► Second-gen Q5 takes aim at the X3 and GLC
► Part-time Quattro and optional air suspension
► Limited engines for now; S and RS should follow
Darwinians rejoice: a long-time exponent of evolving of the automotive species, Audi has launched the second-generation Q5.
So it’s all-new, even though it doesn’t look it?
Much to the chagrin of car enthusiasts who collectively lament the latest Q5’s more-of-the-same-again-please appearance, those who actually buy the Audi will be doubtless pleased they can tell immediately what it is without resorting to checking the badge on the electric tailgate.
But it is all new. Yes, it has a similar silhouette to before, albeit amplified with some A5-aping arcing on the wings. Yes, the nose has been tszujed up with a Q7-esque chunky grille. And yes, the rear bumper still houses a set of ungainly ancillary lights, rather than hiding them inside the boot opening, A1-style. If I was fluent in emoji there’d be a sad face there.
Ingolstadt’s top brass will be hoping that by playing it stylistically safe it will have another sales hit on its hands; don’t forget it shifted 1.6million examples of its predecessor.
But if the way it looks isn’t new, what is?
Strip away the coachwork façade and you’ll expose another iteration of the MLB2 architecture, closely resembling that which underpins the A4 range. And after a short spell at the wheel, you begin to appreciate the benefits.
Not so long ago an S Line spec Audi had a ride that was about as comfortable as watching the US election results at chez Clinton, but here on the Q5, even with 19-inch rims at each corner, it’s quite the smoothie, dealing with asphalt imperfections with the effortlessness of a Rowenta tackling a creased cotton shirt.
Its secret? Adaptive air suspension. It’s optional, natch, and pricey at £2000, but it reinforces how cossetting the Q5’s become. Better still, it doesn’t inflict passenger nausea the way passengers experiences in the similarly equipped Mercedes GLC does, and even Dynamic (sportlich, ja?) mode, it maintains a high level of compliance while negating roll, pitch and dive effectively.
Audi’s haven’t always been the best handlers – how does this one stack up?
Like the A4 it shares many of its oily bits with, there’s significantly greater precision about the Q5’s handling, even if it doesn’t alchemise into anything that resembles fun. The basics are there though for the forthcoming sportier Q5s prefixed with S and RS.
There’s much more chatter through the steering wheel, but an extra notch of weight, especially in Dynamic mode, wouldn’t go amiss.
Traction aplenty too, courtesy of Quattro all-wheel drive, but efficiency needs as they are, this is the intelligent part-time Ultra system, employing two clutches to engage propulsion to the rear wheels only when necessary.
We sampled the 187bhp 2.0-litre and 282bhp 3.0 V6 TDI diesels, but Audi expects around 40% of British buyers to opt for this 249bhp 2.0-litre TFSI petrol. It’s deliciously linear in its power delivery, allowing you to gorge on torque through the rev range.
It’s well-suited to the standard seven-speed S Tronic twin-clutch autobox but it is prone to hesitation when slowly rolling up to junctions and roundabouts, precisely when you want to dart off at the very moment your toes caress the throttle pedal.
Air suspension for off-piste exploration
Venturing off the black top in an SUV of this ilk used to be akin to attempting to reach Snowdon’s summit having donned a thick Superdry hoody and a pair of worn-in Converse.
Let’s not for a moment pretend the latest Q5’s a hardcore go-anywheremobile – there’s no transfer ’box to access lower ratios and you can’t even lock it in first – but those air springs do enable it to deal with the rougher stuff better than ever.
Switch to Allroad mode and the ride height increases by 25mm, while Offroad dials it up a further 20mm. That’s enough to ensure craggier rock protrusions don’t wreak havoc underneath, while the firmness of the ride in these settings allows you to judge where the best footings are.
Performances are rarely as polished as the second-gen Audi Q5. It doesn’t significantly move the needle in any one area but matches or exceeds its competitors in almost all of them.
You’ll feel suitably smug pootling around in one, particularly drinking in the most premium of cabins in the mid-sized SUV sector, and getting to grips with the enhanced MMI infotainment package. Rivals’ systems feel clunkier as a result.
And the styling that’s a near facsimile of the original Q5? It’ll be no more a point of concern to the throngs of customers than the fact that this Germanic crossover’s actually built in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico, although how loudly they shout about that latter point remains to be seen.