Facelift? Where? You’d need Superman’s X-ray vision to spot the changes on the updated 2013 Q5, which are minor, to say the least. A closer inspection reveals a few tweaks to the handsome CUV such as the single-frame grille, which now sports chamfered top corners and revisions to the bumpers, air inlets and front fog lights.
I’m a sucker for bright, sparkly things so the xenon plus headlights — which get a continuous strip of LED daytime running lights around the edge, as do the taillights — sure get my vote. The exhaust tips gain a distinctive flat bottom and our Volcano Red S line test car rides on 20in alloys, and that’s about it for the exterior updates.
As ever, it’s based on the A4 platform and this is arguably the best thing about the Q5. It’s a joy to drive because of its car-like character. You’d forget you were behind the wheel of a 2,450kg family hauler because it’s so agile and composed. What’s more, its 3.0-litre TFSI V6 is way better in both performance and economy than the 3.2-litre it has replaced.
With 272bhp and 400Nm of torque, the Q5 is able to sprint from 0-100kph in 5.9 seconds. Pretty respectable figures, and the fact that it is 15 per cent more fuel efficient (it boasts direct fuel injection and a start-stop system) is a bonus.
Naturally the Q5 sits higher and can hold more cargo than the A4, but stomp on the throttle and meet with a corner and you’ll be double-checking that badge at the back.
The quattro permanent four-wheel drive with torque vectoring as a standard is the reason you’ll have a silly grin plastered on your face when you carve up a corner; it grips hard and hardly puts a foot wrong. It’s got a new electromechanical power-steering system, which is as precise as can be, though it feels a tad light. But it goes a long way towards making the Audi more efficient than before because when driving in a straight line, it doesn’t require any energy for the steering.
It scores highly for the way it performs and handles, but the fact it’s mated to a slick eight-speed tiptronic gearbox is the icing on the cake. Gear changes are barely noticeable; it shifts ever so smoothly when you’re driving around in comfort mode; it’s almost as if the cogs are wrapped in cotton. But switch to dynamic mode and it’s far more punchy and thrilling. If you aren’t impressed with the drivetrain and chassis — which features tuned springs, shocks and stabilisers for an even more balanced feel — you will be by some of the technology it packs.
Mini JCW Paceman setting the pace?
I particularly like the assistance features such as the new driver information system that detects when your concentration is weakening and recommends you have a little break from driving. Would a nagging wife be as sympathetic? Also, the radar-based adaptive cruise control, which regulates the distance between you and the vehicle ahead, can hit the stoppers at speeds below 30kph if it senses an imminent front-end collision.
There are lots of other goodies including a reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, an integrated WLAN hotspot, a banging Bang & Olufsen Surround Sound system and navigation with Google Earth images.
Like always with Audi, the fit and finish is exemplary in the refined cabin. There’s lots of chrome and high-gloss black surfaces in the classy Fine Nappa leather interior, while some of the switchgear has been done away with, creating a clean, uncluttered ambiance. For instance, the MMI navigation plus only requires four control keys, and its volume dial doubles up as a skip function.
This is one of Audi’s most successful models in the Middle East and though the updates are minor, they’re enough to keep it at the top of the pile. It’s been selling by the bucketload and that’s not about to change. The Q5 has it all in its locker — practicality, plenty of space and solid performance.
It may not look any different to you unless you are Superman, but there’s no denying that this is still a super CUV.