Audi is no stranger to crossover wagons and sport-utility vehicles. For years, the German premium automaker marketed an allroad quattro wagon, which at least partially bridged the gap between a station wagon and an SUV. More recently came the full-size Q7, launched as a 2007 model. Now, Audi has introduced a smaller-scale Q5 crossover SUV, as a late 2009 model.
Starting with the foundation established by the considerably bigger Q7, Audi developed the compact Q5 on the platform used for the compact A4 sedan. Beneath the hood sits a 3.2-liter FSI direct-injection V-6 engine that develops 270 horsepower and 243 pound-feet of torque (at 6500 and 3000 rpm, respectively), mated with quattro all-wheel drive and a six-speed Tiptronic transmission. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the Q5 a fuel-economy estimate of 18 mpg in city driving and 23 mpg on the highway.
Essentially, the Q5's A4-derived platform has been raised up and widened. Audi says the Q5 is the widest and longest in its class, with the longest wheelbase, but not the biggest overall. Specifically, the Q5 measures 182.2 inches long on 110.5-inch wheelbase. It's 74.8 inches wide and 65.2 inches high. Standard tires are 18-inch size. Audi claims best-in-class towing capacity, at 4,400 pounds.
Styling is familiar to Audi fans, led by a "signature" grille and LED headlamps. Audi promotes the Q5's weight distribution, which is close to 50/50 (front/rear).
Some might disagree, but Audi considers the Q5's interior to be an "industry benchmark" Birdseye maple trim is surrounded by aluminum, and the reclining second-row seat slides fore/aft. Those 40/60-split rear seats fold using levers inside the cargo area. Standard three-zone climate control is said to be the only such system in this vehicle class. The battery is mounted low in the trunk area, while the subwoofer for the audio system is tucked inside the spare tire. An air compressor (with pressure gauge) pumps up that spare tire to its full diameter.
An electronic dipstick lets the driver check oil from inside the cabin. Audi's drive select option helps the driver customize engine/throttlemapping, transmission shift characteristics, steering, and suspension. The all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased (40/60 asymmetrical).
This is the first Audi with a Generation 3 MMI system, including navigation with real-time Sirius traffic details. Voice inputs let the operator obtain the closest options, when making a request for information. The hard-drive-based system has a capacity of 40 gigabyes (30 for navigation and 10 for a "jukebox"). The driver can set a limit for the height of the optional power tailgate. An available "intelligent" key stores service information.
Scoring high in refinement, the Q5 is quiet-running and pleasing overall. Steering feel is satisfying, producing a high level of confidence, whether easing down straightaways or in quick maneuvers. On smooth surfaces, at least, the Q5 yields an appealing ride, coping capably with modest imperfections.
Step-in to the rear seats demands something of a climb upward, over a rather high sill, but it's comfortable once you've arrived. No visibility concerns are evident. Further details on the drive experience will have to wait until a Q5 is available for a longer trial.
Sales began in February. Competitors include the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti EX35, Land Rover LR2 HSE, Mercedes-Benz GLK350, and Volvo XC60.
For the 2009 model year, the Q5 had a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price of $38,025 total (including destination charge). Prices for 2010 start at $38,175. The Premium Plus model stickers for $42,225, and the Prestige edition reaches $49,675.
Audi side assist blind spot protection is available (for 2010, standard on the Prestige model). Ventilated front seats are available for the 2010 model year, in a Luxury Package for the Prestige edition. For 2010, new 20-inch five-segment spoke wheels are mounted on S line models. Audi also is expected to reveal an updated version of its allroad quattro, which disappeared after the 2005 model year.
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