By Kris Hansen
Most often the mid-life product improvement plan involves updated design elements, and perhaps some new interior gadgetry. With the recent B-segment (A4/A5/allroad) product improvement we saw some significant mechanical, technological and design elements, most of which have also been passed along to Audi’s midsize SUV, the Q5.
The Q5 received several significant drivetrain changes for the 2013 model year. First of which is the change from the old Torsen center differential to Audi’s proprietary in-house designed Crown Gear center differential (on S tronic models only, Tiptronic continues to use the Torsen differential). This differential is smaller and lighter, and while still fully mechanical, allows for more subtle torque distribution tuning, as well as allowing mechanical lockup thanks to a set of clutches, which are also fully automatically engaged, and fully mechanical. To make a long story short, when one axle slips, the internal axial forces transmitted from the pinion gears to the crown gears cause the crown gears to push into the clutches, which then in turn directs the torque from the differential housing (which is driven from the transmission output shaft) to the axles directly. This new lighter and simpler differential transforms the feeling of the models which use it. In normal driving it feels more open, it doesn’t tend to bind as much in tight turns, and the cars just have a lighter handling feel.
The other significant change we’ll be seeing here in the USA is the departure of the 3.2 V6, which is replaced by the excellent 3.0TFSI engine. This engine is capable of producing vastly more power than the 3.2, while returning improved fuel consumption and reduced emissions. We have always been enthusiastic about this engine, and are happy to see it finding its way into the Q5, a car that makes good use of the extra power. At first we’ll be receiving this engine rated at 272hp, though there is no reason to assume that there might not be a 333hp version (called SQ5 TFSI perhaps?) coming along. Since we’re not likely to have the SQ5 TDI here, our fingers are crossed that we will have something along the same lines in terms of chassis and looks, perhaps with the gasoline engine instead of the ridiculously good bi-turbo 3.0TDI engine.
While we’re on the topic, we did have the chance to drive the SQ5 TDI, and came away with an all new appreciation for the Q5 in general. Thanks to the lower and stiffer suspension, larger wheels and lower profile tires, and mostly thanks to the hugely powerful bi-turbo 3.0TDI engine (mated to the 7 speed S-tronic dual clutch transmission), the SQ5 is incredibly good to drive. In no way does it feel top heavy or cumbersome like some sporty SUVs can, it is very well balanced and insanely quick for an SUV. Honestly even the regular TDI engine felt positively soft by comparison. On an unrestricted piece of Autobahn, we saw an indicated 235km/h, and that speed was achieved easily and with no drama, and the car was still accelerating.
Even though we won’t see the bi-turbo 3 liter here, diesel fans may rejoice still, as we will be seeing the 3.0TDI single turbo engine here. This will be the same engine already offered in the Q7, in the same clean running tune. This smooth and torquey motor will return excellent fuel mileage in the Q5. We’re big diesel fans, and are looking forward to having a chance to give this new TDI version of the Q5 an endurance run.
We know that for our market in the USA, we’ll also be offered the 2.0TFSI engine in the same state of tune that we’ve been receiving in the Q5, even though there is an uprated version in Europe. Reasons for this vary, but most likely due to US regulations and certification costs vs. sales.
We also expect the Q5 Hybrid to find its way to the US market. Generally speaking, we sit firmly on the fence regarding hybrids, but we vow to give this one a good look when we get more time in it. Our driving was limited to 20 minute loops, which is not the best way to determine long range Hybrid use. Any hybrid can sit in traffic and not use fuel, we are more interested in overall fuel economy and drivability in the real world, and we’ll hopefully have that chance soon.
Audi also brought over the all new fully electronic power steering from the B segment vehicles to the Q5. This system replaces all of the hydraulic pieces of the old system, using an electric motor for the variable assist. Quite honestly, if no one told us that the system was 100% electronic, we’d never have guessed it. The feel is exceptional, feedback is as good if not better than the hydraulic system, and best of all, it’s an “on demand” system, meaning that if there is no steering input, there is no activity in the system. That saves energy, reduces the drag on the engine, and saves fuel. The system is lighter than the old hydraulic system, and less complex.
Inside the Q5 we find that the MMI system also received the same updates we saw on the B segment cars. Using the same cutting edge menus from the big body Audi models, Audi were able to consolidate functions and remove some buttons from the center console for a much more streamlined look and feel. They also added aluminum optic trim for a decidedly upscale feel throughout the Q5.
Also inherited from the larger Audi models is Audi Connect, which means the Q5 will have the Google maps, news, information, internet search based navigation, as well as the mobile WIFI hotspot capability. Once again, this functionality is something that until you have it, you don’t know you miss it, until you find yourself without it. Need to find a certain restaurant? You can use Audi Connect to search the internet to find the restaurant, then seamlessly add the destination to the navigation. Need to find a sports score but forgot your Ipad or laptop at home? No problem, thanks to Audi Connect, you can look at sports, news headlines, and so on.
The Q5 also receives the wonderful new style steering, with slimmer and more comfortable spokes. The SQ5 had the same flat bottom wheel from the S5 and S4, and we’re told that the S-Line package will have the same flat bottom steering wheel, with shift paddles. The Sport Package will have a full round 3 spoke wheel with shift paddles, and the non-S Line or Sport Package will have a full round 4 spoke wheel, with no shift paddles.
Adding to the updates for the Q5 are some external changes. The headlights and grille are changed to match the B segment and the rest of the Audi lineup, with the headlights featuring the same cutting edge tube type LED DRL setup. At the rear of the Q5, the taillights are similarly updated with the latest LED technology, and the exhaust tips are now flat bottomed for a unique look.
The full rundown of packages, options and pricing for the USA will be coming soon, but for now, we’re really excited with the changes Audi have made to this car. It’s considerably improved, and not that the outgoing version is bad, but the new changes simply add tremendously to the already great Q5.