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Steve Sharpe drives Audi’s Q5

Audi’s Q5 SUV is the middle sibling between the big Q7 and littlest and youngest of the Audi Q brood, the Q3.

With the likes of BMW’s X3, the Range Rover Evoque and Volvo’s XC60 among its primary competitors, it’s an upmarket 4x4 aimed at those looking for the prestige and presence of a big SUV but with the practicality and driveability of a family car.

In other words, those who don’t fancy swinging the big Q7 in and out of Sainsbury’s car park week in, week out, gazing wistfully at that gap between the last car in the row and the trolley enclosure, but want a bit more road presence than the fun-sized Q3.

Enter the Q5, a fine compromise between the two.

It’s certainly big enough for a family car. There’s a load of headroom and legroom in the front, and a good amount of room in the rear for three backseat passengers.

There’s also a load of luggage space in the boot section, which is almost trebled in size when the rear seats are folded down.

These rear seats also recline, and there’s the option of runners that give them 10cm of forwards and backwards travel.

There’s also the option of a folding front passenger seat if you really need the kitchen sink in there as well.

Outwardly the Q5 bears more similarities to its bigger sibling – it’s a chunky SUV, with Audi’s bold, deep grille at the front, large wheels and cut-away rear end.

It looks solid and able to look after itself, reassuringly composed.

Models in the upper end of the trim scale also look sportier due to some subtle body differences, like bolder bumper and wheel arches.

The Q5 was refreshed in 2012, with headlights now framed by new-look LED daytime running lights that form a continuous band around the main lights, which look pretty smart.

Inside the cabin the Q5 is as you would expect from an Audi.

It’s a successful combination of style and durability, with a straightforward layout which is packed with the latest technology.

The materials are plush, cushioned to the touch and extremely well put-together and everything seems to be in just the right place.

The sat nav media screen is located where it’s easily seen, and the speed readout and rev counter are well lit and crystal clear.

The only slight snag is that Audi’s media controls take some working out. There’s a rotary knob which operates the screen, but there’s also four buttons surrounding it which similarly control things.

The temperature controls equally need some getting used to, but once you’ve got it sorted it’s simple enough.

The Q5 is an extremely comfortable place in which to travel. The soft leather seats are large and supportive, and it’s easy to get comfortable by manually adjusting the position.

One of the benefits of driving an SUV, and an important attraction for many people, is the raised driving position, and driving the Q5 certainly gives you that.

There’s a large amount of visibility and you’re always well aware of what’s going on all around your expensive lump of metal.

It makes driving around town no different than driving a family hatchback in terms of being able to see what’s going on.

I drove the 2-litre turbo diesel version of the Q5, the high spec S Line trim with Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system, but there are various options in the range, including a high-performance three-litre V6 diesel.

With crisp acceleration and silky smooth cruising, most people will look no further than the flexible two litre TDi.

It’s a tremendous allrounder, swift off the blocks and with steady acceleration through the gears. The seven-speed S tronic automatic gearbox slips up and down without a hint of bother, and it’s quick to find the right gear in both slow-moving and swifter traffic.

The Q5’s all-round capability extends to its comfortable ride too.

At first it might seem a little on the hard side – the S Line versions have stiffer suspension – but the suspension’s been tweaked well to offer a compromise between performance and comfort.

The SUV takes road conditions in its stride, absorbing potholes and bumps as well as long stretches of smooth motorway.

The diesel engine is controlled and well muted and although there’s some wind noise and road noise coming through the 18-inch alloys, it’s never enough to upset the tranquillity of an extremely refined cabin.

Although a big, tall car the Q5 corners well enough, with body lean well controlled and a enough grip to give supreme confidence on sharp corners.

The steering isn’t as sharp as some SUVs,but you can have a lot of fun with the SUV on windy roads.

What will also appeal to many is the running costs of the turbodiesel, which turns in mpg figures of high 40s which, when combined with a competitive purchase price, makes for an attractive proposition – an economical, speedy SUV with a prestigious badge on the nose.

The range starts at £31,000 for the 180 ps petrol version, rising to nearly £45,000 for the top-of-the-range three-litre turbo diesel, but even if you go for the entry level model there’s a satisfying array of equipment already on board.

Entry-level SE trim gets leather seats, three-zone climate control, 18-inch alloys, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, a digital radio and automatic lights and wipers, although you don’t get sat-nav without paying a bit more.

S line versions get Xenon headlights and extra interior and exterior sporty bits inside and out, while the very top-spec S Line Plus adds sat-nav and a useful electronic tailgate. All versions come with quattro all-wheel-drive.

The Q5 does exactly what Audi, and in fact many drivers, are looking for. It’s a roomy SUV that handles like a family hatchback, with all those practicalities as well.

With a choice of engines and spec levels for any demand, the Q5 is a sleek, well-built vehicle with AWD to handle nasty conditions but with impeccable road manners around town.

You also get the bonus of a fine performance and enviable mpg figures – all wrapped up with the prestige of the interlocking Audi circles on the grille.

Fact file

Audi Q5

Engine: 2litre turbo diesel

Transmission: 7 speed S Tronic automatic

0-62mph: 9 seconds

Top speed: 124mph

Fuel economy: 47.1 mpg avg

Price: £35,735 (£40,210 inc options)