For many years I've been more partial to sedans over SUVs. The ease of entry, comfort, and ease to drive have always made sedans an easy pick. Yet with the more widespread use of car platforms in SUVs, that advantage is slowly being chipped away. These days, it's become quite the opposite, with the SUV now offering the same advantages, with the addition of a more commanding view of the road, a better ride in rougher roads, and comes with better space.
It should come as no surprise that the choice is shifting. Like many of its contemporaries, Audi's mid-size SUV, the Q5, is based on its most popular sedan, the A4. And naturally, everything great about the A4 can also be found in the Q5, with a few more additions.
Long known for evolutionary, rather than revolutionary styling, Audi's 2018 Q5 is in fact an all-new model. It has thankfully become more shapely and attractive than its predecessor. The signature Singleframe Grille now stands out in the facade instead of just blending in. Smaller LED headlights stretch out of it, while larger air vents mirror it below. The side bears more a more striking character line, highlighting its new Coke bottle waist. Behind, the tail has been left relatively untouched, save for new LED taillights and integrated exhaust pipes. It may roll on just 16 inch wheels, but there's less worry of sidewalk scraping with that much more rubber.
Car interiors these days can be quite daunting with the multitude of buttons and dials, but the Q5's is a boon to the technophobic, making much of the tech much less intimidating. Much of the dashboard is angled toward the driver, putting everything within easy reach and glance. It's also a welcome change from the usual austere Audi interior with a strip of aluminum stretching across the black dash and brown leather seats, making it more inviting. Finding the right position is easy, thanks to a wide range of adjustments with two memory settings. Behind, the rear bench also allows for a range of adjustment, which can make it feel far larger than the compact SUV it claims to be.
It may not have a third row, but it offers a massive rear cargo area with enough space for entire family's things for a very long weekend. Nets, hooks, and a tonneau cover are provided, making it easy to organize and secure. And in the rare occasion you'll need more space, the rear bench can split and fold 40-20-40.
Of course, the real treat of the interior is the technology, and much of it is intuitive and practical. The most evident element is Audi's fully digital instrument cluster, the Virtual Cockpit. This screen spans the entire cluster, allowing for a number of configurable display settings. It can be set to a traditional display with large dials and trip info in the center, the map, or fuel consumption or entertainment info. These dials can even be shrunk to smaller size to show more of the map, particularly handy if you're in a strange part of town. The map can also be switched to satellite view, giving you a more realistic view of the immediate area. Naturally, switching driving modes also changes the look of the dials as a visual cue.
Over in the center is the large infotainment display, controlled by the dial on the lower console. There's a wide array of options and setting, no doubt made for those that prefer to tweak the car to perfection. Best of all is the touch pad just above the dial makes it far esier to input addresses or points of interest into the navigation system, or call up a particular contact from the phonebook of a connected phone.
This may be a small matter to some, but the climate control's interface is possibly the best in the business, being the least complicated in design. Hover your finger over the center buttons and context options suddenly appear, showing which settings each button adjusts.
With all the minutiae of car's abilities set, setting off is just as effortless and rewarding, for hiding under the hood is a 2.0-liter TDI engine. It produces 190 PS and 400 Nm of torque. It's paired with a 7-speed DSG automatic that drives all four wheels.
The engine's response is governed by Audi Drive Select. Even at its most economical setting, the throttle response isn't slow at all, making it an easy pick for driving in heavy traffic. Naturally, the response only improves from there, and the shift points climb higher on the RPM accordingly. It also allows for a bit of mixing and matching, with your chocie of engine response that can be paired with lighter or stiffer steering feel.
Unfortunately, the Q5 doesn't have the remarkable adjustable air suspension of the Q7. However the current ride does just fine. It handles bad roads, bumps and ruts very well, returning a far more pleasant ride than most of its competitors.
Despite the soft ride, it's still surprisingly agile and stable. When driven more aggressively, the Q5 can be frighteningly fast yet still encouraging around tighter bends. From its looks, it doesn't hint of any performance inclination at all, yet the power and handling certainly creep close to S line levels.
Best of all, the TDI engine is not just powerful but incredibly efficient too. Our few short days with it in the city returned a very high 13 km/l in heavy traffic and heavy rains.
The Q5 may find itself as a pricey SUV option, particularly in our market that lets you have a much larger ladder-frame based vehicle for a similar price. The design has certainly improved, but it still doesn't quite capture your attention the way its competitors do.
Nonetheless it more than makes up for these with the exceptionally quiet cabin, luxurious interior, and very clever and practical use of tech. It's an all-rounder, but one that hardly compromises performance for comfort or utility. That said, it's one we can see ourselves keeping for quite a number of years, and will possibly have a hard time replacing.