The all-new for 2017 Audi Q5 follows the tick-box checklist of new car expectations: it's impeccably built, quiet, economical, more spacious, crammed with technology and as desirable a premium SUV as you'll find, which will only continue to contribute to Audi's phenomenal sales success.
In the Metal:
Handsome, and immediately recognisable as a Q5, Audi hasn't gone to town with a radical overhaul of its all-new SUV, and neither did it need to. The design might initially look all but identical to the outgoing model, but take time to check the details and you'll notice the more shapely arches, the sharper crease along its flanks and the neater lights. There's a bolder grille too, while a stretch in wheelbase lengthens the Q5. Indeed, built on a new platform, the new car is larger in almost every dimension, to the obvious benefit of interior space and comfort.
Audi has plundered the best interior parts bin in the business for a driving environment that's both beautifully finished and effortlessly operable - for material quality and tactility Audi remains very much at the top of its game. There's the option of Audi's trick Virtual Cockpit in place of conventional dials now, as expected, and the configurable display with its many options is a showroom selling point in itself. The cabin is more spacious front and rear, the back seats offer some adjustability and the boot holds more luggage. There are more driver aids and connectivity, too, as is the norm for any new model. The Q5 comes with no real surprises then, but delivers the same huge shot of desirability that's become something of a signature for the firm.
As predictably appealing as the interior and exterior are, so too is the way the new Q5 drives. Audi has sold 1.6 million Q5s globally since 2008, and nobody's ever complained about how it drives, so it's a case of more of the same here. That's entirely forgivable, and unsurprising, so the Q5 is competent, composed and refined, as you'd expect. For the few that are looking for engagement behind the wheel you'll be better served elsewhere. Notably by Porsche's Macan, Jaguar's F-Pace or BMW's X3, though all of those manufacturers can only look at the Q5's sales figures with envy - Audi's clearly doing something right.
Part of that must be the car's refinement, and the new Q5 puts quiet comfort at the top of its list of attributes. Of the two engines available for us to try out at this pre-production test drive, the 3.0-litre V6 TDI engine is smooth and quiet once moving, if a little rough at low revs, while the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol option is the opposite, only getting vocal at the extreme end of the rev counter needle's sweep. That's some nit-picking too, and exacerbated by the otherwise hushed, calm demeanour of the Q5, as wind and road noise are nicely suppressed.
The suspension rides with a fine balance of control and comfort, too - at least it does so on the optional air suspension, one of four different chassis set-ups available. As standard it'll ride on conventional springs and dampers, while the Q5 S line comes with a similar passive set-up with the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars stiffened by around 10 per cent. The other option is conventional springs with variable damping. So equipped, it's possible to configure the Q5 to how you like it via the Drive Select system. The Dynamic mode takes some of the bounce and body roll out of the Comfort setting, seemingly without adding harshness. With reductions in unsprung mass, as well as everywhere else, even the conventionally sprung Q5 should deliver a decent ride, with good grip levels. The Q5 corners with assured ability, if little in the way of verve or indeed much feedback at the steering wheel.
We're left guessing how the Q5 will drive with its likely biggest selling 2.0-litre TDI engine, but having experienced it elsewhere in Audi's range there's little doubt it'll do a fine job in the Q5 too. Like the TFSI 2.0-litre petrol model it'll be fitted with Audi's new 'quattro ultra' four-wheel drive system, which reverts to front-wheel drive whenever possible - to the benefit of economy and emissions.
What you get for your Money:
Pricing for the 2017 Audi Q5 starts at €48,350, for the 2.0 TDI 150 SE model, though Audi Ireland expects the 2.0 TDI 190 S tronic quattro version, costing from €54,850, to be its biggest seller. Standard equipment on the Q5 SE includes Xenon headlights, LEDs for the daytime running lamps and rear lights, satnav, Bluetooth, leather upholstery, front and rear parking sensors, automatic rear hatch operation and a lot more. The S line version adds sportier exterior styling, LED headlights, sport seats, 19-inch alloy wheels and mixed leather and Alcantara upholstery.
No surprises from Audi with its new Q5, but then we didn't anticipate any - nor did it need to give us them. Building on its many strengths, the Q5 is everything you'd expect of it, only better. And for the many, many people who already, or aspire to, own one that's more than enough, ensuring that the new factory in Mexico will be very busy indeed keeping up with demand.