Audi’s four-wheel-drive quattro models have entered motoring folklore, so it was only a matter of time before the firm used this expertise to build a proper compact SUV. And the Q5 hasn’t disappointed.
It certainly isn’t short of fashionable kerbside appeal. At the front is Audi’s bold trademark grille, which is flanked by large headlights. In S line trim, these incorporate eye-catching LED daytime running lamps, and the flagship model also features a styling pack and attractive 19-inch alloys as standard.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Audi Q5
Look past the glitzy styling, and it’s clear the Q5 is far smaller than its rival, particularly in terms of length. The compact exterior dimensions have an impact on cabin space, with occupants in the rear feeling the pinch both in shoulder and legroom. Up front, it’s a similar story, with the high-set centre console and imposing dashboard creating a much more intimate feel.
However, the Q5 has the upper hand on carrying capacity thanks to a generous 540-litre boot, which stretches to a healthy 1,560 litres with the rear bench folded flat.
As you’d expect, the Audi’s cabin takes the honours for premium appeal. Fit and finish are first rate, while the quality of the materials is straight out of the top drawer. It can’t match the Murano for standard kit, but its beautifully built interior feels ina different league altogether.
The Audi extends its advantage on the road – and much of this is down to its smooth and punchy 237bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel. At the test track, it raced from 0-60mph in a hot hatch-rivalling seven seconds. Better still, with a thumping torque output of 500Nm, the Q5 serves up blistering mid-range pace.
This impressive display is boosted by the slick-shifting seven-speed S tronic gearbox, which can be operated manually using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Turn into a corner and it’s instantly obvious that the Audi is the more agile choice, thanks to its nimble, car-like responses. The stiff S line suspension offers strong body control, while the incredible traction of the quattro all-wheel-drive transmission helps inspire confidence in slippery conditions. This sharp handling comes at the expense of comfort, as the Audi crashes into potholes and suffers from intrusive tyre noise. However, it’s worth noting that buyers can specify the softer chassis settings from the SE model as a no-cost option.
When you consider the performance the Q5 promises, our 26.1mpg test fuel return is respectable, although the 75-litre fuel tank is seven litres smaller, so you’ll still have to fill up more often than Murano owners.
While it’s not as roomy or well equipped as the Nissan, the Audi is still a very classy and desirable car. With its smart design, punchy engine and agile chassis, it represents a stern test for any premium compact SUV.
Chart position: 1WHY: You can’t beat the Audi for desirability, quality or prestige. The 3.0 TDI engine promises pace and fuel efficiency, too.