It was my first time to Taranaki. I was hoping the angry weather gods would have hangovers and forget to create cloud around the summit so I could get some great shots of the Audi Q5 S Line so very kindly loaned to me for the trip. The reason for going to Taranaki was to attend WOMAD. It seemed that while the weather gods were slumbering peacefully, the technical gremlin gods were all in attendance at Bowl of Brooklands.
Natacha Atlas almost had a tantrum and stormed off the stage, the world seemingly on her shoulders, after some minor sound problems. Fat Freddy’s Drop had to descend from the stage for five minutes while power was restored to the on-stage foldback monitors (the speakers the musicians use to hear themselves). Anika Moa’s lead vocals were so quiet they were almost extinct.
All this was really quite unacceptable in a festival that already had a weak lineup of international acts. But this isn’t the forum to bash WOMAD (he says, looking for a different forum to bash WOMAD). The sun shone brightly, and best of all, I had the Q5 to look forward to on the return trip (especially the twisting Mt Messenger and Awakino Gorge roads).
I’ve driven all of Audi’s range except the R8, and that irks me more than a slightly disappointing weekend music festival. So I’m in a good place to state that the standard (non S Line) Q5 3.0 diesel is probably the best value car Audi produces if you’re looking for the ideal combination of performance, price, interior comfort and versatility, handling and styling.
Built on the A4 platform, the Q5 is a mid-sized SUV that handles like a car, and even more engagingly than the slightly dull A4. Four-wheel drive quattro sure-footedness works fabulously with the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox to deliver a seamless surge of diesel power to speeds beyond your requirements. With 176kW and 500Nm of torque, overtaking was a breeze – the Q5 gets to 100kph in just 6.5 seconds, a full 3 seconds quicker than its 2-litre diesel little brother. Quoted consumption is 7.7l/100km. We managed 8.2l/100km with three people, luggage and lots of full-throttle overtaking bursts.
Despite being diesel, you’d be hard pressed to realise it unless you get out and stand near the bonnet. Like I said with the 4.2-litre Q7, it’s quiet enough on the inside that you hardly notice the engine is running.
As it was my first trip to Taranaki, the optional MMI navigation system was welcome, with only one minor hiccup as it directed me via Te Kuiti’s town centre rather than the adjacent bypass. It’s an improvement on previous Audi navigation systems, though, and will have 3D map support eventually.
External styling is sporty, especially with the S Line package. It has a sleek, low roof contour and this leads to a coefficient of drag of only 0.33 – the best in its class. The S Line 20-inch wheels, which are 255mm wide on all four corners were confidence-inspiring, but created road noise which seemed to sap the bass out of the stereo, negating the $2,500 Bang & Olufsen unit’s increase in fidelity over the standard unit.
One option you should be ticking if you’re a road warrior is the adaptive cruise control. It maintains a safe following distance, matching your speed to slower traffic if you catch anything up. And you will, because the Audi Q5 gives you the kind of grip in the corners that you just don’t expect from an SUV.
Are there really any downsides? Well, for the same money there are plenty of cars that will do an equal or better job on account of their lesser weight and lower centre of gravity, but SUV people like SUVs, and in luxury medium SUV-land you’re really talking Land Rover Freelander (long in the tooth), BMW X3 (harsh ride), and perhaps the Mercedes ML320 (slow with some odd interior ergonomics). Driving a sports SUV is about sitting above the riff-raff, gazing down. Just like the weather gods.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications.
Price: $106,500 plus options (navigation ($5,500), Bang & Olufsen stereo ($2,500), Audi side assist ($1,500))
What we like:
- Ample performance
- Confidence-inspiring drive
- Better than the Q7
- Good level of gadgetry
What we don’t like:
- Bang & Olufsen sound system didn’t seem like it was worth an extra $2,500
- Not enough room for driver’s left leg
- Integrated navigation is good, but expensive compared to commercial third-party alternatives
Audi Q5 3.0 S Line – Specifications
Cubic Capacity: 2967
Power (KiloWatts / rpm): 176
Torque (Nm / rpm): 500 / 1500-3000
Cylinders / Valves Per Cylinder: 6 / 4
Fuel Injection system: Common Rail
Drive Train: quattro
Transmission: - S tronic 7 Speed
Acceleration: 0-100 km/h sec 6.5
Top Speed (km/h): 225
Fuel consumption combined in l/100 km (CO2 emission): 7.7 (199)
Audi Cover Assistance - 3 Year Cost Free Motoring
Galvanised Body – Twelve Year Anti-Corrosion Warranty
Words and photos: Darren Cottingham