New York is about nothing if not size. Skyscrapers, square footage, rents, salaries, wallets, queues, price tags. On a recent family trip, we had a competition to see who could spot the biggest SUV. Even in the vast concrete jungle of downtown Manhattan, the scale and volume of these brutes was hard to miss.
Industry chiefs package them as meeting the needs of the modern family — which makes perfect sense if your surname happens to be Kardashian, or you’re in the habit of bringing all the in-laws with you on daily outings. The famous avenues were choked with Navigators, Expeditions, Suburbans, and Escalades — each bigger, bolder, and blacker than the rest.
They joke in the US that you know your SUV is too big when:
- The fuel gauge doubles as a fan;
- You need a Sherpa and an oxygen tank to reach the driver’s seat;
- It has its own gravitational field.
As a result, the city that never sleeps has been reduced to the city that hardly ever moves.
Not that we in Ireland have escaped the fad of the fashionable SUV. Nothing much moves outside my son’s school on any given day. Mums and dads, with enough indoor space to house a small platoon, mount pavements, block houses, abuse yellow lines, ignore school advice, and all but abandon their array of four-wheel drive machines to ensure little Johnny has to walk as little as possible once he exits the school gates.
To be honest, I’ve never been sold on the SUV craze. The standard saloon is as equipped to meet the demands of the modern family as its bulkier cousin. But marketing gurus would have us believing otherwise; judging by the most recent sales stats, we keep swallowing it.
I had an opportunity recently to drive the new Audi A5 and Q5 in quick succession. Take away the outer shell, and they’re very similar. Both have 2.0 TDI engines that produce 190bhp. Both have an impressive 7-speed automatic transmission. Both are leaner and greener. Both testers cost in excess of €60,000, and both have had an overhaul. I drove the A5 first. As with the rest of the Audi family, the Sportback has had a makeover that’s more technological than visible to the naked eye.
The Sportback is the more family- friendly version of the two-door Coupe, offering two more doors, more indoor space, and, more boot space.
It’s lighter and sleeker than the previous model and as a result delivers the kind of performance you’d associate with the sportier Coupe.
Inside, you get the kind of comfort, style, and luxury you’d associate with an Audi. You notice just how low slung the A5 is once you sit in, the sport seats and brush aluminium finish adding to the overall feel.
The dash — shared with the Coupe — is clutter free and the information system not too intimidating. The popular Virtual Cockpit is an expensive option. Standard equipment includes 18” five-arm design alloy wheels, three-spoke multi-functional, flat bottomed steering wheel, aluminium inlays, Audi drive select, front and rear parking sensors, MMI navigation, and sport-style seats.
The €55,150 asking price for the 190bhp model jumps to €63,072 when extras such as the Matrix LED headlights, metallic paint, MMI Navigation Plus, the storage package, and virtual cockpit are totted up. The Sportback comes with five engine options — three petrol and two diesel. Prices for the petrol start at €48,000, with the entry level 2.0 TDI 150bhp diesel starting at €47,350.
The 7-speed transmission in the tester was slick and very responsive and while the suspension is a little too stiff for the state of many of our roads, when you take the A5 out in the open, you get a better understanding of what it’s all about.
I drove it, and the family, to Dublin and behind the wheel was a very satisfying place to be. Unlike the A5, the changes to the Q5 are more noticeable. It’s longer, wider, and higher than its predecessor. It looks chunkier, offset with a bigger front grille. Inside you really notice how high the ride position is. The cabin is, and feels, bigger. The room in front is generous, there is plenty legroom in front and back, but again, two fit better than three in the rear. Again the interior styling is superb. The dash is almost identical to the A5.
And as in the A5, the list of standard equipment in the Q5 is impressive, including 19” five-spoke design alloy wheels, three-spoke leather multifunction steering wheel with paddles, Drive Select, colour DIS with 7” display, chrome roof rails, cruise control, front and rear park assist, high-gloss package inlays in matte brushed aluminium, LED interior ambient lighting package, LED headlamps, and NMI Navigation. Add in the extras in the tester — flat-bottom steering wheel, cigarette lighter, and ashtray, comfort key with sensor-controlled boot, storage pack, tech pack, city assistance park, acoustic glazing for the front two windows, metallic paint, and other bits and pieces — and €9,000 is added to the overall bill.
Prices start at €48,350 for the 2.0 TDI 150bhp SE, jumping to €54,850 for the 2.0 TDI 190bhp S Tronic Quattro. The 7-speed gearbox was smooth and despite the size and bulk of the Q5, it has plenty of ooomph when you put the foot down, though it’s not as much fun as the A5.
And that’s the rub. In terms of luxury, quality, desirability and drivability, there is little between the two. The Q5 does everything the A5 does, but in a more sensible, relaxed way. It’s a style thing — heart vs head.
If I had to choose? I enjoyed my time in both. Both ticked all the boxes. While the A5 was a little harder to get out of, and while the back might have been a little stiffer after the week, every time I pushed the start button, the heart beat that little bit faster.
TALE OF THE TAPE