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Audi Q5 blends quiet SUV luxury with the precision and delicate handling of a performance car

The chic and elegant Q5 is elegantly designed and packed with the latest electronics and comforts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 4:34pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 9:52pm

Audi has had 77 consecutive months of record sales in the US, selling more than 200,000 vehicles last year alone – twice as many as it sold there in 2010. Sports utility vehicles are leading that surge to such an extent that the brand feels it must develop more large SUVs to go along with its top-of-the-line Q7.

That means a behemoth along the lines of GMC’s Yukon Denali or Cadillac’s Escalade, with a third row of seats and serious storage. So the question becomes: can the brand take the consumer-pleasing qualities of its popular Q5 SUV and splash them across a bigger palette?

A spin test of the 2018 Q5 gave us a great reminder of how skilled the Germans are at developing an intuitive, quietly luxurious interior space. It also provided a drive experience that is precisely as aggressive as it needs to be – no more, no less.

This latest iteration of Audi’s medium-sized SUV celebrates exactly where we are in car culture. It is much like an iPhone: expensive but not overpriced, designed elegantly by a “cool” brand and able to do everything one can probably think to ask it to do.

The Q5 sits between Audi’s smaller (from HK$348,000) Q3 and its larger (from HK$736,000) Q7. In some markets, there is also a Q5S that adds power and speed (and two additional cylinders) to the Q5 model line. But if you want the size and functionality of the Q5 at better fuel efficiency and a lower price, stick with the standard-issue Q5.

This model has a 252-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s excellent Quattro all-wheel-drive. Zero to 100km/h takes about 6.3 seconds; combined fuel efficiency is 25 miles per gallon (9.4 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres) on the highway. That is as fast as an entry level Porsche Macan.

The Q5 lags momentarily when you punch the gas at a low revolutions per minute, but it composes itself well as it gathers momentum. At cruising speed, the Q5 is smooth and quiet. Its wide stance means it responds to a delicate touch around corners, and it performs better than similar-sized SUVs from the likes of Lexus, Buick and Infiniti.

Audi will have to modify this experience to get into the giant SUV game. It will need more than four cylinders to push the engine, for a start. Real towing capability. And television screens in the rear, naturally.

Audi does interiors so well. It has found a way to blend the tech-forward philosophy of Mercedes-Benz with the minimalist mindset of BMW into a Goldilocks-perfect middle ground: just enough creature comforts and entertainment and safety systems to be pleasant without overdoing it to the point of confusion or annoyance. This is a difficult duality to achieve. The Q5 is no different. With three-zone climate control, eight-way power leather seats and dashboard controls with an intuitive combination of touch-screen, knobs and dials and front-gauge configurations, the interior here feels just right.

The exterior is the same: unexpectedly reassuring, with such high-quality design elements as brilliant Xenon headlights, light emitting diode tail lights and that wide, friendly front grille – all distinctive, yet uncomplicated. The exterior mirrors are heated and power-operated; the rear tail-gate is automatic, too, with privacy glass included as standard. The Q5 has a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating, too.

The Audi Q5 looks softer, more chic and elegant than the X5 and X4 from BMW. Compared with the Range Rover, it is smaller, less staunch and utilitarian. It comes closest in looks to the curves of Porsche’s Macan/Cayenne duo – the upper-middle-class, free-thinking buyer is likely to cross-shop the two brands. (BMW and Mercedes-Benz have achieved default status in this category, so those choosing Audi/Porsche, or even Cadillac, for a medium-sized SUV tend to think of themselves as slightly more out-of-the-box. They may be right.)

It seems odd to say that the Q5 made one feel happy. Sure, other ostensibly sexier things have brought great joy. But a medium-sized, mass-luxury SUV? Usually, they are boring by nature – after all, they have to appeal to the broadest swath of people possible. But there is something about the Q5 that feels like an exhalation the moment you get inside. That, of course, is the sign of great design – that something so big can be comfortable, using its bulk, plus light on its feet, like a heavyweight champion fighter. Here is hoping Audi can do it again when the time comes.

The first batch of Q5s will be HK$519,900, available with the luxury package and the sport design package with a number of optional equipment. Audi’s new technology package features include the Multi Media Interface navigation plus system