Sometimes I dream of a dreadful vehicle to review. I hope for a car I can really rip to pieces and enjoy a range of put-downs and pithy comments that make the reader laugh and me feel like I have stretched my sarcasm muscle.
I’m fairly certain that car will never come from Audi, though (although the RS7 repeatedly tried to kill me, I repeat again).
The Q5 is an excellent example of a car designed and built such a long way from the rubbish end of the scale that it becomes hard to write about it without boring myself to tears.
It is the top-selling midsized luxury SUV. Of the 1498 cars Audi sold in New Zealand last year, 238 were Q5s. It was outsold by only the little Q2, which retails for about half the price of the Q5.
The Q5 is an SUV with flawless performance, a thrifty but effective engine and the sort of interior any soccer mum or dad would be proud to show the neighbours.
It corners better than my wee Volvo, it has excellent acceleration in sport mode, the phone charger is one of those flash panels rather than an antiquated plug-in thing, the stereo is great, and neither of my kids whinged even once about the ride stiffness, because it is just so comfortable. In fact, the teenager even said he “quite likes” it.
I raced around Northland for three days, having driven up from Auckland, and still returned it to Audi with a quarter of a tank of petrol.
What’s not to like? There’s got to be something. Am I just so soft as a reviewer that I can’t admit faults? Or am I lazy? Incompetent? All of the above, likely.
It may not inspire the passion of a sports car, but it is an SUV and it is as practical as anything. It is sensible and speedy, pleasant and powerful.
You can throw the whole family in it and make use of Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system to go anywhere the breeze blows you.
The two large digital displays are easily adaptable, including the ability to have a large, visually pleasing map behind the steering wheel.
Audi’s driver-safety system activated three times while I had the car. The first time, it braked a fraction of a second before I did when a car three vehicles in front of me slammed on the brakes and pulled into a driveway on State Highway 16. That might have saved me if I’d been distracted. The other two times, it warned me, but did not brake. I’d call these false positives, but I’d still rather have them than crash.
The only criticism I could find is when I showed the Q5 to a mate who has a model that is now a couple of years old. He was brutal. You better sit down for this. It is a stinger. He wondered if the wheels on the S Line variant I had were an inch too big aesthetically. Ouch.
The two-litre turbo-charged TFSI S Line variant BusinessDesk tested has a very reasonable power output of 183kW and a maximum torque of 370Nm, matched with a seven-speed S-tronic gearbox. It could tow a handy 2400kg, braked.
The acceleration to 100km/h is 6.3 seconds, though it felt a little slower than that to me, and it has a top speed of 237km/h. Not bad for a mid-range luxury SUV, of course.
This whole thing is worth $106,900, but the also perfectly acceptable entry-model 40 TDI Quattro Advanced is $92,900, though that is diesel. The Audi press vehicle is specced up with the bigger wheels, OLED rear lights ($3300!), and matrix LED headlights ($2900), among other refinements. It is a colour called district green, which I love as being near-ish to grey, but not close enough to be boring.
Playing on the Audi website, I did manage to push the price all the way to $138,850 by selecting every available option, including the totally necessary “climate-controlled beverage holder” for $450 and you can choose the pattern on the brake lights for a cheap-as $3300.
If I was seriously buying the Q5, though, I’d definitely consider the heads-up display ($2750) and the adaptive air suspension ($5000). These would make the Q5 the vehicle you’d never want to sell – even if someone showed up with a newer version a few years later with wheels that might be an inch too big.