Audi Q5 – Down Mexico Way
The second generation Q5 raises the class bar even higher.
Audi’s all-new Q5 is built wholly and exclusively at their new factory in Puebla, Mexico for world consumption, so it was fitting that they should bring us to Mexico to drive the second generation version of their best-selling mid-range SUV.
The roads around Los Cabos carry relatively sparse traffic. Best of all there is a good mix of coast and mountain roads, modern highways and broken tertiary roads to give any car a pretty good workout.
Here, the standout feature of the new Q5 that made our journey serene and comfortable was the Adaptive Air Suspension, which gives it a much greater chassis performance envelope.
Under the skin, the new Q5 sits on a shortened version of the VW Group’s MLB platform and benefits from many of the technical features from its Q7 big brother. The most significant of these is air suspension, which sits at the top of the four suspension options.
The Q5 has a new five-link independent suspension system at each end, with a choice of springing medium. The basic set-up uses conventional steel springs and hydraulic dampers and comes in normal and S line flavours, the latter featuring uprated springs and anti-roll bars. The third choice is a combination of steel springs and adaptive damping, with the adaptive damping and air springs as the pinnacle of Q5 ride/handling.
While few if any owners of road biased SUVs will ever take them across a serious off-road course, the ability of the Q5’s air suspension system to increase ground clearance by an additional 25mm in All-Road mode and 45mm in Lift Off-Road mode is a useful one.
At the other end of the scale, the system also drops ride height by 15mm at speed, aiding chassis dynamics as well as saving fuel though enhanced aerodynamics. The Q5’s excellent (for an SUV) Cd of just 0.3 is maximised when the car is fitted with the aero design 17-inch wheels.
The ride of the original Q5 8R could get a bit restless on some surfaces, especially with the S line sport suspension. The improved chassis and air suspension of the second-generation 9R version puts in a completely different league. Even with 19-inch wheels and 295/55R19 tyres on our test car the ride was never less than absorbent, well controlled, and downright sophisticated for an SUV in this middle class.
Comfort mode delivered a smooth ride at town speeds but as Sport mode manages to combine good bump absorption with impressive high-speed body control it can easily be considered the default mode with no notable downsides.
While the styling of the original Q5 from 2008 was notable for its smooth and rounded lines the new car strikes a nice balance between that original Q5 look and some of the more up-to-date-edginess seen in recent Audi designs.
The tape measure reports an increase in overall length and height by 43mm and 6mm respectively, and a 12mm longer wheelbase. However, the larger and stronger new body-in-white saves 20kg out of a total 90kg saved on kerb weight depending on model.
With longer and lower front and rear lights helping it look wider although it is not, the new Q5 looks tauter, sleeker and more purposeful in a way that does contemporary without courting controversy. The safe design path perhaps, but Audi correctly surmised that there was no reason to deviate too much from a winning design that has been one of their big sales success stories.
Xenon Plus headlights are standard while LED and Matrix LED units are the two cost options. Both these LED systems feature dynamic turn signals that point in the direction indicated by their strobe effect.
The larger dimensions facilitate a slightly roomier cabin whose interior appointments and driver aids take big steps forwards in terms of materials and equipment.
Equipped with a standard 40-20-40 split folding backrest, the rear seats feature 120mm of extra fore-aft movement for their two outer sections, with a choice of three angles for the backrests.
The boot volume is 550 litres with the rear seats in their normal position. This grows to 610 litres with the rear seat configured to optimise the load space. With the rear seats folded flat the cargo bay can swallow 1,550 litres, and when their backs are fold down over the cushions, the seats can then be further raised to a 45-degree angle. The opening angle of the optional powered tailgate can be programmed to take into account a low garage roof or other height restrictions.