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Audi Q5 2008 Range Road Test

Tue, 18 Nov 2008

There’s a startling fact in the Audi presentation document for its new Q5.  Only 2% of 4x4 owners have ever driven across rough country. So what’s it all about, then?

The answers are status, which we can all understand.

And, er, “lifestyle”.

That seems to mean showing everyone you have the capability to cross deserts and polar landscapes. That you can ski, windsurf, wake board, scuba dive, climb mountains and do the whole Bear Grylls bit. But really it amounts to keeping up with the school run mums. No sooner has one of them kerbed her alloys dropping off a snotty sprog at the £2,000 a term prep school, then all the others are going to be harassing their husbands into buying the latest wheels in the status stakes.

List prices kick off at a reasonable £27,650 for the 2.0TDI, and rise to £37,540 for the 3.0V6TDI SE. But that’s far from the full story, because every car we tried was so loaded with options that in one case the on the road price was over £47,000. Some of these goodies, like the Technology Pack at £1,995 are worth having, because this includes excellent 3-dimensional satnav with an updatable hard disk, rear camera screen and, bizarrely, an electric tailgate.

I’d also strongly advise the clever Audi ‘drive select’ that allows the driver to tailor the car’s handling response to how he or she likes it, or simply leave it to do the job by itself. This costs £1,700 for the full system.

Adaptive cruise control that keeps the car within a specified distance from anything in front also makes sense at £1,100.

Others, like 20” wheels with 255/45 R20 tyres at £1,200 are sheer bling, though, surprisingly, they don’t upset the ride and compromise the car’s off road performance by anything like as much as you’d think.

We started with a 2.0TFSI petrol S tronic, and if Audi hopes to woo a few diesel drivers back to this cheaper, more plentiful fuel, then it has done a very good job. Combined economy is a creditable 33.2mpg and crucially Audi has managed to keep emissions down below 200g/km CO2, so there’s no nasty tax penalty like there is even on the diesel Volvo XC60 automatics.

And it’s very pleasant to drive, with the sort of roadholding and handling you would never have expected possible from a 4x4 SUV a couple of years ago. Good steering feel tells you exactly what all the road wheels are doing and, though there is still a penalty for the high driving position, it’s nothing like this year’s Champions League Final.

The 3.0V6, of course, has a lot more grunt. 240PS and no less than 500Nm of torque. So it romps up hills. It also comes with standard paddleshifters so you can take control over when it changes gear. And, remarkably, it still comes in under 200g/km CO2, so £260 VED for 2009/10 before the chancellor started tinkering with the rates again.

Both the 2.0TFSI and the 3.0V6TDI trounce the opposition with their blend of high performance, low emissions and decent economy. But the 2.0TDI manual, that doesn’t look so competitive on paper, is actually the peach.

Ours came on 235/55 R19 tyres which not only gave it better ride than the two others on their 20” rubber, they also made it feel much more agile. And while 170PS and 350Nm torque might not be enough to haul five Sumo wrestlers and their caravan over the St Bernard Pass, it was plenty enough for us to explore some tortuous mountain roads in the Sierras Subbeticas. On top of that, 42.1mpg and just £205 tax next year augers well for short runs from cold to Sainsbury’s, hauling the kids off to hockey matches, family skiing trips to Courchevel, and the annual autoroute down to La Lavendou.

So, if I was buying, the one I would buy would be the 2.0TDI 170. And the way Audi is planning it, so will 70% of all Audi Q5 buyers.

So what’s the verdict?

The point in these hard-pressed times is not merely that the Q5 can elevate school run mums in the status stakes.

It’s that it’s so versatile, so practical, so relatively economical and, above all, so decent to drive that his sportscar that spends all his working week under a dustsheet can be dispensed with altogether.

Two cars downfleeted into one. Twice as much garage space.

And the other school run mums need never know.

For prices, availability, specifications, powertrain details, dimensions, and performance figures please click the tabs.

More at www.Audi.co.uk

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