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'DNA' drive: Audi Q5 — Subtle changes, superb result

Friday, 11 January 2013 - 2:40am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

We check out the very subtle facelift to the Audi Q5.

It’s no secret that Indians prefer SUVs over sedans, and as offerings go, Audi has a great one.

Its Q7 got an upgrade recently, while the Q3 is all-new. So that makes the Q5 the oldest in its portfolio. In Audi parlance, that’s time for a facelift.

This is a pretty subtle one, so subtle you might not even notice any major changes. But stay on, we’ll tell you exactly what they’ve done.

Quickly, now, take a look at the car and see if you can spot any changes. Give up? Clearly, Audi didn’t want to mess with a good design, and we can’t blame them. The Q5 looks sensational and the subtle embellishments only accentuate it.

The first thing you’ll notice is the new headlights with LED-daytime running lights encircling the whole unit. That brings it in line with the rest of the Audis. The flipside: you wouldn’t know which Audi is sneaking up behind you.

Small changes to the bumper and lower airdam is seen, which gives the Q5 a little more aggression. It’s the same story out back too, with the tail-light elements being tweaked slightly and the rear bumper and skid-plate assembly getting the once over.

Step inside to a warm and welcoming inside. Again, there’s not much of a change but it didn’t need any tweaking in the first place.

Every surface you can lay your hands on is either wrapped in leather or soft-touch plastics befitting a car in its price range.

A new MMI infotainment is placed centre-stage in the car, with a large colour screen providing all the information you need.

From the driver’s seat, the dashboard curves inwards, in a sort of driver-centric layout that leaves you feeling you’re in something sportier than an SUV.

But despite large exterior dimensions, it’s not exactly vast inside. You’ll never feel cramped, mind you, but you won’t be able to stretch out either. The rear bench is good for seating three abreast, and over longer journeys, you won’t be hearing a peep from them as they have their own set of gadgets to play with.

After getting acquainted with the interior, slot in the key and the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel thrums to life with a roar and quickly settles into a bassy hum. In this facelift, the engines that have received the most attention are the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol and the 3.0-litre TDI, but the bread and butter of the range still remains the base diesel.

No matter, though. The 2.0-litre TDI is a fantastically refined performer mated to the S-Tronic 7-speed DSG gearbox. Quite sprightly too!

In fact, the gearing and the tenacious traction of the quattro all-wheel-drive system will leave you pinned to the seat as the Q5 reaches for the horizon. Don’t let its size fool you though, the Q5 is pretty much at home in city roads, with fairly manageable size and an engine and transmission combo that is willing to rocket you into the next gap you see almost telepathically.

The story is the same on open roads. Sure, the engine starts to run out of steam in the upper reaches of the speedometer, but again, the lively transmission takes all the stress of driving on the highway. Cruising when you want it to, and quickly dropping a cog or two to send you on your way when more power is needed.

What’s more, the engine also manages some phenomenal fuel efficiency in the range of 13-17 kpl in our test, which is a great feat for something of its size (Of course, use of aluminium in the hood and boot lid help keep the weight down)

Ride and handling
This is also one area where the Q5 has received a lot of attention. The entire hydraulic steering system has been ditched in favour of an electro-mechanical one, and sadly, the steering doesn’t offer too much feel anymore. It’s light, effortless and puts the car exactly where you want it, but there’s no trace of feedback nor feel of the road surface.

Left in auto mode, the steering also increases and decreases the effort required to turn it, depending on your speed, which can get a little annoying because the steering feels different as you enter a corner and then changes completely as you exit. It’s best to leave it in the sportier setting and enjoy the drive.

The Q5 also comes with dampers that can be adjusted through the MMI system. That, and the steering system, ensure city driving is as comfortable as can be. Around town, the ride is a little on the harsher side, but it’s not so much that you’ll consider alternatives. On the bright side, the Q5 takes corners without even a hint of body roll, and that’s quite commendable for something its size.

What the Q5 lacks in off-road prowess – it’s still pretty capable off the beaten tracks – it more than makes up for with its on-road manners.

So, at the end of the day, what seemed like a pretty mild upgrade made a great difference to the character of the Q5, so much so that it’s a much better pavement crusher now. If the earlier Q5 was good, this goes above and beyond that to being truly great. Sure, there are a few niggling issues here and there, but as a whole, the car is definitely worth a buy!

Audi Q5
Starts Rs43.16 lakh, ex-showroom New Delhi
Kitna deti hai?
14.6 kmpl, per Arai test
Two TDIs
(2 and 3 litre) and one 2 litre TFSI engine
Max power – 177 bhp to 245 bhp
Quattro permanent all-wheel drive

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