The pretty Victorian seaside town of Inverloch perches on the edge of wild and woolly Bass Strait. It’s a lovely spot but be sure to pack a coat, because it can be chilly at any time of the year.
The frigid wind blowing in straight off the Southern Ocean didn’t seem to bother the locals going about their business in the town’s tidy main street, and the rump of the Navarra blue Audi Q5 50 TDI quattro Sport I’m driving seems to have caught the attention of one in particular.
Audi fan Wayne had spotted the 50 TDI quattro logo on the tailgate. “I used to own a 2.0-litre. Loved it. Been thinking of getting another one. What’s it go like?” Wayne asked, rapid-fire.
Looking back, the best answer for this would have been to offer Wayne a quick ride around some of the straighter straights, and twistier bends, because the latest Q5 really has to be experienced before the penny truly drops, and the road to Inverloch is as good a place as any for this.
I'd come to Inverloch via a selection of back roads that swoop and plunge through the verdant South Gippsland countryside. I knew the area offered plenty of interesting roads because Holden’s chassis engineers occasionally test here, thanks to its proximity to the Lang Lang proving ground.
The 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel beneath the Audi’s bonnet may not have the thunderous V8 warble of Commodore V8s of old; but with 210kW of power and an epic 620Nm of torque channelled via an eight-speed auto to all four of its 255/45R20 tyres, the ghost of Brocky himself would surely appreciate this thing’s ability to thread corners.
There’s something especially reassuring about having all-paw grip when the roads are as slick and treacherous as these. Decent steering, strong brakes and good power-down are other prerequisites when hustling on such roads, and the Q5 50 TDI quattro ($84,700 RRP, $97,540 as tested) has them all in varying degrees of impressiveness.
But it’s the stump-pulling torque of the wonderfully muscular V6 turbo-diesel that pervades the driving experience, with all 620Nm available between 1500-3000rpm. Behind it, a smoothly responsive eight-speed auto keeps the engine in its sweet spot.
Because the car is so quiet, with just a faint thrum of engine noise at road speeds, and because you don’t need to rev the engine hard to access all that grunt, the Q5 50 TDI can be deceptively fast. It’s too easy to arrive at a corner carrying more velocity than anticipated, at which point the strong all-wheel discs earnt their keep.
Despite its impressive open-road performance and brisk 5.8-second 0-100km/h acceleration, the 50 TDI quattro is not the performance guru of the five-model Q5 line-up. That honour belongs to the slightly unhinged turbo-petrol V6-powered SQ5 quattro. Undeniably quick, it’s also a bit frenetic; like a pet dog relentlessly chasing down a ball.
The Q5 50 TDI quattro, on the other hand, is a somewhat more relaxed experience. Yes, it’s decently quick, and can be driven with a fair degree of enthusiasm – but its alter ego is as a luxuriously appointed and equipped family SUV that won’t beat your kidneys to a pulp over pothole-blasted secondary roads. It’s firm, but the addition of optional adaptive air suspension ($3990) provides the ability to toggle between sporting firmness and plush compliance.
The latter is, in many ways, more in keeping with the car’s overall positioning of sporting luxury. The exterior is differentiated from lesser models by S Line styling enhancements including 20-inch five-arm turbine design alloy wheels, different bumpers, a roof edge spoiler and S Line logos.
Inside, the cabin is marked by sumptuous Milano leather and the precise fit and finish that’s become an Audi hallmark; you need to look very hard to find a quality flaw.
Ahead of the driver is Audi’s impressive 12.3-inch virtual cockpit display, with high quality colour mapping and different instrument layouts available at the press of a button. At centre-dash is another 8.3-inch colour screen, giving access to multimedia and MMI navigation. While still intuitive to use, the system is showing its age just a little, by dint of not being a touchscreen.
However, there are loads of standard features that ensure life with the Q5 50 TDI quattro Sport is both comfortable and safe. These include heated electric front seats, 360-degree camera, parking assistant, drive select with six driving modes including lift and off-road, keyless entry and start, heated and folding mirrors, LED headlights, and a panoramic sunroof.
On the safety front, standard kit includes eight airbags, blind-spot monitoring, active lane-keeping assist, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear-cross traffic alert, tyre pressure monitor, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go function.
I explained to my new mate Wayne that you can even access the luggage bay via an electric tailgate with gesture control, and there’s a switch in the cargo bay that allows you to lower the car via its air suspension for easier loading. But his eyes seemed to have glazed over. He muttered something about needing to go and wandered off.
I hadn’t even got to its miserly 6.3L/100km official fuel consumption yet. Perhaps I should have just have opened the passenger-side door and told him to buckle up.