_YEARS _ago, promises of 10 per cent fuel savings were seen as the wildly optimistic claims of backyard inventors.

A week ago, I listened to Audi's engineers telling me that the new Q5 SUV evolution offers fuel savings of up to 15 per cent on the previous model. To be fair, almost every new car release I have attended recently has included similar claims.

These huge gains are due to a combination of things - smaller engines with higher output, dramatic gains in torque production, minimising of mechanical drag by using electronic steering and cooling systems, energy regeneration on braking and improvements in aerodynamics.

Linked with lighter metal/alloy mixes in the body and suspension components, new cars like Audi's latest Q5 are bad news for the oil companies and great news for families.

Four engines are ready for action in the new Q5 range. If your preference is for petrol, you can have an advanced 2.0-litre four-cylinder that produces 165kW of power and a healthy 350Nm of torque from just 1500rpm.

That's diesel-like performance, and invites owners to change their driving style.

If you need more grunt and a nice burble out the back, a new 3.0-litre supercharged V6 is the next step up, with 200kW and 400Nm of torque, also from a relatively low 2500rpm. Those torque figures have allowed Audi to gear the petrol Q5s for a long-loping cruise - you'll sit on 110km/h with the engine turning at just over 1800rpm.

If diesel is your preference, you can choose from a 2.0-litre with 130kW and 380Nm, or a V6 with 180kW and 580Nm.

But the jewel in the crown is the small petrol unit, with freakish torque production and an eight- speed Tiptronic transmission that defies you to pick the changes in suburban driving.

I found it to be the most responsive on the highway and also along the fine-dust tracks of Wilpena Station in the Flinders Ranges. The Quattro system isn't a bush-bashing set-up by any means, but is more than capable of handling the dodgy surfaces on most tracks used by travellers.

The Q5 is fiendishly clever as well - the keys retain steering wheel, seat and mirror settings, as well as the dynamics selection.

Two users can jump in with their own key and everything clicks, whirrs and hums into place. The roof rack knows when you've strapped a fridge or something similar on top and adjusts the electronic stability control settings for the higher centre of gravity.

It also finetunes things to make you look good on the twisty bits by minimising over or understeer.

The rear seats adjust through 10cm and recline 24-30deg.

Audi's Q5 can tow 2.4 tonnes and dynamic steering can intervene for lane guidance and when braking on different surfaces to maintain stability.

As a family SUV for the widest range of tasks, the 2.0 TFSI Q5 is a value proposition in its market at an unchanged price of $62,900, but with about $6500 of extra gear on board.

With eight airbags and an abundance of smarts, the Q5 packages the technology of the world in a car for the family that means the world to you.

The West Australian

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