Audi has released the Q5, and it’s a big improvement over last year’s model. In fact, from the chassis up it’s an all new car. We got to test drive the 2.0TFSI, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder tuned to 252 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque paired with the seven-speed dual-clutch ‘S tronic’ gearbox. And the new 3 liter V6 TDI whose 286 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque is mated to an 8 speed automatic.
Two years ago we took the Q5 around Taiwan, 5 people, 7 days, I got to know this car quite well. I have to admit that we have a massive leap forward in terms of comfort as well as the in-vehicle entertainment system. The Q5 we took around Taiwan had Audi connect, but it didn’t let us stream music from our phones. Car companies haven’t been slow to integrate new connectivity technologies, but when you phone evolves once a year and it take them half a decade or more to develop a new automotive product, it’s understandable that that it can take time to get things working seamlessly.
On our road-trip around Cabo San Lucas we were able to play music from the Jukebox which stored music on-board as well as through our iPhone & LG V20. Connectivity was offered in two forms, through Bluetooth or by plugging your phone via USB. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit offers several ways for one to operate navigation, audio and car systems.
The Virtual Cockpit has a 12.3 inch display and 8 inch multimedia interface, which are powered by pair of Tegra 30 chips which among other things allow for HD smooth maps zooming. There are quite a few connected details in the Q5, a heads up display and a slightly creepy ‘personal route assist’ (which learns where you go most and then suggests stuff depending on where you park at what time of day).
I tested out the bluetooth connection, I had no problems connecting, but switching connections between phones wasn’t that easy. On any road trip you’ll want to play music off different handsets, ideally offering multiple connections and a way to cue music would be ideal. If you lean on Android Auto and Google Play creating a truly exceptional experience isn’t going to be in your immediate future. The middle panel isn’t touch screen, which is a bummer since I reached out to it a few times to tap on it. Of course there is voice control for input, but if you’ve got a thick accent and the darn thing never understands you, so it’s good they’ve included a few different input methods, there is a touchpad by the gear shift to write in addresses.
The automotive industry is at a crossroads: how companies integrate digital assets today will determine their success in the future, a future where profits are found in services and not in the hardware. We’re seeing this trend in Smartphone manufacturers already. Xiaomi burst onto the scene with margins so low no one understood how they were going to compete with a company that makes it’s money from its ecosystem. By iterating at a much faster rate, the smartphone industry may hold some interesting lessons for automotive as they forge forward to create new business models. Xiaomi was set to be the Apple of Asia instead their valuation fell from nearly 100B to 4B because there ecosystem was dependent on hardware sales, and there hardware sales dropped. Other manufacturers followed suit and put highend hardware on the market looking to make aftermarket sales, but they provided new cutting edge features like curved display’s, quick charge and dual cameras. That Xiaomi continued to offer sleek well built phones wasn’t enough.
It’s understandable that automotive manufacturers are leaning on Android Audio and CarPlay, but ultimately these aren’t the solutions that I see being the most useful. Plus, I’m not sure that I want my entire ecosystem, car included, to be either iOS or Android.
I applaud Audi for making a massive leap forward with their Virtual cockpit but offering Smartphone connectivity is the bare minimum.
Having said that I do feel like that aunt you don’t see very often that says “The last time I saw you, you were in swimming around naked in the neighbor’s paddling pool…and now here you are all grown up” Except decades haven’t passed, it’s just been a year.
If you’d like to see some official photos from Audi and our article on the car itself, head on over the MobileGeeks.de here
As always we’re curious what you think so leave us a comment!