The usual manure was being flung about gaily in Audi's press material for the Q5 medium-sized crossover.
"We have created a new market segment," it claimed. "The Q5 is the sports car of the SUV category and the perfect car for an active lifestyle."
Let's get a couple of things straight: The Q5 does not create a new segment, it's not a sports car, and as for being an SUV? In our book that requires some off-road ability, but as the launch route was all tarmac, we're none the wiser.
However the Q5 did emerge from our first taste as another thoroughly competent Audi. Undoubtedly, it's worthy competition for the BMW X3, Land Rover Freelander and forthcoming Volvo XC60 and Saab 9-4X.
To back up mechanical competence, the Q5 will also be priced competitively and specced well when it hits Australia in the second quarter of 2009.
Four engine variants (two petrol, two turbo-diesel) will be offered, all driving via the latest seven-speed S Tronic dual-clutch transmission and permanent Torsen all-wheel-drive.
Pricing will spread between $60,000 and about $80,000, with the base model and expected biggest seller tipped to be the 2.0 TFSI. This adds Audi's new AVS variable valvelift system to turbocharging and direct-injection for a solid 155kW, 350Nm, a claimed consumption of 8.5L/100km and 0-100km/h in 7.5sec.
Priced closest to it will be the 2.0-litre TDI (125kW, 350Nm, 6.7L/100km and 9.5sec). Further up the scale comes a new 3.2-litre FSI V6 (195kW, 330Nm, 9.0L/100km, 6.8sec) and 3.0-litre TDI (176kW, 500Nm, 7.5L/100km, 6.5sec).
The standard equipment list for all Q5 models will include eight airbags, ESP with off-road and new roof rack modes, ABS with Hill Descent Control (see breakout), rear parking sensors, aluminium roof racks, cruise control and multi-function steering wheel.
Options include the new Drive Select system that adjusts throttle, steering assistance and gearchange settings between three modes. Adaptive dampers and a dynamic steering system that varies the ratio and power assistance are offered separately.
More conventional extras are the Bang and Olufsen stereo, panorama sunroof, Xenon Plus headlights, rear-view camera and MMI Plus (which includes sat-nav). No full-size spare is available from the factory and we don't know if Audi Oz will fit one here.
All Q5s are underpinned by the highly adaptable MLB architecture developed by Audi for all VW Group longitudinal drivetrain offerings. It's already employed by the new A4 and A5 and will flow on to A6, A8 and so on.
The advantage of MLB is the front axle's repositioning further forward of the engine, delivering better weight distribution and handling balance.
Not that the official drive routes on freeways and industrial byways provided much help in assessing that, or the way the various engines cope with kerb weights starting at 1730kg (for the 2.0-litre TDI).
Instead, the Q5's excellent interior space, comfort, quietness and high-quality leather interior were shown off. Four adults and their luggage would easily and comfortably fit inside, aided by a sliding rear seat and adjustable backrest angle. Luggage space is 540 litres (1560 litres with the bench seat folded). In a first for Audi, the front passenger seat also folds flat.
Performance ranged from adequate (2.0 TFSI) to strong (3.0 TDI). Only some noisy thumps from the rear suspension and the S Tronic's signature hesitation from idle irritated.
Having established the Q5's cruising credentials, we abandoned the official drive route and headed for the hills. A serpentine, steep climb in a 3.2 FSI shod with low profile 20-inch rubber proved revealing. With Drive Select in Dynamic mode there were prompt, if not sports car, responses.
There's still that signature SUV body sway under cornering and a tendency to squirrel under hard braking. The Q5 hung in mid-corner, trying to minimise understeer with dabs of ESP intervention. But it preferred slow-in and fast-out, then ripping up through the gears on short straights.
However, the Q5's key attributes were on display during the cruise back to the hotel: it's safe, secure, comfortable and frugal. Who needs hyperbole when so much is done so well?
Audi Q5 3.2 FSI
Engine 3189cc V6, dohc, 24v
Max Power 195kW @ 6500rpm
Max Torque 330Nm @ 3000-5000rpm
Transmission 7-speed CVT
0-100 km/h 6.8sec (claimed)
Price $78,000 (estimated)
On sale Second quarter, 2009
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