If you’re in the market for a compact luxury crossover from a German brand, you have no shortage of options. In fact, the toughest part may be choosing between the Mercedes-Benz GLK
, the BMW X3
and the Audi Q5, since all three have their individual strengths.
The Audi Q5
offers a slightly different take on a luxury crossover, presenting itself with a clean exterior design and an interior that lives up to Audi’s usual level of excellence. While it would have been easy to simply scale down the Q7 and call it done, Audi manages to make the Q5 distinctive in its lineup, which is probably why the Q5 was the second-best selling Audi in the U.S. last year, trailing only the A4 sedan.
Broadening the Q5’s appeal was last year’s introduction of the 2.0-liter, TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission. Compared to the 3.2-liter V6, the 2.0-liter TFSI delivers significantly better fuel economy (2 mpg more in the city, 4 mpg more on the highway) without sacrificing performance. While the V-6 has the advantage in horsepower (270 hp versus 211 hp), the 2.0-liter TFSI actually delivers more torque (258 pound-feet, versus 243 pound-feet). Although we found the smaller engine to be just a tick slower on the run from 0-60 mph, the four-tenths of a second difference is negligible in the real world. In other words, we’d recommend the 2.0-liter TFSI over the 3.2-liter V-6.
The Q5 manages to drive more like a sedan or station wagon than a high-center-of-gravity SUV, and we suppose that’s part of its appeal as well. Steering feels a bit numb for our tastes, and we're no fans of the adjustable Drive Select suspension and steering, but the Q5 will still provide the driver with confidence in the corners. A tall seating position give a clear view of the road ahead, and overall visibility from the driver’s set is quite good. Despite the upright seating, headroom for front seat passengers is plentiful, although the rear seats are best reserved for those of average height. Leg room is more than adequate in the front or the rear, thanks to the Q5’s relatively long wheelbase.
Interior fit and finish is up to Audi’s usual standards, and the Q5 rewards passengers with one of the nicest interiors in the class. Even base models get a 10-speaker audio system, leather upholstery, a tri-zone climate control system and Sirius satellite radio, but Audi still charges extra for things like Bluetooth phone connectivity and an iPod interface. If safety is a concern, the Q5 returns as an IIHS Top Safety Pick for the 2012 model year.
For a more detailed look at the 2012 Audi Q5, see our complete review on The Car Connection