Audi Q5 3.0 TDI
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Some things take longer to materialize. But, when they eventually do, one almost naturally remembers the age old phrase, “it was worth the wait”. We experienced similar emotions when the day of our calendar appointment with an Audi finally arrived! We have been reviewing the cars from the other German stables for sometime now but Audi took time. But as they say, better late than never.

“Audi seems to have put the Q7 through a copier with a scale setting of 75%” was a very popular joke when the Q5 was launched by Audi a few years back. A Q7 was quite a success then even in India. Lets just look through and beyond this impression of the Q5 and see what it has to offer and more importantly, how it stacks up against the other German offering in the segment, the X3.

The Q5 is offered with three engine options: 2.0 liter TFSI petrol engine with maximum power output of (165kw) 224 bhp. A 2.0 liter TDI diesel engine with a maximum power output of (130kw) 176 bhp and of course, the latest, the mammoth 3.0 liter TDI (180kw) 244 bhp engine.

We were handed the most powerful 3.0 liter 244 bhp variant. Get a feeling the name “Petrolheads.in” sends a rather clear message across.


A lot of cars use LED positioning lights. The trend has penetrated so deep that now we see led positioning lights even on the Hyundai i20 and the Renault Pulse. Having said that, the way Audi deploys them on their cars is quite appealing and distinct. And would not be doing justice to my experience if I do not mention that the ‘quattro’ logo on the front grill that gave me a bit of a rush. More on that later...

The overall proportions of the Q5 also give you the “just right” feeling. While the Q7 looks and is much huger, proportionate but huger, the Q3 almost mega-hatch like, the Q5 fits perfectly in between. The aesthetics with regards to the design lines also seem natural and hence well drawn. The off-road styling package adds a fair bit of character to the cross over.


Step in and the same familiar Audi style cues, a fairly hatch-back-ish driver seating position, the typical Audi steering wheel, well drawn ergonomics help in building a good first impression. This particular car sported the brown/beige colour treatment. Black being the other option. You also can’t help but notice the iDrive-like stunted joystick for the infotainment control. All seems familiar, in tune with the segment, yet fresh. Nice. Feel the gear lever, the steering and run your hand over the panels and the top quality of the components is eminent.

Insert the key into the slot located just below the controls for the air conditioner and the car comes to life with a very lazy yet easy and smooth hum. As you would expect from a car from this segment, no vibrations at all. Engage the Drive gear of the automatic and release the parking brake and you are off very effortlessly. This 3.0 liter engine churns out a whopping 580 Nm of torque and this magnitude of torque is delivered from as low as 1450 rpm! No wonder! This engine does justice to the much larger Q7 which is bigger and 400 kilograms heavier. I quietly warn myself to be careful as this one could well...fly.


The immediate road I encounter is rather rough. The Q5 soaks up the bad road and bumps with ease. I don’t feel a thing. Which is good for most passengers but my mind was quickly alerted by a concern. Is the suspension a bit too soft? And this is a cross-over mind you. The steering was light too. I made a mental note of the observation and waited for the road to open up. The signal turned green and I began to power the Q5 through. Now the observation about the slow steering and soft suspension and a rather lethargic behaviour of the throttle and gear shifts (comparatively) became even more prominent. The steering was outright slow. The suspension too soft and lane changes caused a slight body roll. I began to grow upset. Almost angry with disappointment. But there was a voice inside me that told me that this just cannot be true. Am driving an Audi after all. I pulled up. I was missing something.


I dived into the infotainment system and bingo! The answer was right in front of me. Three steps from the Home screen gets you to the ‘Audi drive select’ menu. On the screen you see four options to select from: Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and a customizable Individual mode. This Q5 was set to drive in the comfort mode. Dive deeper and you are informed that in the Comfort mode, the engine/gearbox, suspension and the steering control are all set to ‘Comfort’. This explained the overall lethargy with which the Q5 went about its business. The auto mode is an intelligent mode which handles these settings for you by sensing the activity and conditions of the vehicle. The Dynamic mode sets the engine/gearbox, suspension and the steering control to ‘Dynamic’ while the individual mode allows you to select a separate mode for the each of the above configuration pieces.


I selected the Dynamic mode and set myself to observe the changes. I powered the Q5 once again. And wow! Was a driving an altogether different car??? The steering was suddenly sharper, the throttle response and the gear shifts were more aggressive as well. The driver from Audi who had dropped the car with me had driven in the ‘Comfort’ mode all the way and handed me the car as is. I couldn’t understand why. I felt so sorry for him. The Q5 was now sharper. More agile. And my kinda car. I was loving it... For the hour that followed, I drove with extreme playfulness and felt like the car had a lot more to offer and a lot more power to spare. This engine is terrific with torque literally available on tap whatever rpm, speed or gear you are in and power delivery is so linear! It is such a pleasure! It was also imminent that Audi engineers had done a fantastic job in keeping the body roll to an almost unnoticeable minimum with this fantastic ‘Dynamic’ mode. The cornering behaviour of the Q5 in this (‘Dynamic’) mode is a few notches better than the BMW X3 as well which is a direct competitor to this variant and that in my opinion is a huge compliment. Great job! While ambling around in the city, the gear ratios in the ‘Comfort’ mode can get to you at times as you might need that extra bit of revving and that extra split second to effect that quick overtake or that quick maneuver. The ‘Dynamic’ mode seems to be the mode here as well. If you are the kind who likes to tinker with the setting every so often, you may customize the ‘Individual’ mode to your liking. But keep it simple. ‘Dynamic’ mode is the way to go!


The infotainment system on the Q5, which is very much like the one in the other Audi vehicles as well is quite user friendly and intuitive which is a good plus. Shift into the reverse gear and the parking sensors come on with a rear mounted parking assist camera. In addition to providing the normal view of the field while reversing which most cars do, the parking camera in the Q5 highlights the drive track of the car keeping the steering position in mind. This is such a useful addition!


As we have mentioned earlier, this 3.0 liter engine generates a whopping 580 Nm or torque! This is a lot of torque and can be a handful even for a vehicle of this size and weight. Quite a few crossovers have a two-wheel drive mode during which all the torque is supplied to the rear wheels itself and a drive in four wheel drive. Now such an arrangement can be tricky with the Q5 as discussed. So the Q5 comes with a permanent all wheel drive arrangement and employs the company’s patented Quattro technology.


Quattro: The Q5 employs Audi’s patented Quattro four wheel drive and power distribution technology. As the Q5 is a cross over, it makes sense to power all the four wheels all the time. What the Quattro system does is couples the permanent four wheel drive with an intelligent self-locking differential which comes into play the moment a wheel goes off the ground. The Quattro system restores vehicular stability by re-assessing the torque distribution to the wheels when the car is in an unbalanced state restoring equilibrium and ensuring safety by preventing the vehicle from going into an uncontrolled spin. Under normal circumstances and driving conditions, the basic distribution of the torque across the front and rear set of wheels or axle is 40:60. This is an optimum distribution and the higher torque delivered to the rear axle does make acceleration more fun in addition to providing the desired stability with optimum power to the front axle as well.


In addition to the Quattro, there is another innovation that made our earlier driving experience in the ‘Dynamic’ mode as special. It is called the harmonic drive gear system. This is a drive system developed by NASA and deployed on numerous space vehicles like the Lunar Rover. Now, we all know that we need a lot of power assist when we maneuver the vehicle at low speeds while parking for example. At such speeds, we also need the steering ratio (ratio of the degree of turn of the steering to the resulting degree of turn of the wheels) to be as low as possible. While driving at high speed, we would like the steering wheel to have minimum play and steering ratio to be much higher and very little power assistance. What the harmonic drive system attempts to do is provide the right steering ratio and force for optimum performance at a given speed. The system works pretty well and ends up providing the right amount of steering feedback more importantly at high speeds and during cornering.


After a patient ear to all the adrenalin rushing stuff about the Q5, let us now focus on the other reason why someone would go for a car in this price segment in addition to the power i.e. comfort and safety. Light sensing headlamps with delay feature for switch off which can be helpful to guide you if your parking lot is rather dark. The headlamps can be switched on to guide you into the car as well. The auto dimming function lowers the beam of the headlamps if it senses an approaching vehicle and hence prevents the driver of the approaching vehicle from blinding. In case of you do decide to drive the Q5 splashing a lot of mud, the headlamps can be sprayed clean with the headlight washers. The airconditioner is 3-zone. All the three mirrors are automatic anti-glare. When you engage the reverse gear of the Q5, the left side view mirror tilts ground-wards automatically to give you a better view of the otherwise blind spot. This is extremely thoughtful and tells you how far you are from the footpath pavement while parking for example. The entertainment system offers all the options that you can think of in a car of this segment. From 6 cd changer to sd card mount. All this with an output from 6 channel amplifiers, 10 speakers with a total output of 180 watts.


In addition to numerous airbags for the front and rear passengers, Attention Assist system senses the inactivity of the driver by monitoring responses from the pedals and steering and if it finds that the driver may have been drowsy, it warns him using an alarm and display message on the central console. Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), Anti-slip Regulation (ASR) which is a lot like traction control all add to the safety quotient of the car.


For the off-road enthusiast, in addition to the features listed above, Hill Descent Control and Hold Control work well to control the drive in tough terrains.


Overall Verdict: During our stint with the Q5, we put it to test under various conditions. The expressway, city traffic, and a bit of rough, rural terrain. Having spent a sizable amount of time in the car, when I look back, everything seems just fine. Can’t think of anything that stood out. Stood out shouting that it needs improvement.


A powerful engine with a more than healthy torque delivered at a low rpm, managed very well by the Quattro all wheel drive system, excellent Dynamic driving mode makes a very strong and tempting case for a buyer looking for a crossover ranging between 45-55 lakhs. It does manage to tick the right boxes.

 

If one does look around at the options available at that price, we have the German BMW X3 on one side and the British Land Rover Freelander 2 and the concept styled futuristic Range Rover Evoque. All these offerings are fairly comparable but for an all out off-road enthusiast, the British Freelander may be a notch ahead. The Evoque manages to turn heads owing to its styling and is of course a gadget-packed offering with tremendous off-road capability.


As an overall package, one might still tilt in the favour of the Q3.

 

Picture gallery: Audi Q5

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