strategically-placed creases here and there, and finished off with various bits from the Volkswagen Group’s huge parts bin. But when one looks closer, you’ll notice the Tiguan-esque headlamps with LEDs, a shrunken version of the single frame grille used on the Q7 and A4-inspired taillights.
We’ve had the Audi Q5 2,0 TFSI for just over a week now, and the styling has gradually grown on me. It might appear like an A3 on stilts, but inspection of the Q5’s side profile reveals humungous wheel arches that make the SUV appear capable of considerable off-road prowess, and convincingly so. I found the 19-inch wheels fitted to this particular model and silver roof rails particularly appealing as well.
Slide in behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and… behold, another impressive interior from the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer. The cabin architecture is well put together, finished in metallic insert-adorned leather trim and a panoramic glass roof was fitted to the test unit. The only rattle, my passenger pointed out, was that of CD covers shifting in one of the door pockets.
Having that said, I must question the placement of an alloy strip across the luggage space entrance – after a handful of trips to the grocer, its bound to pick up scratches and nicks. I’m also doubtful about the rearward-sloping angle of the boot floor.
Because of the expanse between the steering wheel and windshield, elevated driving position and large exterior mirrors, the Q5 feels more sizeable than it actually is. Out on the road though, the Q5 seems to shrink around you as its steering tightens up and the grip from those Quattro-driven 19-inch tyres become evident.
The DSG transmission shifts seamlessly no matter what the engine speed, and makes maximum use of the 2,0-litre turbocharged engine’s superb tractability. When crawling along at 40 km/h in traffic, the Q5 showed no strain in fourth gear. I must applaud the engine’s refinement and noise insulation as well - despite dialling up the revs, the growl from the turbocharged unit wasn’t intrusive.
The firm suspension setting plays a major role in eliminating that feeling “of sitting high up in the clouds”. From behind the wheel, the Q5 feels like a hatchback with a high seating position – which adds its appeal. Even an impromptu “off-road” section of the route failed to unsettle the Q5 and its occupants.
Now that the Audi Q5 has been established as another impossibly competent Audi product, we’ve got to come to terms with that stiff asking price of R460 500 for this model. Sure, those who think a Q7 is a bit large might turn up their noses at the VW Tiguan simply because of brand bias, but perhaps alternatives such as Volvo’s XC60 bring more competition than most expect…