Driven: Audi Q5 3.0 TDI quattro

Audi has hit the nail on the head with the new Q5. The little brother of the successful Q7, the new smaller soft roader from Ingolstadt is on the money - in more ways than one.

To start with, Audi has priced the Q5 range very sharply - ranging from $59,900 and topping out at $71,900. This compares well with its natural enemies - the comparatively outdated BMW X3 and Volvo's attractive new XC60 spanning similar price ranges - the Mercedes-Benz M-class, while bigger, starts well above the highest Q5 price.

We tested the turbo-diesel V6, which with 3-litres provides exceptional performance, far outclassing its opposition. With decent power and seriously impressive torque (500Nm!) 0-100km/h comes up in 6.5 seconds.

The 7-speed s-tronic gearbox with dual clutch setup is a mighty effective tool, providing very smooth, fast changes and allowing responsive driver input via steering wheel paddles. All of this goes through o Audi's proven quattro system, which even if the car never ventures off road, gives plenty of confidence on wet or dirt roads.

Unlike how many people would imagine a small 4WD with a diesel engine to be, the Q5 is a remarkably sporty machine. Once a driver adapts to the technique of using the ample turbo-assisted torque to enjoy the engine's performance the Q5 drives like a thoroughbred performance car - if you don't believe me, drive one for a while and you'll see just what I mean. Audi has really come up with the goods in the Q5.

Inside, the superior Audi quality of fit and finish are quite evident. Whilst the test car had a vulgar colour internal scheme, it was beautifully comfortable in the front and back. There is little anyone would really need to option the 3.0TDi up with - however if you really need lane departure warning, 20-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated seats and a climate controlled drink holder ($285), they're all on the options list.

The 3-section rear seats flip down very easily, giving a spacious load area - and the front passenger seat folds forward too, suitable for extra long loads.
Alternative engines are 2-litre petrol or turbo-diesel, or a 3.2-litre V6 petrol unit.

The Q5 is an easy car to live with, its quality, compact dimensions, great performance and handling and useful interior space make it a compelling package which is sure to be a success.

The high performance SQ5 tested later was all the above but with almost ridiculous amounts of acceleration added into the mix. Fun, but a bit over the top...

Engine type: 3-litre, V6 turbo-diesel
Power: 177kW
Torque: 500Nm
Transmission: 7-speed s-tronic with manual or auto modes available, 4WD
Price: $71,900 at time of review
Text & main photos - Paul Blank (copyright)