The Audi Q5 was always a great overall package. A great ride, good looks, lots of tech on offer and a sprightly engine, all of this made the SUV immensely popular. So, when Audi India discontinued the Q5 in April 2020, it left a vacuum in the brand’s luxury SUV line-up. Around half of the company’s sales came from its Q models, and without the Q5 (along with the Q3 and Q7), sales understandably suffered. But that should change now with Audi bringing the Q5 back in a new avatar.

DESIGN

Audi hasn’t tinkered with the very recognizable silhouette of the Q5. The changes on the outside are measured, and that includes a new set of headlights (LED units), tail-lights, a wider octagonal grille with vertical slats, new bumpers and silver trim on the sides, and larger wheels with new alloys. The changes are largely unobtrusive, and the overall look is clean and uncluttered. There’s a bit of a difference in profile due to the larger wheel size and it also gives the new Q5 a more purposeful stance.

Audi Q5 40 TDI

INTERIOR

On the inside, where one can choose between suede or darker brown leather, the significant change is the 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment display. It gets the latest version of Audi’s MMI infotainment software. Unlike some other Audis that get touchscreens for everything, the Q5 is fitted with physical controls for climate control. As in the case of the previous Q5s, the feel overall is one of practical luxury, with loads of space and creature comforts including wireless charging, panoramic sunroof, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, park assist, and eight airbags. The Q5 Technology variant comes with a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, while the Premium Plus version comes with an unbranded 10-speaker system.

POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE

Under the hood is where you see significant changes. As the 45 TFSI badging at the rear suggests, the Q5 has done away with its popular diesel engine. The new version comes with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that is exceptionally refined and produces 249hp of power and 370Nm of torque that propels the Q5 to 100kph in just 6.3 seconds. The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. While fans of the last-gen Q5 (and even the Q7) would bemoan the torquey nature of the diesel, it must be said that Audi’s new petrol motor is just as engaging to drive.

NEW Audi Q5

Together, the engine and gearbox deliver a performance that is par for the course. The engine revs effortlessly to the redline, and the increase in revs is matched with a corresponding surge in power delivery that is very linear. The gearbox is rarely caught napping and is well suited for spirited driving. This, however, is not an SUV that enjoys being driven hard, even if it doesn’t mind the occasional sprint. The relatively light steering wheel feels a bit disconnected and urges you to take it easy. There is also a sizeable amount of body roll. But that’s fine. Driver engagement isn’t what the Audi Q5 is engineered for. There is never a lack of grip, though, even when the steering wheel isn’t giving you loads of feedback.

The SUV shines the brightest on bad stretches. The ride is soft, but you can feel the underlying firmness. The feel is comfortable for the driver and the occupants, even though Audi has stuck to steel springs in the Q5, while using lower-profile rubber on the larger wheels. That Audi has managed to achieve this is a testament to how much the engineering focuses on getting the ride and handling balance right.

VERDICT

The new Audi Q5 ticks all the right boxes in its new avatar. It is refined, comfortable, quick, and loaded with features. At Rs. 63.77 lakh (ex-showroom, India) for the Technology variant, the Q5 goes up against the Mercedes-Benz GLC, the BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60. All four SUVs are similarly priced, making it more difficult for a prospective buyer to decide.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC is easily the most comfortable to drive, but it comes with much lower power (194hp and 191hp for the petrol and diesel motor, respectively). The BMW X3is widely regarded as the go-to car for driver engagement. The new Q5 offers the best of both worlds. The ride and handling balance, in my opinion, is something people would prefer over that of the BMW or the Merc. The lack of a diesel engine might still affect Audi’s prospects, especially when BMW and Mercedes-Benz offer torquey diesel motors.

Audi has played it safe with the new model by sticking to the Q5’s strengths. What remains to be seen is if that is enough to bring back its fans.