Overall rating: 4/5
Audi has given the Q5 a mid-life overhaul. The looks are tweaked, as is the cabin, and engine enhancements mean more performance across the board in conjunction with better efficiency. Because of its low road tax and running costs one of the best-selling versions will be the only front-wheel drive variant.
In the Metal:
Audi's new Q5 has received a mild visual freshen up, though it could go unnoticed if you don't opt for one of the new colours or wheel designs - or indeed the snazzy Xenon plus lights with their distinctive LED daytime running lamps front and rear. The bonnet and front bumper are new, while the large grille has been re-profiled. Minor tweaks to the rear include a slight change to the lights and exhaust outlets, plus a restyle of the under-bumper 'diffuser'.
Changes to the interior are even more restrained, focused on enhancing the already high perceived quality and offering more personalisation options in terms of trim materials and colours. The instruments have been tweaked and the MMI interface is simplified. As ever it's a high-quality offering, though we'd strongly urge buyers to go for a leather interior - standard from the SE model up.
There have been few changes to the Q5's chassis. Audi has altered the spring and damper settings and added electromechanical power steering across the line-up. It's for efficiency rather than any on-road benefit and the steering isn't an aspect of the revised car we'd get excited about. The base model is comfortable and everything it does is smooth, from the suspension to its noise suppression and the operation of its clutch and gearbox. The latter, a six-speed manual unit, is long of throw, but it's not a car you hustle along in any case. There's adequate performance from the entry-level 143hp engine, though you need to extend it if you want to keep up decent pace cross-country. Do so and, while it is commendably vibration-free, it doesn't sound all that good. It's best suited to a life on the motorway with the cruise control set. The 177hp engine is a little quicker, but it's not too quiet in the Q5.
The Q5 handles in a tidy, safe manner and, though four-wheel drive would be preferable in terms of road holding and grip, the front-wheel drive version conducts itself well with some body roll, but in general good control. We drove another version equipped with 'dynamic' suspension and larger wheels and it was much less comfortable on the road - though in return it cornered harder at higher speeds.
What you get for your Money:
Audi Ireland offers base, SE and S line levels. At a minimum the Q5 has 17-inch alloys, a leather multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, rear parking sensors, climate control, electric heated folding door mirrors, auto lights and wipers and a space saver spare wheel.
For a €2,500 premium SE versions add heated leather seats, 18-inch alloys, colour coordinated bumpers, automatic hatch opening and an enhanced stereo and on-board computer system.
The S line models, costing €3,385 more, look the business with considerable design changes inside and out, including 19-inch alloys, leather/Alcantara sports seats and xenon lights.
Audi produces a very wide range of engines for the Q5, but not all are offered in Ireland. We tried out the Q5 Hybrid, which mates an electric motor with a 2.0-litre TFSI petrol engine. The same powertrain is used in the A8 Hybrid, but it suits the SUV better, where it's fast and refined. Peak system power is 245hp, yet it manages 6.9 litres/100km (41mpg) on the combined cycle. Even more impressive though is the 3.0-litre V6 TDI option. It produces the same power, sounds better, has much more torque and is even more frugal. The best news? You can buy it in Ireland - albeit at a starting price of €58,500.
The Audi Q5 is one of those rare models that gets more popular the older it gets, and up to 2012 it continually outsold the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 across Europe - including Ireland. Against that background the relatively minor updates make sense. Though the Q5 isn't outstanding in any one area it remains one of the most desirable cars in the class. Can it hold off the Range Rover Evoque though?