The Audi Q5 has never failed to surprise me since the first day I drove it in Malaysia in 2009. Why should present day be any different?
Words Aninda Sardar
Photography Aninda Sardar
Soft-roader they had said. My memory of that presentation in Kuala Lumpur from a decade ago is a little vague and I hope you’ll forgive me for that, but I do remember the good folks at Audi telling me that the vehicle they were on the verge of launching in India was a soft-roader. Not a hardcore off-road vehicle but something that you’d be confident of driving on with if the road ran out. What followed the presentation was a curated drive on an off-road track that left me in no doubt at all that those good folks from Audi had been understating the capabilities of the Q5 at dinner the previous night. Call me slow, but it took me a decade to put those people’s word to the test, and believe you me the Audi Q5 left me more than just a little impressed.
While I have driven the Q5 on several occasions, I have never really had the opportunity to drive it beyond city limits or hit a trail. The Diwali holidays last year changed all of that. Audi was kind enough to loan me the Q5 with its famed 2-litre turbo-diesel under its stout bonnet for a review and I promptly set about trying to figure out how I could put this vehicle to the test that I have always thought of but never gotten around to actually conducting. To cut a long story short, I decided to take the Q5 on a short road trip that would involve a little bit of soft-roading. Nothing hardcore, just a bit of a graded path with some opportunity for mild wheel articulation perhaps.
The Audi Q5 is a fatigue free drive
A couple of hours after we set off that morning the Q5 had already proven itself to be a fabulous road trip vehicle. Ample space (both in the cabin and boot), plush seats and a lovely ride quality merged together to create a super smooth journey not just for me in the driver’s seat but also the other members of the family. The fact that the everything works seamlessly, the power delivery is as linear as a ruler and that automatic transmission is the best in the business, means that two hours on a narrow traffic laden highway goes by with no fatigue worth mentioning. Meanwhile, the signature MMI infotainment system kept us all entertained with a road trip playlist that varied wildly between my Bangla rock and the kids’ new age English pop and R’n’B and everything else in between.
Power play in the Audi Q5
Our destination, nestled in the hills of Lonavala and on the shores of the beautiful Pawana Lake, would see us scale the Lonavala hill right to its top before we started our descent towards the lake. To be honest, it’s not so much about the 190 horses that the engine develops from 3800-4200rpm that you rely on, but rather the manner in which the 400Nm of peak torque is offered to you. It kicks in at a lowly low 1750 revs and stays with you all the way through to 3000rpm. This combines with the super quick 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission to make short work of the straight bits between corners while the corners are tackled easily thanks to a superbly well balanced suspension working in collaboration with Audi’s signature Quattro all wheel drive tech.
The fun, and the surprise factor, doesn’t arrive until we get to the trail. Much like the punchline of your favourite joke, which doesn’t come right till the end. What was meant to be a simple trail with a chance or two for some mild soft-roading had turned into a moderate slush fest thanks to rain the previous evening and all through the night. It wasn’t the sort of track that I had been prepped to take on but something about those memories from Malaysia from long ago gave me the confidence to drive ahead instead of hanging a U. The addition of an Off-Road mode helps immensely too. Some of it on a psychological level too.
Another three quarters of an hour later we arrive at The Lake House Pawana. A beautiful property with a fabulous view of the lake itself. This could be anywhere in Europe and only the presence of strays and the people around tell us that we’re still firmly in the middle of the Indian sub-continent. The Q5, meanwhile, stands parked at the bottom of the slope. Proud in demeanour in spite of its muddied wheels. Or, perhaps because of its muddied wheels. After all it’s the slush that they have slid over, gripped and rolled over so effortlessly that has brought us all to this parking lot. Sure, the Q5 won’t do what a Jeep Wrangler or a Land Rover Defender might be able to do in terms of sheer off-roading prowess but I suspect there are few vehicles out there that can balance their on- and off-road prowess as well as the Audi does. In my books, that would make it the perfect road trip vehicle to have.