Audi highlighted the importance of the Chinese market to German automakers by launching its new, smaller, Q5 SUV at the Beijing motor show at the weekend.

Permanent all-wheel drive and seven-speed ‘S tronic’ dual-clutch transmission are among the new model’s highlights.

Compared to the bloated Q7, the new model is 4.63m long (vs 5.086m), 1.88 m wide (vs 1.98m) and 1.65m high (vs 1.737m) which, Audi said, gives it “a more purposeful stance than any of its competitors”. It also claims a class-leading low drag coefficient of 0.33.

Bi-xenon headlamps and LED daytime running and tail lights are optional.

Three different external trim options will be offered when the Q5 goes on sale later this year – black (standard), contrasting colour or body-coloured paint finish. Two body packages are available – S line gives a “sporty look” while the off-road version with underbody protection in the front and back and 19-inch wheels gives “a more robust character”. Group sibling Volkswagen offers a similar choice with its new small(er) Tiguan model.

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Audi says the Q5’s 2.81m wheelbase (vs 3.002m for the Q7) is the longest in its segment. The vehicle is a five-seater with luggage space varying from 540 to 1,560l.

An optional “rear bench seat plus” seat slides 100mm lengthwise to provide a load-through facility and the front passenger’s seat can be outfitted with a folding backrest for transportation of long objects.

As is usual with German models, little loadspace niceties such as a tie-down bar system are extra, rather than standard. The optional storage package includes an attachment point in the passenger-side footwell to which various storage fixtures can be attached.

But the Q5 does come standard with an electromechanical parking brake, a climate control system and an instrument display including a gear change prompt.

Three engines will be offered initially – one 2.0TFSI petrol and two turbodiesels – the I4 2.0Tdi and V6 three-litre. The petrol engine has a six-speed manual gearbox and the diesels can have the optional seven-speed twin clutch automatic.

As with the latest A4, the position of components in the drivetrain has been altered in the Q5 – the differential is located in front of the clutch, directly behind the engine. This solution, which made it possible to move the front axle much further forward, creates a long wheelbase and optimum distribution of axle load, Audi said.

As standard, the Q5 has quattro permanent all-wheel drive. In normal conditions, the transfer case distributes the power to the front and rear axle in a 40:60 ratio but can deliver up to 65% of the power to the front and a maximum of 85% to the rear. ESP is also standard.

Entertainment options include Bluetooth telephone, DVD drive, TV tuner, speech control, iPod interface and Bang & Olufsen sound. The optional navigator’s hard disk can also store MP3 music files.

Other options include a parking system with rear view camera (this is also in the Tiguan), lane departure warning system and side assist, which warns of hazards when changing lanes. Adaptive cruise control is also offered.

Also on the list are keyless access, tyre pressure monitor, panoramic glass sunroof, triple-zone climate control, sun blinds, cornering light system, an electric tailgate, swivelling trailer hitch, high-beam assistant, and electrically adjusted, heated and ventilated front seats.