Audi Q5 2017: test drive in Mexico

By THOMAS HUONG | 15 December 2016

The new second-generation Audi Q5 has more cabin room, improved driving dynamics, sharper looks and new motoring technologies.

To sum it up, the new mid-sized 5-seater premium sport utlity vehicle (SUV), which is expected to arrive in Malaysia by the third quarter of 2017, takes motoring refinement and pleasure to a higher level.

For one thing, compared with the previous Q5, there is more rear legroom and shoulder room, as well as increased cargo capacity with the second row seats folded down.

This is partly due to the new Q5 having grown slightly longer (an extra 34mm), with its wheelbase also extended to 2,819mm (an extra 12mm).

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It is also slightly taller and this means more headroom in the cabin.

Rear cargo room is a huge 1,550 litres with the rear seats folded down.

And depending on the rear seat position, rear cargo room is more than ample for those weekend shopping excursions with 550 to 610 litres of storage space.

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Now we have established that it is a more spacious SUV, let's move on to another interesting point - Mexico being the country of manufacture for the new Q5 instead of Germany.

Thanks to lower labour costs and Mexico's 12 free-trade deals with more than 50 countries, the North American country has become a favourite destination for major automakers to build new vehicle plants.

These include the brand with the Four Rings, which invested over one billion euros (RM4.77bil) in Audi’s first vehicle plant on the North American continent.

Audi is also the first premium automaker to set up a vehicle plant in Mexico.

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The new 460-hectare plant in San Jose Chiapa is located around 200km east of Mexico City, and has an annual capacity of 150,000 cars.

Officially opened in September 2016, the new plant in Mexico produces the second-generation Q5 for the world market.

And this brings us to Audi's recent international media test drives for the new Q5 in Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico.

The district of Los Cabos with its sandy beaches, dry desert landscapes dotted with tall cactus plants and date palms, and lonesome, smooth highways was an apt setting for a long-distance drive in the Q5.

Located on the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is also home to numerous resort areas as it is a popular destination among American and Asian tourists.

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Ringed by the waters of the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean, attractions in Los Cabos include the sunny climate, natural beauty, and low population density, with an average of only eight people per square mile.

And this was where we drove the Q5 on a 310km route of mostly smooth highways, with a 30km dusty, sand-filled off-road stretch thrown in for us to check out the Audi's quattro all-wheel drive technology.

Audi's quattro all-wheel drive is renowned for providing thrilling driving dynamics, as it can distribute engine power to all four wheels.

This means quattro enables improved traction during acceleration and exceptional grip, for example, when cornering, high-speed driving, in bad weather conditions or on unpaved roads.

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However, with the new Q5, its quattro all-wheel drive comes with ultra technology which always disengages the rear-axle drive whenever it is not needed.

This helps to cut fuel consumption by up to 0.3 litres per 100km.

"Two-wheel drive is sufficient and more fuel efficient for most daily driving. With ultra technology, the switch between two and four-wheel modes is automatic," said Audi engineer Rolf Kronstorfer, who used specialised sotware that showed us that about 68 per cent of the 310km we drove in Los Cabos, was done using two-wheel drive.

As for its exterior looks, we think the new Q5 certainly has sportier proportions, as it uses the “Q-design” of the new Q7 and a distinctive Singleframe grille that dominates its aerodynamically flat front end.

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Also, compared with its predecessor, the new Q5 is up to 90kg lighter thanks to better use of aluminium and advanced vehicle construction technology.

All the test drive cars in Mexico came with adaptive air suspension which in addition to adjusting damper control, is also used to vary the ride height according to five drive modes namely automatic, dynamic, comfort, all-road and off-road.

We drove the 2.0-litre TFSI sport variant in S Line trim and Navarra blue paintwork, shod with 20-inch rims with Michelin Latitude Sport 3 tyres sized 255/45.

It is powered by a inline 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with direct injection delivering 252hp from 5,000 to 6,000rpm and 370Nm from 1,600 to 4,500rpm.

Mated to a 7 speed S tronic dual clutch gearbox, it can do the 0 to 100kph sprint in 6.3 seconds.

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It also has adaptive cruise control (ACC) which automatically maintains distance from the vehicle in front, up to speeds of 250kph, with five distance settings.

ACC uses two front radar sensors and a camera.

A Stop and Go function (only with automatic transmission) can brake the new Q5 to a full stop, and also, gets the car moving again automatically.

As our test drive was done in a convoy, we tried this out on the empty highways in Los Cabos, by removing our right foot off the pedals for more than 40km, during which the car accelerated and braked itself.

We only had to steer the Q5, which simply followed the car in front.

This feature works great when you are in a convoy of vehicles heading towards a common destination.

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There are a lot of driver assistance technology here including the lane-changing assistant Audi side assist, which uses two rear radar sensors to help warn drivers of rapidly approaching vehicles or one located in the blind spot.

The Audi side assist works together with Audi pre sense rear, which initiates preventive protective measures in case of an impending rear-end collision.

The new Q5 also has camera-based recognition of traffic signs (only with navigation system), which can detect several traffic signs simultaneously, and presents them to the driver as graphics in the head-up display and on the MMI monitor.

In the cabin, there is a familiar 8.3-inch display screen on top of the central air-conditioning vents.

There is no touchscreen display here, and you get the familiar Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI) touch-sensitive control panel with handwriting recognition.

You can enter characters on the touchpad surface or perform multi-finger gestures to zoom in on the map or scroll through lists.

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Between the front seats, we also found a Qi wireless charging pad for smartphones which came in handy for our Samsung Galaxy Note5.

We also drove the powerful diesel-powered Q5 with a 3.0-litre TDI V6 diesel engine with 286hp and 620Nm of torque, mated to a eight speed tiptronic gearbox.

However, we were told it is unlikely the diesel-engined Q5 will make it to Malaysia.

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Meanwhile, comfort and convenience features such as three-zone automatic air-conditioning, Nappa leather upholstery, Audi sound system and smartphone interface - Apple Carplay and Android, Audi Matrix LED headlights, will continue to underline the Q5 as among the most popular premium SUVs today.

Also, Audi says the new Q5 has class-leading aerodynamics, and the best interior acoustics in its class, with exceptionally low wind noise.

After spending 310km in the new Q5 listening to tunes from the classic hit album "Hotel California" by the Eagles played via 10 speakers driven by a six-channel amplifier, we can agree with that.

The new Q5 is better than ever, as a quiet, refined, powerful SUV that's marvellous to drive.

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