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Audi Q5 Sportback review: The Dakar Rally support car that’s had everything thrown at it


THERE’S a handful of spots in the UK where you can drive on sand.

Black Rock Sands near Porthmadog is nice. Catch the right day and it’s a little slice of heaven.

The Audi support crew at the Dakar Rally tricked up some Q5s

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The Audi support crew at the Dakar Rally tricked up some Q5s
I got to see just how capable this car can be while watching the legendary Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia

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I got to see just how capable this car can be while watching the legendary Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia

There’s also Pendine Sands in south Wales – motorsport fans will know all about that – and Brean Beach in Somerset.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, you won’t get bogged down on these rock-hard beaches, even in a 2CV.

It’s just a shame the UK doesn’t have dunes you can drive on.

Because if it did, I’ve found the perfect car for it that isn’t a Defender for once, or a pick-up truck. It’s an Audi Q5 Sportback.

I’d bet my mortgage that 99 per cent of Q5s never go further off-road than the kerb outside Whole Foods.

But I got to see just how capable this car can be while watching the legendary Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.

Audi’s entry for Dakar is an overblown Tamiya radio-controlled car. It’s electric all-wheel drive but with a petrol engine from a DTM race car (German touring car) that acts as a generator to charge the battery pack. Let’s just say it’s experimental and expensive.

The support crew couldn’t drive one of those. So they tricked up some Q5s instead. I’ll give you a quick tour: Standard 2-litre petrol mild hybrid producing 265 horses, quattro all-wheel drive, air suspension, chunky all-terrain tyres deflated a little to widen their contact patch. That last bit is really important because it helps the car claw and climb its way up the dunes.

That’s all you need, really, apart from a heavy right foot.

But the Germans went bananas and threw everything at it. They added a roll cage, Recaro seats, two fire extinguishers, GPS tracker, two-way satellite phone and a cooler box.

Fixed to the roof are sand boards, a shovel, lights and a high-lift sand jack that’s strong enough to right the car if you have a big oopsy.

We didn’t need any of that.

I don’t remember much else because I was too busy having fun throwing this car at the scenery.

What I do remember is why I described the Q5 Sportback as a “baby Bentley” when I tried one back at home.

The engine, the ride quality, the refinement, the build quality – everything about this car is so well executed. And it’s the right size too, much easier to live with than a Q8.

I’d go as far as to say the Q5 Sportback is so well engineered it seems Audi spent more on it than they really needed to.

A bit like this Dakar Q5.

The Germans went bananas and threw everything at it. They added a roll cage, Recaro seats, two fire extinguishers, GPS tracker, two-way satellite phone and a cooler box

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The Germans went bananas and threw everything at it. They added a roll cage, Recaro seats, two fire extinguishers, GPS tracker, two-way satellite phone and a cooler box
Fixed to the roof are sand boards, a shovel, lights and a high-lift sand jack that’s strong enough to right the car if you have a big oopsy

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Fixed to the roof are sand boards, a shovel, lights and a high-lift sand jack that’s strong enough to right the car if you have a big oopsy

But we’re glad they did.

KEY FACTS: AUDI Q5 SPORTBACK

  • Price: £45,445
  • Engine: 2-litre petrol mild hybrid
  • Power: 265hp, 370Nm
  • 0-62mph: 6.1 secs
  • Top speed: 149mph
  • Economy: 33mpg
  • CO2: 192g/km
  • Out: Now
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