FIRST DRIVE

MEXICAN WAVE

We break for the border to put the new Audi Q5 SUV to the test in the searing heat of the Baja California Peninsula

WRITER Katie Johnstone

The proof of the pudding – or, as we're in Mexico, perhaps we should say the proof of the Capirotada – is in the eating. Similarly, if a car's success can be measured by how impressively it drives and how well it sells, the first-generation Audi Q5 was without doubt a very big hit.

Launched in 2008, the original Q5 revolutionised the SUV sector with a blend of sleek looks, innovative technology, agile driving manners and premium-quality finish. By the end of 2016, more than 1.5 million of the first-generation models had been sold around the world.

Now, though, it is time to look forwards and try the all-new Q5, which arrives in the UK this spring with prices starting from £37,170. Before I hit the roads of the Baja California Peninsula, I take a stroll around the vehicle. With its sculpturally flared singleframe grille, distinctive curves and strong shoulders, the all-new model offers elegance and athleticism in equal measures.

Naturally the SUV wasn't designed purely to please the eye. The Q5's aerodynamic shape enables it to glide through the air as efficiently as possible. And while the new vehicle has grown in size, it weighs up to 90kg less than its predecessor.

Inside the cabin there is ample space for five, while luggage capacity has increased by 10 litres. All three models – SE, Sport and S line – feature a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. Factor in Audi's optional Virtual Cockpit and sitting in the Q5 feels more akin to taking the wheel of a sports car than an SUV.

THE ALL-NEW Q5 OFFERS GREATER VERSATILITY, AGILITY, TECHNOLOGY AND EFFICIENCY THAN BEFORE

Audi Q5

On sale now  
Price from £37,170 OTR  
Engine 2.0 TDI 190PS  
Transmission seven-speed S tronic  
Drivetrain quattro all-wheel drive  
0-62mph 7.9 seconds  
Top speed 135mph (electronically limited)  
Efficiency 

56.5mpg combined*,

132g/km C02*

 

*Standard EU test figure for comparative purposes and may not reflect real driving results. With 18-inch wheels

The Q5 is offered with a choice of 252PS 2.0 TFSI and 190PS 2.0 TDI engines, with a 286PS V6 3.0 TDI unit following later. I tested the highly efficient 2.0 TDI, which features a seven-speed S tronic transmission and has the potential to return up to 56.5mpg combined*, equating to 132g of CO2 per km*.

Even a short drive in the Q5 confirms that it has been developed with performance in mind as well as efficiency. The engine response is crisp and instant, and with a very healthy 400Nm on offer, it requires only a small throttle movement to surge the SUV forwards on a great wave of torque. As you can see from the data table on the left, it takes just 7.9 seconds for the Q5 2.0 TDI to reach 62mph from rest. But even more impressive is the real-world, everyday performance and the smooth manner in which it is delivered.

There is a similar multi-talented aspect to the ride and handling. Threading the Q5 through the congested city streets is an effortless task, while it remains utterly stable and composed at higher speeds on dual carriageways. And as I found when I headed into the hills to give the all-wheel-drive quattro system a proper workout on more challenging roads, the Q5 exhibits an agility and a precision when changing direction that are more akin to that of a hot hatch than a traditional SUV.

Of course the best thing to do is give the Q5 a try for yourself when it arrives in your local Audi Centre in the spring. As for the Capirotada pudding, you'll have to find a good Mexican restaurant for that – trust me, it will be well worth the effort.