India loves SUVs, no matter what the category, and every auto manufacturer wants to be in on a piece of the pie. Last year was dominated by SUV launches, and it is no surprise that the first launch for this year is an SUV as well: introducing the 2018 Audi Q5. The latest iteration of Audi’s medium-sized SUV will be replacing its predecessor, which helped Audi cement itself in the country’s mid-level luxury SUV segment. To keep the momentum going, Audi has completely redesigned and re-engineered the 2018 Q5.
The new Q5 looks very little like the old Q5 and a lot like the bigger Q7. The wheel arches are more emphasised than the earlier version, the grille is larger, the body lines are sharper, and the Audi insignia daytime running lights give the Q5 an athletic stance. The 2018 Q5 is lighter too; making use of high-tensile steel and aluminium, Audi has managed to shave off 65 kg of weight from its previous model.
The interiors are signature Audi — a welcoming space with clean design, premium materials and attention to detail. The cabin is comfortably spacious for four adults and is cooled with a three-zone air conditioner, which uses a sensor to determine where the sun is falling inside the car and then adjusts the blowers accordingly. There’s a panoramic sunroof which further lightens up the airy cabin. Seating is comfortable in both the rows; the front row gets power seats, with the driver getting memory function.
The biggest update is the inclusion of Audi’s virtual cockpit. A 12.3-inch high-resolution screen sits behind the steering wheel and displays the instrument cluster. The beauty of the system is that it is highly customisable: with a press of a button you can shrink the dials or maximise them, access media and car systems. The highlight is the navigation screen — activate it and a 12.3-inch map opens up.
While the driver focuses on the road, the passengers can access the car’s functions using the 8.3-inch screen which sits on top of the dashboard and works with Audi’s MMI interface. There is also a touchpad that lets you scribble phone numbers or destinations but it is more gimmicky than practical. Along with the usual connectivity options, the Q5 also offers Apple Airplay and Android Auto support.
Behind the wheel
For now, the Q5 comes standard with a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine. It produces 188 bhp with 400 Nm of torque, and according to Audi, it can take the close-to-2.0-tonne SUV from a standstill to 100 km/hr in 7.9 seconds. What better place to put this machine to the test than in Pushkar, Rajasthan. We started with a sprint on the smooth highway, where it picked up speed with poise. Soon, we were cruising at triple-digit speeds, while the engine was gently humming at 1,700 rpm. The cabin was so silent, for a second I thought I was in a luxury saloon and not a diesel SUV. The engineers and designers have done a commendable job of isolating the noise and vibrations from the cabin.
Helping make the ride even smoother was the intuitive 7-speed dual-clutch transmission, which changes gears seamlessly and quickly.
Considering its size, the Q5 is extremely easy to manoeuvre. I could navigate the narrow bylanes of Pushkar town and some of the tightest corners I have ever seen, without breaking a sweat. The Q5 comes with Drive Select, which offers three driving modes that alter the suspension and responsiveness of the steering and engine to favour comfort, off-roading, or dynamic driving. While comfort mode is ideal for most driving, you can leave it on auto to let the Q5 judge the best settings automatically.
Down the road Quattro
We had a chance to take the Q5 off the tarmac and onto a dirt patch: half a kilometre or more of an erratic road riddled with potholes, gravel, and elevations. We activated the off-roading mode and the Quattro AWD handled it smoothly. Even when things got choppy, there was enough balance to keep the terrain from disturbing the passengers. Slippery ascents, descents, stopping midway on a hill, no problem. Once again, sound insulation enabled us to hold a conversation in the car without the need to shout, even on the most treacherous bumps and patches.
The 2018 Q5 is a jack of all trades. It offers a comfortable and silent ride, has a decent amount of technology, drives well, is safe and very efficient. What we miss is a responsive steering that offers more feedback and ambient lighting in the cabin.
While its German and Brit competitors pack similar features and tech with an option here and there, it is the Swedes that offer a lot more bang for the buck with the Volvo XC60.
Audi is slated to release pricing of the Q5 on January 18. We expect the new 2018 Q5 to be in the range of ₹50-₹55 lakh.