Audi came to the SUV party rather late, but it’s now a well established player in this market. The big Q7 heralded the company’s arrival in the sector in 2005, although it was the debut of the smaller Q5 in 2008 that really cemented Audi’s position in the off-roader sales charts.
The brand isn’t resting on its laurels, however. It has treated the latest Q5 to upgraded engines, subtle styling revisions, and new steering and suspension set-ups.
There’s little difference externally, though. Our S line model’s standard xenons are now framed by LED running lights and its bumpers have been gently reshaped, but the familiar curved lines and wraparound tailgate remain.
The high-end interior centres around the sweeping driver-focused dashboard. As you’d expect, the design, material and build quality are superb. Changes have been kept to a minimum, but more of the controls are trimmed in chrome, while the stalks and steering wheel have been updated.
As before, it’s easy to get comfortable as there’s plenty of steering wheel and seat movement, although the Audi has the lowest and most car-like driving position of the trio, and the cabin feels a little snug.
Rear legroom is better than in the Land Rover Freelander, and our car was fitted with the £175 Rear Bench Seat Plus, which slides to give improved boot space.
Despite this, the Audi isn’t the most practical of SUVs. Its small rear doors make access a little awkward, while the big transmission tunnel and slim side windows mean it feels a little more claustrophobic than the Freelander.
There’s little to complain about under the bonnet. The most powerful 2.0-litre TDI now has 175bhp – up from 168bhp – and torque has increased by 30Nm to 380Nm. While this still means the Audi lacks the punch of its rivals in the test, the fast-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch transmission helped it run the Land Rover close for pace.
Better still, with a smooth stop-start system and new electric power-steering, emissions have dropped to 159g/km, making the Q5 noticeably cleaner than its rivals.
With sharp, car-like handling, taut body control and lots of grip, it drives well, too. Stiff S line suspension means the ride is firmer than the Land Rover’s, but you can opt for the normal set-up as a no-cost option – and we’d recommend that you do.
There’s also the option of Audi’s Drive Select system, for £220, but adding dynamic steering and variable damping costs extra again. And even with all the hi-tech goodies, the car doesn’t quite match the Land Rover’s sweet spot between comfort and handling.
Still, the Q5 is an upmarket and good-to-drive SUV that’s made even more appealing by its superb residual value predictions.