The beautiful roads of Munich threw up an unfamiliar picture. The home of the brilliant BMW’s was for the moment taken over by the giants from Ingolstadt. A bunch of super fast SUVs with four rings on the nose going all guns blazing did make an amazing sight. The super fast SUV in question here is the all-new Audi Q5. Popular in both the international and Indian markets, the Q5 receives a few minor exterior and interior changes and not to mention a major heart transplant as well. Far more importantly, the 2013 Audi Q5 has new optional engines and is available as a hybrid for the first time.
On the outside, the 2013 Q5 sports a new chamfered Audi single-frame grille and a flatter roofline. The hood and wrap-around tailgate are now made of aluminium to save weight. Optional xenon headlights incorporate LED daytime running lights that give this crossover SUV a distinctive look. Inside the cabin, there are new colours and new leather/fabric upholstery available as well. The standard Audi Q5 comes equipped with a turbocharged and direct-injected 211bhp 2.0-litre inline-4, the same engine also found in the A4 model line. It is mated to an 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission.
As for the fuel-conscious folks, the 2013 Audi Q5 will now be available as a hybrid too. It’s equipped with the 211PS 2.0 TFSI inline-4 coupled to a 54hp electric motor drawing power from lithium-ion batteries located at the rear. Joined together by a clutch, the engine and electric motor deliver power to the wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox and quattro all-wheel drive. The Q5 Hybrid can travel 3.04km in pure electric mode.
For the enthusiast, the 2013 Q5 has improved electric-assist steering. What’s more, the Audi drive select feature allows the driver to choose between Comfort and Sport modes, the latter offering sharper steering and throttle response. Perhaps the most welcome upgrade in the new Q5 is Audi Connect, a system that uses Google Maps for a richer navigational experience.
On top of connecting to the Internet for more available travel services accessible via Audi’s MMI infotainment interface, the Q5 can also act as a WiFi hotspot for up to eight mobile devices, which should help keep techno-holics entertained on long road trips. On country roads around Munich, the Q5 displayed a quiet and comfortable ride. The hybrid and the 2.0 TFSI powertrains have plenty of pep to pass slower traffic. The 3.0-litre V-6 has more punch, thanks to its 400Nm of torque.
But the real deal here is the SQ5. But before we get to the drive bit let's delve a little into the past. The SQ5 was previewed three years ago in Austria as the Q5 Custom concept. Wider and lower than a standard Q5 and powered by a 410PS, 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine, it was the starting point for an upcoming family of high-powered SQ models. But once engineering commenced, Audi decided to focus on a diesel version instead. It’s also the first time Audi’s high-performance group has worked on a diesel vehicle. The production SQ5 uses a twin-turbo 313PS, 3.0-litre V6 TDI; it’s the same engine that’s in Europe’s A6 Avant (which is a very fast estate version of the A6). The engine is aggressive and impressive and simply transforms the Q5’s character.
The transformation is particularly noticeable when you select dynamic mode, which sharpens the responses of the engine, chassis, and steering. There is far less turbo lag in the SQ5, and it delivers significantly more grunt across the entire powerband. The regular Q5’s 3.0 TDI already produces 580Nm of torque; the SQ5 engine increases that figure to 650Nm and it’s available from a lowly 1450 to 2800rpm. And thanks to the artificially enhanced sound of the SQ5, there is no mistaking the two engines, the hi-po version is accompanied by a sharp, V8-like growl that’s audible even from outside the vehicle.
Although the European and the Indian Q5 3.0 TDI uses Audi’s DL501 seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the SQ5 features the ZF-sourced 8HP eight-speed torque-converter automatic. The conventional auto choice might be a bit surprising, since dual-clutch transmissions are considered to be sportier than regular automatics, but the DL501 couldn’t handle the twin-turbo’s extra torque without massive internal changes. Moreover, Audi insists there is no weight penalty for the eight-speed.
Expect the SQ5 to scorch through the 100km/h barrier in less than five seconds (which means your family will be waving goodbye to most 2-seat sportscars and then some) and then go on to hit a limited top speed of 250km/h should you find the space for it. Now we already love the way the Q5 handles, but the SQ5 is in a different league altogether thanks to the stiffer suspension that’s lowered by 1.2 inches and the 20-inch wheels wrapped in fat 255/45 rubber.
Turn-in is exceptionally sharp, and the steering is very direct. With a rear-biased 40/60 power distribution, the SQ5 remains neutral up to insane speeds and thanks to the quattro system, grip levels are huge. And it looks fast too. The massive wheels, aluminium finish exterior mirrors, the dark glossy grille and the quad exhaust outlets tell you that the SQ5 is pretty much the Darth Vader amongst other SUVs.
While we can expect the updated Q5 on Indian shores soon, the Hybrid and the SQ5 might pretty much be a distant dream thanks to the massive price that they will sport. But considering that Audi is already hiking up prices of its cars, expect the new Q5 to command a slight premium more over the current car since it’s offering more equipment as well. However, with Audi already bringing in the S-line variants in India, how about a slightly hopped up version of the new Q5 in India as well? Here’s hoping.