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FRANSCHHOEK – From its launch in 2008 until its recent discontinuation, the first-generation Q5 has sold in excess of 1,6 million units. Locally, Audi South Africa has shifted 11 300 units since the model’s introduction in 2009. Clearly, the Q5 is crucial to the company’s global sales success and financial wellbeing, especially with local sales volumes having taken a knock in the past couple of years and following a national dealer dispute in China that saw the brand lose substantial market share there earlier this year.

Of course, it couldn’t have helped that Mercedes-Benz launched the GLC to widespread acclaim and commercial success. However, with the new Q5, the German brand is confident buyers will once again turn their attentions Ingolstadt’s way.

The range

Like before, Audi SA will offer the Q5 with three engine types, including the 140 kW/400 N.m 2,0 TDI and the 260 kW/500 N.m SQ5 – which ditches the previous model’s barnstorming diesel engine in favour of a turbocharged 3,0-litre V6 petrol – as well as the mid-spec 2,0-litre turbopetrol driven here. You can find more details on the range here.

Specification levels on the 2,0-litre variants include base and Sport, the latter adding LED headlamps, 18-inch wheels, sport seats and various styling additions. Sport models cost R50 000 more than the comparable entry-level iterations. The SQ5, meanwhile, gets a bespoke package of specification items.

The measurements and design

Measuring 4,66 and 1,89 metres long and wide, respectively, with 2,82 metres of clearance between the axles, the new Q5 has been bumped up a size, ostensibly to make place for the upcoming Q3 that will be fuller figured to distance itself from the Q2. Audi claims the larger dimensions have been countered by trimming up to 90 kg from the kerb weight.

Stylistically, the new Q5 tightens up the somewhat bloated design of the first-generation model, introducing more resolved lateral lines, simplified surfacing and the brand’s new single-frame grille punctuated by horizontal slats. It looks upmarket, but I suspect buyers might be left unimpressed by the derivative rear-end’s similarity to that of the previous Q5.

Jump inside and the generational shift is more apparent. Where the outgoing car had a cliff-like facia, the new version incorporates Audi’s latest flat-plane design language that sees the 8,3-inch MMI infotainment screen sitting proud of the facia, now controlled by a rotary pushbutton and a touchpad sited forward of the gearlever.

Analogue instrumentation can be swapped out for an optional Virtual Cockpit 12,3-inch digital screen, and Audi’s latest extent of safety systems seen on the A4 and A5 can also be specified for the compact SUV, placing it at level two on the autonomous-driving scale (which means the driver still has to take over at intervals).

What ultimately sets the Q5’s interior apart, however, is its sheer usability. MMI is a doddle to use; the driving position is straight and comfortable; space all-round is excellent and the boot perfectly accommodates a golf bag with clubs. Perceived quality, too, feels a notch above that of the GLC.

The drive

All South Africa-bound Q5s have been specified with Audi’s new Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive system, which decouples the rear axle when its not needed – such as at a steady-state cruise – to lessen drag on the drivetrain and consequently improve fuel consumption. On the 2,0T FSI, that means a claimed fuel-consumption figure of just 6,8 L/100 km. That figure is unrealistic, as these things tend to be, but we managed to average 8,2 L/100 km on a hilly route highlighted by some spirited driving.

And the 2,0T FSI is always game for a spot of lead-footing; the drivetrain offers hot hatch levels of pace coupled with a rorty soundtrack and quick swaps from the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. My only critique here would be that the software tends to hook a lower gear too soon instead of allowing the engine’s plateau of torque to propel the vehicle forward, making the 2,0-litre sound somewhat frenetic. The diesel’s S tronic transmission's calibration is better.

Optional for the first time is air suspension, which allows adjustment of the ride height through five steps and does an admirable job of smothering poor surfaces.

The final reckoning

Overall, the Q5 is a worthwhile update of a much-loved product. Offering more interior space, better overall refinement and specification, plus the latest safety and connectivity options, it’s bound to reignite buyers’ interests.

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