These Germans are all about subtlety. The new Q5 is here but honestly speaking, you need to be someone truly informed to make out the difference between the outgoing model and this one. Don’t look closely and the new accents at the front and the rear will go unnoticed. You still get an aluminium tailgate that wraps neatly around the lamps while the hood, also made of aluminium, keeps the wraps over the engine. Perhaps they didn’t want to tinker too much with the appeal that the Q5 always had.
You need to get below that bonnet, for that is where some of the more substantial tweaking has been done. The new Q5 will be available internationally with three TDI and two TFSI engine options, with power outputs ranging from 143 bhp right up to 272 bhp. Of the engines available, the 3.0 TDI and the 2.0 TFSI have been thoroughly tweaked, and by the looks of things, these two motors, along with the 2.0 TDI, will continue to be the powerplants of choice for Audi Q5s in the Indian market.
Step into the new Q5 and the improved MMI system greets you. The interiors are modern and well appointed and look and feel quite premium. Snuggle behind the chunky steering wheel and you realise that all controls surround you, just like they would in the cockpit of a modern business jet. The interior space is snug at best, and if you’re looking for vast expanses of room, simply put, this is the wrong car for you. I’m not saying it’s uncomfortable in the Q5. It’s just that from within, the Audi feels like a well-fitting glove. Also, the rather chubby rear view mirror stalks at the sides tend to obstruct the driver’s peripheral line of sight. In Germany, on the autobahn, that doesn’t matter too much. But back home, they could hide a pedestrian/rickshaw/cow from the driver.
The 2.0 TDI, mated to a 7-speed S-tronic auto transmission it seems, has been designed keeping urban conditions in mind. Preference has been given to more initial grunt rather than an all-out top whack. And that shows when your foot pushes the accelerator pedal all the way down. You will feel a strong surge of pace till about 100 kph, beyond which the enthusiasm of the engine begins to wane. Past 160 kph, there’s pretty much not too much of steam left. But it’s more practical as far the engine options go. Engine refinement is pretty much on par with the competition, and only the slightest din makes it into the cabin.
Audi has put a lot of engineering into the new electromechanical steering system. What this system does is that it varies the steering effort on the go. At a higher speed, the steering wheel tightens up while at a lower pace, the servo effect is heightened, consequently adding more power assist – making the feel more direct – and loosening the effort required to turn the wheel. This can cause the steering wheel to tighten and loosen in spurts when you’re driving and this is unfortunately very apparent. When approaching a corner, I naturally braked to cut down my pace, and then when the apex was spotted, I began to gradually throttle in. This caused the steering wheel to feel limp at the start of the kink, which then turned nice and taut by the time I exited the curve. It’s something that one gets used to, I guess, but my personal preference would be a nicely weighted steering feel as a constant.
Since we’re dabbling with cornering, I must mention that attacking sharpish kinks with vigour will cause some body roll. It’s not boat-like and won’t cause its occupants nausea, but it can certainly be felt. Grip, however, is vice-like around corners, and even the precipitation on Munich’s back roads couldn’t unnerve this Audi.
High tech gadgetry on the new Q5, some of which is optional, includes adaptive cruise control with braking, active lane assist and a driver information system. Much of this makes sense on the autobahn, but here in India where roads themselves are a rarity, clearly marked lanes and the like are eons away. I’m not really sure that much of this makes sense here, though secretly, I wish it did.
As I had mentioned earlier, along with the 2.0 TDI, I reckon the 2.0 TFSI and the powerful 3.0TDI will be the engine options offered in India. Although the revamped Q5 might not seem dramatically different, the tweaking has been carried out sub-cutaneously and these updates have been timed brilliantly, may I add. It would be safe to say that you ought to expect the prices to begin at about Rs 37 lakh when the new Q5 hits the showrooms.