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August 16, 2021updated 17 Aug 2021 2:24pm

The global rise of the Audi Q5

The second generation Q5 is that vanilla Audi SUV which you can't always picture precisely. And yet it dominates the segment worldwide, a Sportback has now been added and an EV is coming.

By Glenn Brooks

October marks five years since the lead plant began building the current Q5. How time flies.

It’s been almost forgotten how controversial the decision was to give the then-new San José Chiapa factory such an important vehicle, taking it away from a plant in Audi’s home city of Ingolstadt.

The site in Mexico was selected for many reasons, one of which was the proximity to Puebla, Volkswagen’s long-time local manufacturing hub.

Sportback: the new Q5 coupé-SUV

The equivalent of 900m euro was spent creating San José Chiapa, which opened in 2016 with not only a body shop and assembly line but a press shop too. The Q5 was the first product and now the Q5 Sportback – think how the BMW X4 relates to the X3 – is the second.

Audi keeps quietly developing this line of SUVs into what’s becoming quite the global force in the D-premium segment. An extended length Q5 L which comes out of FAW Volkswagen’s many times expanded Changchun hub only adds to that reality.

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The longer one is exclusive to China, while other variants which are made in Mexico include the petrol, diesel or petrol PHEV SQ5 TFSI, SQ5 TDI, Q5 50 TFSI e quattro, Q5 55 TFSI e quattro and SQ5 Sportback TDI.

First came the (second) Q5

The latest generation Q5 became available across Europe from early 2017. In this region, three engines and three transmissions were offered at launch:

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

A facelift for the entire range was announced in June last year, just after production restarted at San José Chiapa. The engine and transmission options were revised at the same time. We’ll probably have about another two and a bit years before generation three arrives.

All of the above gives the context of why the new Q5 Sportback will have a likely production life of fewer than three years.

Can Audi stay ahead in global D-SUVs?

Between now and late 2023 or maybe early 2024, the new Sportback has the potential to give the whole series strong support, cementing it in as the global segment leader. I count the X3 and X4 as one model, applying the same logic to the GLC-Class and GLC Coupé, with the Mercedes pair scheduled to be replaced in 2022/2023. The Volvo XC60 is another strong competitor.

Audi has one more Q5 coming, which is why I believe the name will continue to dominate the size category. I have a question for Audi though: is grouping three bodies into one model name when they’re between 4.6 and 4.9 m long fair for comparisons with rivals?

Remember the Concept Shanghai at that city’s motor show in April? A production model’s coming, to be built by SAIC VW – only the second locally produced Audi for that JV after the new A7 L.

Q2, Q3, Q4, Q5, Q7, Q8: something’s missing

Length (4,876) and wheelbase (2,975 mm) for what’s to be called Q5 e-tron will be identical to SAIC Volkswagen’s ID.6 X. This is therefore an MEB architecture vehicle which means it really shouldn’t be called Q5. How about Q6 e-tron then?

There’s a problem with the high number as that’s another future model set to land next year. The platform is different too: it’s PPE and shared with the forthcoming electric Porsche Macan. All these electric Audis are starting to become tricky to fathom.

Will we in Britain see the third of the three bodies for the Q5? It’s possible although maybe not for a couple of years. The line-up of electric Q models is different in Europe to what exists in China and perhaps a Q5 e-tron doesn’t fit for us. It may instead be part of the third generation for our region in 2024.

The commodious coupé-SUV

Back to 2021 now and the debut of the new Sportback. It looks much like the Q5 in many ways but there are unique features at either end as well as a curvier roof. The interior’s far closer to being identical and were it not for ceiling height and glass for the back seat occupants, you could believe it’s the same.

This coupé-SUV has an XL-sized 510-litre boot, even if that’s down 40 on that of the original.

We keep being told that the era of EV-specific platforms means massively roomy cars. Yet here is one that’s on the Volkswagen Group’s not especially fresh MLB Evo platform and it offers lots of space. Sure, not as much as an ID.4 or Skoda Enyaq but those cars’ luggage compartments have to be seen to be believed.

Unlike MEB models, the new Sportback has a hump in the floor where a prop-shaft runs to drive that back axle. That doesn’t steal much space and who ever has a third rear seat passenger anyway?

High pricing and a premium look?

If there’s good space everywhere, the bad news is some very un Audi-like door trims. They’re not poorly moulded or unattractive, just cheap-looking and jarring in a car costing forty eight thousand pounds.

Of course not every Q5 Sportback is priced that high; I’m quoting a number for the 45 TFSI quattro (in fact with options, the press review example is priced at GBP55,235).

The brand’s digital instrumentation cluster remains one of the best in the business for those who like these alternatives to real gauges, and the touch screen is very good too.

Copying BMW in a great way

Mirror adjustment is via a lovely to touch toggle and the HVAC system’s functions are equally non-digital. Great to see Audi putting safety first.

Another welcome thing about the Sportback: those delightful random frights of lane-lunge are absent as switching Lane Keeping (alleged) ‘Assist’ off keeps it off. I’ve stopped recommending so many VWs, SEATs and Škodas to friends due to overly-sensitive LKA systems which refuse to stay deactivated. Come on VAG, tweak the software.

Powertrain

The 1,984 cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the car I tested produces 195 kW (165 PS) and 370 Nm (273 lb ft). The gearbox Audi which brands an S tronic has dual clutches and seven ratios. Top speed is 240 km/h (149 mph) and the 0-62 mph time is 6.1 seconds.

Conclusion

It’s a rapid vehicle and if the dynamics aren’t quite 10 out of 10, they’re very good in a class where the X4 remains top dog. Audi won’t be too bothered about that though, the Sportback giving the segment’s existing and new buyers another reason to choose a Q5.

The Audi Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro S tronic averages 31-33 mpg Combined and has CO2 emissions of 192-206 g/km.

 

 

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