Of the entire Q range of SUVs that Audi offers in India, the Q5 and the Q3 have had to bask in the shadow of the largest, most premium SUV in the fleet, the Q7. Success has adorned the Q5 and the Q3 modestly though this has very little to do with the SUVs themselves, it's the segment they reside in that has seen lower sales numbers overall. In the roughly four years since the Q5 was first introduced in the Indian market, it has seen one minor change and this now is the second update but it's a more comprehensive makeover than before.
The revisions to the Q5 come in the wake of tightening emission restrictions that European and US markets now enforce almost every year. It's the one reason why we see European manufacturers constantly updating their models to keep them relevant in the global scheme of things. Exterior styling details, engine, ride comfort, interior detailing, infotainment and assistance systems received critical updates and refinement.
The most significant of these changes is to the engines which are now more powerful and refined. The range of both petrol and diesels have been retuned and remapped to give out higher performance and efficiency while significantly lowering emissions. I drove the 3.0-litre TDI which displaces 2967cc and it felt much more refined and quieter than before, almost going about its duties as silently as a petrol engine would have. It's astonishing how far diesels have come and this refined 90-degree V6 is an excellent example of those advances in diesel technology.
Power in the 3.0 TDI has increased mildly to 245PS but torque has gone up to 580Nm, a 16 per cent hike as compared to the older engine's output (500Nm). This effectively means better driveability thus resulting in better efficiency both on the city and highway. On our test runs the Q5 returned 10.24kmpl in the city and 16.51kmpl on the highway. Compare that to the 9.49kmpl and 11.6kmpl, city and highway respectively, derived from the older engine and you can see just how significant the change in fuel efficiency is.
It's the same story with the performance which shows just as remarkable an improvement. In the run up to 100kmph, the new Q5 is now nearly a second quicker at 6.63 seconds. Overall performance has improved with the 7-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission contributing to it. Interestingly the 3.0 TDI gets only the 7-speed transmission, while with the other engines you can choose between the 7-speed or a newer 8-speed S Tronic transmission. This I believe is since the 7-speed is ideally matched to the higher torque outputs of the 3.0 TDI.
Now to the ride quality. There are improvements in this department too though the changes between the previous model and the present one can't be easily singled out easily because they both did the job demanded of them very well. The springs, shock absorbers and stabilisers have been tuned and refined making it lean more towards comfort than dynamics. The ride quality on the Q5 remains well suited for Indian conditions, so while you do get a faint hint of stiffness, the overall ride quality is quite comfortable. Like in the previous model you also get the drive selector which allows you to engage one of the four different driving modes. Comfort reduces suspension stiffness, lightens the steering, alters the engine maps and pushes the transmission shift points closer to optimise efficiency. An auto mode allows the Q5 to select the best mode to be driven in depending on various factors such as speed and engine load. Dynamic mode increases suspension stiffness, adds more weight to the steering and makes the shift points longer (shifts happen close to redline) which makes the Q5 accelerate faster. Or you could choose the individual mode which allows you to individually alter the driving modes on the engine, suspension or steering to suit the feel you want. The steering, now an electromechanical unit, does its job well and feels sufficiently light in the city and weighted when cruising on the highway.
However its greater contribution is to reduce fuel consumption. Mechanically the engine and suspension are the only areas to be revised or rather refined. The rest is purely cosmetic with a new front face that does nothing much to make it look better than before.
I am not a big fan of the way the Q5 looks positioned as it is between the Q7 and the Q3. Where the Q7 carries its size handsomely and the Q3 looks lithe and slim, the Q5 struggles to find a middle ground.
Inside the cabin too the revisions are so well camouflaged you really can't see much of a difference. What you will notice is the brighter interior shades which show off every detail and the new MMI interface on the centre console. Move beyond that and you will realise that this is a comfortable and sophisticated cabin with little lacking in terms of creature comfort or luxury.
Overall the Q5 has gotten better, moving a notch further up the luxury ladder. There is hardly anything it still needs, or does it? Watchout for our exclusive X3 vs Q5 story coming up soon.