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Our Audi Q5 long-termer vs a Nissan R34 GT-R

Published: 22 November 2017

► CAR lives with an Audi Q5
► Our car is a TFSI S line...
► ...and it has big shoes to fill

Month five living with an Audi Q5 TFSI: sci-fi back then ain't so sci-fi now

From one four-wheel drive to a very different other. Here’s the Q5 at import specialist Torque GT, where I was making a video about a very rare (and at £120k, very expensive) Skyline GT-R Nür.

Remember how sci-fi the R34’s dash-top display looked 15 years ago with those digital dials? The Q5’s crisp ‘virtual’ Instruments make it look comically low-res now, but the R34 is still fabulous to drive. Not much room for the dog though, so I’ll stick with the Audi.

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 1721
Total 10901
Our mpg 30.9mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £299.50
Extra costs £0


Month four living with an Audi Q5 TFSI: no off-roader and better for it

Audi Q5 long-term Walters Arena

The roads are so full of slick road-biased SUVs and crossovers that sometimes it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t always been around.

But shooting the Alfa Stelvio Giant Test reminded us how different things were only 25 years ago. Cliff, the man with keys to – and giant mental map of – Walters Arena, the off-road playground at the foot of the Brecon Beacons, served up the reminder with his original pre-facelift circa-1993 Land Rover Discovery.

Judging by the paint scheme and stickers, it was once a competitor in the gruelling Camel Trophy off-road adventure race. Judging by the way it waded through a massive pit of muddy water while we minced around at the side in our three premium SUVs on pristine road-spec rubber, it thinks it’s still there.

‘Oh, that was just in two-wheel-drive mode,’ Cliff corrected me after I’d commented on his old nail’s four-wheel-drive prowess.

But not living in a quarry, or Burundi, my envy was fleeting. The original Disco was lauded for its all-round appeal when it was new, but it’s hard to empathise with those reviewers now. The 2.5-litre diesel made just 111bhp and according to contemporary road test figures wheezed to 60mph in 19.2sec. Top speed? Eighty-seven.

And if you’re thinking ‘at least it was economical’, wrong! It managed 24mpg in normal use and 32mpg on a gentle motorway run. Mind you, that was better than the 16mpg you’d get out of the V8 (which still took nearly 12 seconds to reach 60mph).

Anyway, contrast that with our petrol Q5, which touches 150mph flat out, gets to 60mph in around six seconds, and beats its economy too. The Audi’s consumption figures didn’t seem quite so hot in the early days of our loan, but now fully loosened up the Q5 regularly returns over 30mpg.

And while the Q5 doesn’t have the diff locks and ground clearance of a proper old-school off-roader, modern soft SUVs are a whole lot more capable than you might think with the air suspension wound right up and a set of suitable boots. Not that it matters – I’ve done 3000 miles this month and three of them were off road. For most of us, if not for Cliff, going soft was the best move the SUV ever made.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 2979
Total 9180
Our mpg 31.1mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £509.93
Extra costs £0


Month three living with an Audi Q5 TFSI: obligatory options

Our Q5 is loaded with £10k of options including air suspension, LED headlights, B&O hi-fi and Virtual Cockpit instruments. Sometimes I'd trade them all for £225 of electrically folding mirrors.

It must be 15 years since anyone went 'ooh' over folding mirrors, but I park on a narrow street and I'm always forgetting to unfold the passenger mirror before I get in. Also, seeing them fold assures you the car's locked.

According to Audi's configurator, they should be on my car. Eh?

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 1612
Total 6201
Our mpg 27.7mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £315.10
Extra costs £0


Month two living with an Audi Q5 TFSI: the miles and the fuel bill are racking up

Month two for the Q5 and another 2000 miles added to the odometer, mostly ferrying me to jobs of the very best kind – the ones that involve a supercar waiting for you at the other end.

One of those was the McLaren 720S, a plane ride away in Rome, and the other the P1 we borrowed from the McLaren Technology Centre, and which you’ll have read about in our June 2017 issue.

I’ve driven the P1 a couple of times before, but seeing it in the company of the Q5 was a perfect reminder of just how tall the Q5 is relative to other cars, if not to other SUVs. And getting there was a perfect reminder of why people are telling me I’m mad to have picked a petrol Q5 over the obvious diesel choice. Dicing on Devon’s narrow lanes on the school run, I’m getting low-20s mpg, and quick motorway blasts seem to peg it at or below 30.

Audi Q5 LT with mclaren

I’m enjoying the refinement of the petrol engine, though, and driving an SUV that has some enthusiasm for revs. I just wonder why, if the extra performance it offers over the 2.0 diesel is its main selling point, Audi couldn’t have given it a bit of Golf R-style growl. I’ll just have to train my dog to synch with the accelerator. 

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 2129
Total 4589
Our mpg 27.7mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £419.65
Extra costs £0


Month 1 with an Audi Q5 TFSI S line: a lot to live up to

‘The needs of a magazine force us to swap these cars every six months: I’d have happily driven this one for 10 years’ – that was Ben Oliver talking about our recently departed Q7, and one of the most profound endorsements of a car I can remember reading in this magazine. The new Q5 has plenty to live up to.

And contrary to appearances, this is a new car, and not merely a facelift of the original. The new chunky grille-frame and scowling bonnet-line help make that clear at the front, and if you see old and new together the 2017 car’s pronounced swage line does the same from the side.

But from the back… I parked ours next to an old Q5 at a petrol station and had to look hard to spot the differences. It’s a handsome car, though: more muscular than the Q3, and more athletic than the Q7. Think A5 Sportback reimagined for the Baja 1000.

Unlike other Audis, the Q5 range is surprisingly light on choice. Leaving aside the SQ5 for a moment, you get to pick from basic SE, starting at £37,240, better equipped and better looking Sport for £1100 more, and S-line trim for a further £2k, plus a stack of options. But when it comes to engines, there are only two: a 187bhp, 2.0-litre TDI and a 249bhp petrol, both with a seven-speed S-tronic twin-clutch ’box and awd. 

Audi Q5 LT interior

Given a recent house relocation means I now do more miles than a public school hussy, the 2.0 TDI was the only sensible choice. But I went for the petrol Q5 for a couple of reasons. First, we know that TDI engine inside out but the petrol engine, falling halfway between a Golf GTI and a Golf R on power, is less of a known quantity, especially in an SUV.

And second, because whatever it does to the gallon can’t possibly come as a shock after six months in a 550bhp AMG V8, especially when the combined fuel consumption figure is a very reasonable 40mpg. Okay, so we all know better than to believe the nonsense that is official fuel consumption figures, but since the tide seems to be turning against diesel, we’re curious to see whether petrol power really is a viable alternative.

Audi Q5 LT virtual cockpit

It certainly looks like the best choice if you want to get anywhere in a hurry. The diesel might eke a further 15 miles from every gallon, but it needs 7.9sec to reach 62mph, compared to just 6.3sec for the petrol. And though a diesel’s superior torque output usually makes for more relaxing progress in a big car (the Q5 weighs 1875kg), its 295lb ft isn’t that much better than the 273lb ft of the petrol.

The TDI does fare slightly better in the company car tax battle thanks to its lower CO2 output, but you’re only talking a few hundred quid a year, which keeps the petrol in the running, if not necessarily at the front. 

Audi Q5 cars for sale

Our car came in S-line spec, which brings an upgrade from 18- to 19-inch wheels, sporty leather and alcantara trim, and more aggressive bumpers for your £40k. But the price of our car was significantly inflated thanks to the addition of kit like 20-inch wheels (£900), matrix LED lights (£650), panoramic roof (£1400) and adaptive air suspension (£2000). It also has a couple of option packs: the Comfort and Sound pack, which delivers keyless entry, electric seats and a B&O hi-fi for £1250, and the £1100 Technology pack (better nav, a 36-month Audi Connect subscription to access online content, and a wireless phone charger that is absolutely useless to me because my iPhone doesn’t support it).

Audi Q5 LT phone charging

That lot brought the total to £51,085, which is pennies away from the price of a completely option-free – but still well equipped and much faster – SQ5. And around £20k more than the cost of my family’s own car, a current-shape A4 Avant. We might well return to both of those comparisons later in the loan.

For now, though, we’ll finish with our early impressions of the Q5. It looks great, feels usefully roomy, and we’re enjoying the refinement of the petrol engine over the typical chuntering diesel clatter you expect when you punch the starter button in a modern SUV. In fact the Q5’s overall refinement has really shocked me. It’s so quiet and rides so well I’m struggling to think of another non-limo type car that’s such good company on the motorway. Come back next month to find out if that honeymoon feeling has lasted.

By Chris Chilton

Logbook: Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI S line

Engine 1984cc 16v turbo 4cyl, 249bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 237lb ft @ 1600-4500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel drive
Stats 6.3sec 0-62mph, 147mph, 159g/km
Price £40,170  
As tested £51,085
Miles this month 901
Total 2460
Our mpg 27.4mpg
Official mpg 40.4mpg
Fuel this month £166.26
Extra costs £0

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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