CHILDREN. The wonders of parenthood often make you wonder why you do it to yourself.
One of the greatest tests of patience is the family road trip.
Things often begin with excitement and anticipation only to be met with squabbling, tears and threats directed at the back seat perpetrators half an hour into a long journey.
For our latest sojourn, we came prepared with the Audi Q5.
Improved with a raft of changes and updates just before Christmas last year and again updated in September, this mid-size sports utility vehicle has rapidly made an impression on the SUV landscape.
It's currently leading the plush SUV segment (just ahead of the BMW X3) and our experience on the open road was testament to its popularity.
There was no foot-tapping on the back of front head rests, nor were there too many swinging arms exchanged between the dynamic duo in the rear.
The Q5 offers excellent head and leg room front and back which provides enough real estate for the passengers to maintain their personal space. Three can fit across the back seat, but things do begin to get somewhat squashed.
Leather trimmed seats are flat at the base, and could do with some contouring for cornering, but they are comfy enough and we had no numb-bumness over longer travels.
Quiet at all speeds, the Q5 cabin is a pleasant environment. It's the quintessential Audi layout we've become used to across the range.
While the computer system with its central dial and surrounding four-buttons are easy to operate once you have your head around things, we still don't like the climate control set-up. The same dial is used for temperature and fan control, and you have to toggle between the two.
On the road
There is nothing shy about this supercharged V6.
Pottering around town with little fanfare, it's surprisingly savage when you want to flex its muscles.
The 0-100kmh sprint time of just under six seconds is testimony to the bent six's ability to get up and boogie.
Select "dynamic" mode (there are options for comfort, economy, automatic and individual), which sharpens the acceleration response and the family hauler transforms into wagon weaponry.
Yet on the highway it cruises effortlessly, courtesy of the long-legged eight-speed box.
You can step off the bitumen, it has reasonable ground clearance, but nothing too daunting.
Tackle corners with too much eagerness and the Q5 does pitch and roll a little, although it takes some effort.
Our greatest issue was with the A-pillar and large side mirror which creates a blind spot at roundabouts and T-junctions.
What do you get?
While the entry-level prices remained the same, this V6 variant rose $1000 with the overhaul in December last year but remained steady in a recent 2014 update.
That price premium came with some extra kit, and the complimentary items include alloys, eight airbags, memory for the driver's seat which is matched to the key, leather trim, 10-speaker stereo, electric tailgate, automatic lights and wipers, floor mats, parking sensors, cruise, sat nav, tyre pressure monitoring and tri zone air-con.
Latest standard extras now include larger 19-inch alloy wheels, along with extended paintwork that now colours the lower bumper sections (front and rear) as well as the lower side sills.
Digital radio is an $800 option.
Making up big ground on the Q5 is the BMW X3 28i ($73,000), while also in the running are the Range Rover Evoque Si4 Dynamic ($73,395) and Volvo XC60 T6 Luxury ($74,990).
Courtesy of ample highway driving and the economy mode, we got pretty close to the official figure of 8.5 litres of premium unleaded for every 100km and managed more than 850km from one tank.
Judicious use of your right foot around town would keep consumption down.
Those new to the prestige arena should first investigate insurance and servicing costs to avoid any post-purchase surprises.
Three suitcases, toys, laptop, the obligatory bucket and spades plus bedding and towels were swallowed nicely by the boot which is aided by the automatic tailgate.
There are four cup holders, two in the dash and two in the back arm rest, while each door can cater for bottles (1.5-litre or wine if you feel the need).
There is a prestige allure about the Q5. This model has a nice chrome grille, flat exhaust tips, black Quattro badge, while the trend-setting LED dotted running lights have been replaced by a flowing rectangular shape.
For those seeking something extra special inside, a new optional extra is the $2500 aluminium/black cabin inlays which combines black-dyed wood and aluminium.
Ample space, flexibility and frugality from the Q5 helped made our family road trip a surprisingly bearable journey.
This V6 provides some serious mumbo under your right foot which makes mincemeat of overtaking and steep inclines.
You have the off-road technology under the skin, but 99% of buyers would never need it.
The extra features to this model provide some icing on the Q5 which remains an excellent drive and pace setter in this category.
What matters most
The good stuff: Pleasant on-road manners, strong V6 acceleration, interior space and load flexibility.
What we'd like to see: Improved A-pillar vision, additional support around the seat bases.
Servicing and warranty: Three year/unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assist (option to extend). Servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months.
Model: Audi Q5 3.0 TFSI.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive mid-size luxury sports utility vehicle.
Engines: 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol generating maximum power of 200kW @ 4780-6500rpm and maximum torque of 400Nm @ 2500-4780rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed tiptronic automatic.
Consumption: 8.5L/100km (combined average).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 5.9 seconds.
Bottom line: $74,100.
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