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A MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB (Audi Q5 3.0 TDI S line long-term test part one) car review


IT’S COME around just at the right time, which is a piece of good fortune that will hopefully be a harbinger of things to come. With the previous long-termer having left Joy Towers, it was time to sit down and choose something else to tackle six months of motoring.

The middle of July might not seem the ideal time for a mid-sized four-wheel drive SUV, but with the coming months in mind Audi’s Q5 floated to the top of the wish-list and stayed there until the car arrived in its pristine, delivery-mileage glory. The Q5 has been around since 2008, neatly plugging the gap below the successful Q7, but in some ways it has been unfairly overlooked as a result. Yet the regular update programme that Audi gives to all its models made the decision to revisit the mid-sized offering more than worthwhile.

This particular model sits near the top of the range. S line trim brings with it a host of tasty extras, starting with larger alloy wheels, unique bumpers, side skirts, chrome trim and the LED running lights that have become a fast-lane Audi signifier. You get tons of extra kit inside too: brushed aluminium bits (which really are metal) black headlining and a three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls, plus nifty sports seats finished in leather.

Then of course there’s the inevitable tour of the options list, which can make or break a good car. First was the Bang & Olufsen audio system, because a life on the road is a painful experience without quality sounds, with the DAB radio being the icing on the cake. On a more practical level, heated seats would come into their own in a matter of months while the towing pack meant I was ready for anything.

That’s the whole point of an SUV of course, and sure enough within the first month the Q5 has had its work well and truly cut out. The 2.0-litre TDI is the most popular option but this particular example had the full-beans: 3.0-litres, six cylinders, 237bhp and a mighty 368lb.ft of torque. The performance figures of 139mph top speed and 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds are outright fast, but for a 1.8 tonne SUV it is mightily impressive.

Achieving those figures was some way off still, as the Q5 arrived in unsullied form with just 76 delivery miles on the clock. The manual instructed that for the first 1,500kms (932 miles in UK-speak) it needed to be kept below 3,000rpm and to never use more than two-thirds of the accelerator travel. That sound like a recipe for unadulterated tedium, especially with a 440-mile round trip to North Wales ahead of me.

Far from it. All that torque kicks in at a lowly 1,500rpm so you only need a small squeeze of the throttle to get going in a satisfyingly brisk manner. Linked up to the standard seven-speed S tronic transmission too, the engine was barely above idle at motorway speeds. Any time spent at 3,000rpm in seventh gear would have resulted in a long chat with Her Majesty’s Constabulary.

Even allowing for the fact that the Q5’s engine was new and far from being properly loosened up (2,000 miles plus are required for a diesel to achieve best performance) it was already displaying an impressive ability to sip fuel when driven with restraint. Audi has even added a useful tweak to make this easier: in the already-comprehensive trip computer there is now a screen dedicated to fuel economy, with one page showing both average and instant consumption (the perfect thing for achieving good results) and even a page that shows how much extra fuel is being used by the air conditioning. Even before reaching the 1,000 mile mark it was regularly reaching 33mpg and more – pretty good for a car so young.

The rest of the package is just as you would expect. The cabin is spacious, practical and well-finished, with the leather seats repelling the worst that two young boys can literally throw at it. Dad in the front seat has been enjoying the useful blend of comfort and surprisingly nimble handling, while Mum has been trying to cram as much music into the audio system as possible.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, with just 1,000 miles now showing the Q5 has been fault-free, required no effort to drive or maintain and just needs a good wash to be looking its best. There’s already some lengthy road trips planned for next month so the Q5 will be working hard. You get the impression that’s just how it likes it.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Audi Q5 3.0-TDI S line, £45,897.50 as tested Engine: 3.0-litre diesel producing 237bhp and 368lb.ft of torque Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch automatic driving all four wheels Performance: Top speed 146mph, 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds Economy: 37.6 combined claimed, 35mpg best actual Emissions: 199g/km of C02 Costs: None

  • Enginesdiesel
  • Power4 (higher than average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups2 (higher than average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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