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2010 Audi Q5
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Can a small capacity turbo charged petrol engine work well in a SUV?

'An engine that makes your journey as thrilling as the destination' read the Audi Q5 advert in our magazine the other day. The only time I had driven this shrunken Q7 was in Hyderabad during the judging event for our Car of the Year awards earlier this year. That was the 3.0-litre diesel variant and it did manage to impress me with its potent feel. However, could a small capacity, 2.0-litre to be precise, petrol engine justify the 'thrilling' tag for this 1740kg SUV?

The world is progressing and so is technology. When you have turbo charging as well as stratified fuel injection and a few more technology marvels trying to extract as much efficiency, power and torque as possible from an engine, what you get on paper is mighty impressive. The Audi's 211bhp of maximum power and 350Nm of torque build up from as low as 1500rpm all the way to 4200rpm - a typical diesel trait. Even before I found myself in the driver's seat of the petrol Q5, I was half impressed already. Nine seconds later, the time it took to fly past the 100km/h mark, my notion about the car had completely changed.

This is the same engine that does duty on the A4 as well, though it gets a slight rework for the Q5. Outright acceleration is better than I expected but in truth, it's the in-gear overtaking ability and handling that marks the Q5 out as a highly accomplished SUV. Audi's aim to make the Q5 a nimble and agile handler and overshadow its weight has been done successfully. In fact, at times, it won't be wrong to say that this SUV behaved like an overgrown hatch. Even though the Q5 has a lower sticker price and the omission of a few features as compared to the 3.0 TDI version, I was glad that it still retains its Quattro character. I did miss the adjustable air suspension of the bigger Q7, however once off the road, as seen on these pages, the Q5 was a hoot to drive fast. Really fast. The little verbal session from the Ed for dirtying the car was a different story though.

The smaller Q7 is handsome without being stunning and carries Audi's characteristic daytime running LEDs pretty well. There aren't many modern and sharp design angles, albeit, what you get are smooth and gentle flowing lines that make for a smart looking SUV. Being 460mm smaller and 103mm narrower than the Q7, the Audi Q5 doesn't really have the brutish on-road appeal and presence. I wasn't complaining though because its smaller size helped while driving in real world scenarios.

Much has already been mentioned about Audi's insides and the Q5 remains the same. It offers class leading cabin quality and enough standard gizmos to keep owners busy and satisfied. I personally feel that the interiors actually feel like the A4's insides - near identical - borrowing the same high quality interior fabric, leather and wood. The panoramic sunroof further leads to an airy and light feel, giving an impression of additional space to an already roomy car for those in the front and the rear.

What do you really gain over its diesel counterpart is the question. Of course a few lakh rupees, enough to get you a high end premium hatch. There is no downside really for the motor is smooth, refined, powerful as well as efficient enough to keep you happy. The intoxicating engine sound and exhaust note at high revs are added bonuses too. Half a crore (on-road) is still a lot of money but the Q5 is one of those cars, no SUVs, that need more attention from your heart than your brain. In that case, the driving experience will surely be thrilling and rewarding in all the right senses.

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