Audi had an instant hit on its hands when it decided to take on the Volvo XC60 and BMW X3 with the first Q5 in 2008. Which is why even with fresh engines and a thoroughly revamped platform, the new model looks similar to the previous one. 

The battle for dominance in the global D-premium SUV segment has really intensified this year. After a production run of almost nine years, Volvo’s XC60 just kept on selling stronger than ever. Now, as production of a new model ramps up and waiting lists grow, rival brands can see their chance to attack. Audi is certainly in one of the best positions to do so.

The second generation Q5 has been steadily gaining sales but with production of a new vehicles taking place at a freshly opened plant, Audi has been understandably taking it slowly so as to ensure the best quality. 

€900m was spent on the new San José Chiapa plant in central Mexico.

San José Chiapa is in central Mexico and close to Puebla where Volkswagen has its own manufacturing base. Up to 150,000 units of the new model will be made there annually, Audi says. The equivalent of €900m was spent to erect manufacturing complex, which includes not only a body shop and assembly line, but also a press shop. 

The SQ7 has already been revealed, and a forthcoming electric variant, the Q5 e-tron, will also reportedly be built in Mexico. The plant was opened in September 2016, coinciding with the debut of the second generation Q5 at the Paris motor show.

Magna International is the supplier of all-wheel drive systems for the Q5. The company has set up a 16,000 sq m (172,000 sq ft) facility in Mexico, the third building at Magna Powertrain’s operation in Ramos Arizpe.

As is the case with the first generation Q5, kits should also be sent to India and Russia for assembly in those markets. But this time around, these will not be coming from Germany which is where the first Q5 was made. 

The Changchun plant of China’s FAW Volkswagen joint venture is almost guaranteed to be the other manufacturing location for this SUV. Car production at this facility comprises the four essential areas of vehicle manufacturing: press shop, body shop, paint shop and assembly. Annual Audi production capacity at FAW-VW in Changchun was increased to 400,000 cars over the last few years. The plant currently produces the A4 L, A6 L, Q3 and first generation Q5.

The second generation Q5 became available across Europe from early 2017. In this region, three engines and three transmissions have been offered since launch:

  • 110kW/150hp 2.0 TDI (four-cylinder diesel)
  • 120kW/163hp 2.0 TDI
  • 140kW/190hp 2.0 TDI
  • 210kW/286hp 3.0 TDI
  • 185kW/252hp 2.0 TFSI (petrol turbo)
  • six-speed manual gearbox
  • seven-speed S tronic dual clutch transmission
  • eight-speed tiptonic (only for the V6 diesel)

Audi seems intent on sticking to compression-ignition engines in this segment.

Despite all the controversy surrounding diesel and the Volkswagen Group’s 2.0- and 3.0-litre TDIs, Audi seems intent on sticking to compression-ignition engines in this segment. Who can blame it, when the old Q5 TDI, especially in 2.0-litre form, was such a success?

The best of the three 1,968cc diesels is the one which produces 190hp and 400Nm of torque. Drive goes to both axles via a seven-ratio dual clutch S tronic gearbox. Top speed is 135mph, 0-62mph takes 7.9 seconds and the CO2 number is 132g/km. Economy? I saw 52mpg and the Combined figure is an official 56.5mpg.

Audi has given the new Q5 a lot more aluminium than the previous model, yet weight is 1,770kg, though that’s a 90kg improvement over the mark one. The lighter metal is employed for the bonnet, tailgate and certain suspension components. This being a variant with quattro drive is one of the main reasons for the test car’s mass.

Good economy is due not only to the loss of weight but also to a Magna all-wheel drive system.

The good economy is due not only to the loss of weight but also thanks to that Magna all-wheel drive system. Every time you lift off the accelerator, the S tronic gearbox disengages so as to minimise frictional losses, and the former central differential has been replaced by clutches which see the front axle receiving most of the torque. Should four-wheel drive be needed, the rear axle is brought in. There is no sensation of this happening, just perfect traction. 

The Volkswagen Group’s DSGs are now almost faultless and this one I would add to that list. What wasn’t quite right in the Q5 was the stop-start system: every now and then it would take a nano-second too long to fire the engine. Maybe it was peculiar to the test vehicle but it did give me the occasional moment of annoyance. Rolling to a red light at low speed the engine would cut out when it couldn’t see the light go green. Foot down and…nothing, but then it would come to life. 

It’s hard to find anything to take issue with inside the cabin: Audi has really excelled itself with the Q5. Fit, finish of plastics, cloth and leather is all to the highest standard. The Virtual Cockpit (digital instrumentation) is also worth paying for as once you have created your customised view, it really does become a safety boon. That’s because you’re not having to fiddle with the MMI controller on the move to find most of what you might want to see on the other screen.

Does the new Q5 look as good as the first generation model? I’m not sure, though compared to the Q3 and Q7, it’s a more rounded design. Not having driven a Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, I can’t compare the new Audi to it but the Q5 is a nicer place to be than what now feels like the old-school BMW X3. I’m also yet to try the updated Lexus NX, while the Infiniti QX50, now in its tenth year of manufacture, can no longer compete with the segment’s big hitters.

The Q5 is close to being the class-best.

Were it a battle of the powerful petrols, then the Porsche Macan would win every time, with the Jaguar F-PACE a close second but with 2.0-litre diesel power, the Q5 is for me close to class-best. Let’s see what V426, the new Volvo XC60, turns out to be like once UK market deliveries start.

Future derivatives

The SQ5 TFSI had its world premiere at the Detroit auto show in January but production has only just started in Mexico. It is powered by a 260kW (354hp) and 500Nm turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6. 

The fact that Audi gives the SQ5 a TFSI suffix tells us that replacements for the SQ5 TDI and SQ5 TDI plus must be in the pipeline. These should have versions of the Volkswagen Group’s latest 3.0-litre V6 diesel under their aluminium bonnets.

While air suspension was not available for the first generation vehicle, it is standard for the new SQ5. Might there also be an eventual RS Q5? It’s certainly possible, especially as the RS Q3 exists: this remains Audi’s only RS Q vehicle. Rumour has it that a 336kW (457PS) RS Q5 isn’t too far away, perhaps even as close as the Frankfurt IAA in September.