A rogue team at the sober German firm seems to have created an Audi that’s actually good to drive
I’m confused. For years we have been able to count on most ‘normal’ Audis to be as good to look at as they are disappointing to drive. And this disparity was greatest in the company’s SUVs. Their additional mass and higher centres of gravity ensured that there really would be nothing for the appreciative driver to enjoy inside those smart, stylish confines.
I’m not sure if Audi intended it, but its new Q5 SUV flips this on its head. It may be that I’ve finally reached saturation point with Audi’s insatiable need to recycle its design language, but I found myself looking at the Q5 and wondering whether Audi still employs stylists with imaginations, or just refuses to let them use them. The interior is more of the same: I feel I have not just been here before, but done so again and again in an endless cycle of Groundhog Day proportion. Yes, I suppose it’s handy that anyone who’s driven an A4 will know how a Q5 operates to the smallest detail before he or she has even climbed on board, but what about some flair and excitement, something not so utterly predictable? You’ll not find it in here.
So it was with a sense of impending indifference that I headed off onto my usual test route to find out if, contrary to appearances and experience, there really was anything worth driving here.
And to my amazement I found plenty. I guess I was not too surprised that the 187bhp 2-litre diesel under the bonnet provided plenty of gutsy and conspicuously smooth and refined performance, because I know this motor from other Audis and it is better than any rival from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Land Rover. But I’ll admit the sharp turn-in, flat cornering and a steering system with something approaching feel took me somewhat by surprise.
It changed my view of the entire car. What seemed like a desperately predictable conveyance on first acquaintance turned into a pleasurable experience I wanted to extend for as long as possible. The new Q5 might just look like the next Audi down the tracks, but the driving experience for a car sitting in a category where there is little or no expectation of proper dynamism was little short of a revelation.
We should not get carried away here. The Q5 may represent a philosophical turning point for Audi and it just as equally may be a one-off, the work of a particular team who happened to chance upon some particularly effective settings. This would, after all, be a somewhat odd place from which to launch a transformation in the way Audi sets up its cars. But even if the Q5 is a one-off, don’t be deceived by the same old appearance: underneath there’s been a quiet revolution and one that adds a hitherto rarely seen dimension to owning an Audi family car.
2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged
295lb [email protected]
POWER TO WEIGHT
106bhp per tonne
TOP SPEED 135mph