JOHANNESBURG - Two months into my life with a new daily drive, the Audi Q5 has highlighted several reasons why I just can’t see myself jumping back into a sedan. Don’t get me wrong, I love sedans, large ones and small ones, but after putting on around 4000km in the past few months with a trip to the coast and back, I have been severely bitten by the sports-utility-bug. 

Right size chariot

Audi has been on a bit of a new model onslaught of late, and while the new A1 hatchback and Q3 has stolen a lot of the local limelight, there’s no denying that the brand’s venerable Q5 is still the vehicle to buy if you’re buying as a family man (or woman).

Familiar in nature

Built on the same platform as the Audi A4, the Q5 is a solid, well-engineered vehicle with very little in the way of creaks and groans. 

There’s this solidity in the Q5 in the way the doors slam shut, and the way the seats click into place once adjusted and even the way the wonderfully knurled climate control buttons move as if they were classic Marantz amplifier switches. 

I didn’t specify the high-end audio package on the car, which to my dismay meant I don’t have access to Apple Carplay or Android Auto, but I do have traditional Bluetooth audio streaming capability, and the standard speakers in the doors aren’t bad. In fact, as far as standard-fit audio systems go, you probably won’t find a vehicle in this category with such an engaging in-car entertainment system. 

For the long road

While the Q5 has been a godsend in traffic for the daily grind, thanks to its commanding driving position and its slick-shifting seven-speed S-tronic gearbox, the car’s best-suited to long road trips, which I undertook a few weekends ago to attend a family function in KZN. Leaving Johannesburg bright and early, with a full trunk and baby seat and passengers in tow, I took to the N3 knowing it was going to be a great trip. Unfortunately, the amount of road works on the N3 to KZN made it a challenge to enjoy a leisurely drive. 

Nevertheless, the Q5 is powered by the 2.0 TDI engine that we know and love from several Audis of the past, tweaked to perform for efficiency rather than performance. However, in the Dynamic setting, you can have some fun chucking it around on gravel roads. 

Audi claims the Q5 2.0TDI Quattro Sport sips 50ppm at a rate of 4.9l/100km in a combined cycle, but on my latest coastal trip I managed to achieve 5.9l/100km. Not bad considering we were fully loaded with four adults and one pint-sized toddler in the middle. I kept the throttle pedal steady for most parts of the journey. However, there were several instances where I needed to overtake, and this is what ate into the consumption. 

On another recent trip to the North West province to visit a few dealerships in Rustenburg, I reset the fuel economy gauge and stuck to the speed limits there and back, rarely overtaking. This time, after 400km of driving in a day, I averaged 5.5l/100km. Again, not bad because we’ve fitted 20-inch fivespoke sports alloys with high-performance Continental SUV tyres to it. The trade-off is worth it as the Q5 looks absolutely fantastic with 20s, and in this Glacier White Metallic colour, it hides its age very well. 

Apart from some of the open road driving I’ve been doing in the vehicle, I also took it onto some gravel near the Hartbeespoort area, making use of its off-road driving mode for the first time. It’s not going to chase Land Cruisers and Wranglers down bumpy paths, but it proved more than comfortable maintaining speed while remaining controllable even on dusty and very loose surfaces. This is a great feeling knowing that you still have control over the vehicle, unlike a few new vehicles we have tested  recently that simply lose all steering control on washboard surfaces.

Overall, there’s this genuine hunkered down feeling in the vehicle from the driver’s seat. 

Worth the dosh

One of the key questions I get asked about the Q5 is why would someone spend this amount of money on a relatively compact vehicle, and my response is simple: It ticks all the right sporty and practicality boxes. Sure, there are plenty seven-seat SUV alternatives out there that are cheaper, and that could work well as a family car, but there’s this genuine feeling of premiumness in the Q5 that I did not feel when jumping into several of its competitors in the class. 

For now, I’m still exploring the vehicle’s handling and braking capabilities, and in several emergency lane change tests and brake tests, it has just shone. If you’re going tyre kicking for an SUV soon, don’t write-off the Q5 as it really feels like one of the best new cars I’ve driven this year.  

Drive360