First drive: 2018 Audi Q5 and SQ5 in Oman
The Audi Q5 isn’t particularly common in the GCC, but it is currently the VW-owned carmaker’s top-selling model worldwide. It still sold around a healthy 280,000 units in its final year, and 1.6 million in total since its inception in 2009. As it remains hugely popular, just like the A4, Audi has gone for evolution, rather than revolution, when it comes to the exterior. However, underneath the skin, everything has changed, with more technology, power and efficiency.
Looking at the exterior, the Audi Q5 has been updated with their new design language, looking more in line with the German premium brand’s recent models such as the Q7 and the A5. It is now slightly longer, and the wheelbase has also increased to offer more interior space. It adds 10 litres more luggage space overall than its predecessor. New exterior colours have also been added to the lineup.
The Q5 variant we jumped into first at the launch event in Salalah was a full-optioned Quattro model. Its new “Ultra Technology” all-wheel-drive system can completely disconnect the rear axle (and become front-wheel-drive) based on the driving style and the conditions. Audi says the system is predictive, taking 0.5 seconds to assess conditions and 0.2 seconds to engage or disengage the rear axle. While driving, we couldn’t tell when the system was turning on and off.
Under the hood of our Q5 was a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder motor, which is the only engine offered for now. It is carried over from the previous generation, but offers more power, delivered via a 7-speed automatic transmission. The new Q5 now gets 252 hp and 370 Nm of torque, up from 230 hp and 350 Nm of torque. Fuel efficiency is rated at 6.8 litres/100 km, down from 7.2 litres/100 km. The vehicle is also 50 kg lighter than the old model. The Q5 now reaches 0-100 kph in 6.3 seconds, which is 0.6 seconds faster than its predecessor.
The interior has also been fully updated, featuring Audi’s virtual cockpit system. It offers wireless charging as well for phones (QI standard) as well as Apple CarPlay connectivity. Audi’s MMI infotainment system also allows 2 phones to be connected simultaneously. Like many new cars out here, the system has Android Auto capability, but Google still hasn’t made it available for our region yet for some reason.
Our model also had the air suspension system, offered for the first time in the Q5. The ride quality is very good when the chassis is set to “Comfort” mode. However, during some spirited driving on the mountain roads of Salalah, we switched to “Dynamic” mode which lowers the suspension and stiffens the dampers to improve handling. We even ventured on some rough rocky terrain, where we switched the car to “Off-road” mode. This gives the car a 45mm lift, thereby improving ground clearance. Hill descent control was also available to help you crawl down slopes automatically and you just need to control the steering wheel.
We also had a go in the performance-oriented Audi SQ5 model. This Quattro model does not get the “Ultra Technology” and features a self-locking differential, with all-wheel-drive always on. Gone is the old 3.0-litre supercharged engine, replaced by a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 unit with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. This motor produces 354 hp and 500 Nm of torque, which is good enough to help it reach from 0-100 kph at a claimed 5.4 seconds. Fuel efficiency is rated at 8.4 litres/100 km.
Immediately you notice the difference in power when you push down the accelerator, with the exhaust putting out a slight growl to let you know it is an ‘S’, although the handling is similar to the already-good regular Q5. The exterior gets a more aggressive design as well, with sportier bumpers, red brake calipers, bigger spoiler and standard 20-inch rims. The only downside are the fake quad-exhaust tips on the rear bumper, with the real pipes hidden below. Our tester had the optional 21-inch wheels. The seats are also on the sportier side, with more bolstering but certainly not uncomfortable, and are wrapped in Nappa leather.
Audi has made the smart move by limiting the exterior changes and amping up the interior, which will make sure it continues to be successful in Europe. But it remains to be seen how well it does in our market, where subtlety doesn’t count for anything. Improvements in power and fuel efficiency certainly help its cause. It should continue to at least hold on to its market share in the premium compact SUV segment.
Photos by Audi Middle East.