The new generation of the Audi Q5 is a comprehensively improved vehicle. Not that the last car had glaring flaws - after all it has been a hit since its 2008 launch. But yes 8 years really called for a new model. And so 1.6 million units later the next generation car is ready to roll. The new Q5 has many changes and firsts on it, but one most significant to the start the story with, is that it's being built outside Germany. It is the first time a major Audi model is being made completely outside Germany or even Europe for that matter! It is rolling out of the brand new facility that opened doors this August in San José Chiapas, in Puebla, Mexico. The plant has a 150,000 units annual capacity for now, though given the success of the last Q5 I'm quite sure Audi would need to ramp that up, or begin producing the car elsewhere too - to make good on expected demand. And so I am in Los Cabos, Mexico to drive it too! Los Cabos is on the Baja California peninsula and not close to the plant though! I have to say for me the fact that this drive was in Mexico was a double treat - it was my first visit to the country, and its roads are very much like India's! So it gave me a great impression of the car in terms of how it would do back home.
Alright that done let's talk about the new car. When it was first shown publicly at the Paris Motor Show in September this year it got stick for its looks, like the new A4 did last year! Once again it seemed that Audi had erred - by going evolutionary rather than revolutionary on the design front. It's a bit more obvious in the case of the Q5 though - that this is a new gen. The face looks very much like this is the sibling of the new 2nd generation Q7. The new matrix-LED optional headlamp cluster is attractive and so is the new thick-edged trapezoidal grille that is nicely finished in matte polished metal and black. The S-line styling kit adds a few more chrome inserts to the bumper though my first test car was not S-line! Overall the new Q5 is attractive, has good presence and instantly comes across as very well built. The taillight signature is now very distinct and looks very sharp - with a Q-like dip-down element.
Also expected to be standard will be the optional Audi virtual cockpit - or the 12.3" digital instrument cluster interface. We now know this from the TT, R8, Q7 and A4, and is no doubt a big selling point for Audi - even so in India. The virtual cockpit can now be provided software upgrades at the dealer - so the car is more future proof too. The cabin is roomy and the back seat in particular is very comfortable. The actual dimensions have increased only marginally but the sense of comfort and space is much enhanced. The updated MMI (Multi Media Interface) system comes with a touchpad to be able to write in destinations or instructions - still just one letter at a time though! The navigation system on the car incorporates Google Earth. The MMI also provides smartphone connectivity of course, and can accommodate an LTE sim, turn into a Wi-Fi hotspot and let you make video calls in full HD! The optional Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system kept me entertained as well - playing what else - but the Eagles and Hotel California quite often.
You see Audi had preloaded this music into the car's jukebox - since the Baja California peninsula is home to THE Hotel California in the small town of Todos Santos that inspired the song. Or so we were told - when we stopped there for lunch. As I tweeted we could check out and actually leave - which was a relief!
The car comes with all kinds of driver assistance features - adaptive cruise control, active lane assist (that works at up to 65 kmph and keeps the car autonomously in its lane), collision avoidance assist, pre-sense front and rear, park assist, blind spot warning, distance indicator, high-beam assist, and yes - the much touted matrix LED lights. If that wasn't enough it offers Predictive Efficiency Assist - a new feature that can tie into the navigation and adapt speed in line with traffic data!
Having spent two days with the new Q5 I can tell you that the car is better than before, and I say that with conviction. The only problem is that it will take quite long to get to us. Europe gets the car starting January. That's followed by the US debut, and it is only in the second half of next year that the right-hand-drive markets will begin to get the car. It will likely be assembled in India - which means we will have to wait for kits to be made available too - something the San José Chiapas plant is currently not doing. So yes - get ready for a long wait. That's the bad news. The good news? It will be well worth it!