Given the current social climate you’d be forgiven for thinking Audi‘s made a huge mistake launching its new Q5 4×4 now, particularly into a market that some might perceive as overcrowded.

However, while there have been lots of new introductions at the volume end, in the prestige market in which Audi operates – and which Audi believes will remain strong despite anti-4×4 feeling – the only real rivals are the Land Rover Freelander and the BMW X3. We’d also throw in the top-spec RAV4 as a potential rival, at least on power, but Toyota doesn’t carry the same cachet as Audi – otherwise Toyota wouldn’t have Lexus.

The new Audi sits squarely between the Land Rover and the BMW. But which is best?

For starters the Audi’s exterior styling looks the part – classy, without being showy. It’s definitely better than the BMW on this front, but not as iconic as the Freelander. Inside the quality is first rate and typically Audi. The Q5 is based around much of the underpinnings used in the latest A4, so the cabin is particularly familiar. But there are a few improvements and additions. There’s a new (optional) satnav system that gives even more detail, and the (standard) climate control no longer interrupts the whole screen when you adjust the cabin temperature. All cars also come with hill descent control to make up for the lack of a low-ratio gearbox if any owners fancy actually taking it off-road.

The rear seats can be folded flat from a one-touch lever at the back of the boot. Boot space is a claimed 540 litres with the rear seats in place, which is better than the BMW but not as good as the Freelander. However, Audi has yet to confirm if UK cars will come with a space-saver tyre or just a compressor (as with Continental cars). If, as rivals have done, Audi UK opts for a space saver, boot room will be cut, but there will still be a good-size load bay.

The majority of buyers in the UK are wisely expected to opt for…