The models we’re driving are the first off the new Mexican factory's production line. The Audi engineers we're with point out the odd quality niggle here and there, but to all intents and purposes these are the models we’ll be getting in the UK early next year.
We're driving the higher-powered V6 diesel and the four-cylinder petrol model, each with the optional air suspension and adaptive dampers fitted. The former gets an eight-speed torque convertor automatic transmission and permanent quattro all-wheel drive, and the latter a seven-speed S tronic dual clutch automatic gearbox and the quattro Ultra technology, which under certain conditions can prevent drive being sent to the rear wheels in order to save fuel.
It’s the V6 diesel that intrigues most, and my word it is smooth and refined - which is perhaps a good description of the car as a whole. The V6 produces a wide spread of torque with even the occasional sledgehammer effect to its delivery, such is the potency. You certainly won’t be wanting for any extra performance, and the eight-speed auto’ to which it is mated is complementary and not obtrusive.
But you wouldn’t ever call the car overtly sporty, which has as much to do with its chassis tuning as anything else. The Q5 is a very competent and predictable SUV, which is fine by its customers, but you can tell there’s probably quite an involving car in there waiting to get out given the chance.
It turns in okay and grips well while body movements are well controlled and understeer is kept in check by the standard torque vectoring system, but you never come out of a corner with a smile on your face. Nor, however, do you end up in a ditch, even when taking corners at some speed, which highlights the fact that the chassis has plenty of slack in there.
It was a compliment to the old Q5 that Porsche sourced the base for its class-leading Macan SUV from the same underpinnings, and it’ll be interesting to see what Porsche can achieve when it gets its hands on this one. Or, indeed, what Audi can conjure up for the S version, development of which is well under way.
What does impress is the ride quality, which matches the smooth, quiet and comfortable characteristics of the engine. Even the most broken of road surfaces failed to really unsettle the car.
There’s also a discernible difference between the car in its different driving modes, seven of which are offered via the Audi Drive Select system. The standard Comfort mode does what you’d expect, but selecting Sport lowers and stiffens the air springs so the car corners a touch flatter and communicates what it's doing through your backside a bit more. It’s still not involving, mind, not helped by the lack of feel from the steering.