New Audi Q5 taking shape ahead of late 2016 release

Audi’s all-new Q5 SUV will be more upmarket and refined when it reaches showrooms before the end of the year. Spied testing at the Nurburgring, the prototype Q5 shows how Audi is keeping the existing model’s chunky look and steering it away from the awkward angles of the recently launched Q2.

As illustrated in our exclusive images, it will feature a prominent hexagonal front grille, slimmer headlamps than those on the outgoing model and triple-slat air intakes. Given the size and design of the alloy wheels, the car seen on track is likely to be the hot SQ5 TDI.

The second-generation Q5 will mark a switch to the VW Group’s MLB platform. This is, in effect, the same mechanical make-up of chassis, engines and technology that is used in the already popular MQB set-up, but based around longitudinal engines instead of motors mounted transversely. It’s the same set of components that underpins the latest A4, and that will allow Audi to make significant weight savings with the Q5. The new car is expected to be as much as 100kg lighter than the model it replaces.

That slimming down should help the SUV’s efficiency, while Audi will also introduce some front-wheel-drive versions for the first time. In addition, all four-wheel-drive Q5s from launch will get the latest version of the quattro system, which disconnects the rear wheels during everyday driving to save more fuel (as in the new A4 Allroad).

The Q5’s line-up is expected to be very similar to the A4’s, starting with a front-wheel-drive 187bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. A four-wheel-drive 248bhp 2.0-litre model is also likely.

The UK market’s focus will be on diesels, though, kicking off with a front-wheel-drive 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. It’s likely to emit less than 125g/km of CO2, and comes with either a manual gearbox or Audi’s dual-clutch S tronic transmission. That’s comfortably clear of the cleanest existing Q5, which emits 147g/km.

More powerful six-cylinder diesels will also be available, with the A4’s 215bhp and 268bhp 3.0-litre V6 engines likely to feature; the latter is four-wheel drive only. These models are expected to get an auto box.

2016 Audi Q5 front

On top of the regular range, the hot SQ5 will get a tuned six-cylinder diesel with more than 340bhp, while an RS Q5 will wade in later in 2017 with at least 450bhp from a twin-turbo petrol. There will also be an ultra-efficient plug-in hybrid version, mixing turbo petrol power with two electric motors for CO2 emissions of less than 90g/km.

Some of the biggest changes are likely to be inside, where the Q5 will get a welcome overhaul that brings improved materials, a wider range of finishes to allow greater scope for personalisation and – thanks to a longer wheelbase – improved knee and legroom for rear occupants.

The car will also receive the latest version of Audi’s navigation system, incorporating Google Maps and the brand’s Virtual Cockpit. The new Q5 should arrive in UK dealers in the final quarter of 2016, and the addition of front-wheel-drive models could bring the starting price below the £32,130 of the current 2.0 TDI SE. Four-wheel-drive versions should cost from around £33,000.

Now read our full in-depth review of the Q5’s bigger brother, the Audi Q7.