We've test-driven quite a few Audis over the last few years, but—word to Goldilocks—something about the Audi Q5 feels just right. Or is it just a sign of age that we're fawning over a compact CUV? Either way, the car that Audi calls "segment-redefining" is out to take over the Lexus RX/BMW X3/Mercedes-Benz GLK market, and judging from Audi's recession-defying 2008 sales numbers, we wouldn't bet against it. Read on for our review of the Audi Q5...
PRICE: (base) $37,200; (loaded) $52,475
Engine: 270hp, 3.2L V6 DOHC engine w/ FSI Direct Injection
MPG: 18 city/22 mpg
We had a chance to drive the Q5 over car-commercial-worthy roads in the hills of Pennsylvania. The Q5 feels sturdy while remaining deft enough to handle unpredictable curves at speed. (Hence, crossover CUV, right?) On the freeway, the V6 has more than enough kick to bullet past the slow and the curious. The Q5 also offers four switchable operating modes—Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual—which allegedly affect things like steering, transmission shift characteristics and engine response. Since we always left it at "Automatic," we'll have to take Audi's word. It certainly sounds like a cool option.
If the Q5 is Manny Pacquiao—you know, small but strong, engaging but menacing, etc.—then the front grille is Pac-Man's left hook. Impactful. We've always loved Audi's trademark grille but it looks especially fresh on the Q5 because if its lean, muscular physique. Should we pause that? Nah. We prefer the overall appearance of the Q5 to its main competitors, simply because it looks like a proper Audi, not a shrunken-down version of another car.
The insides of the Q5 are basically everything you'd expect from an Audi. From the moment you sit down in the driver's seat, you feel the luxury. The new third-generation Multi-Media Interface (MMI) will be familiar to anyone who's driven an Audi, but new features include 3-D navigation that is one of the best we've ever used (though an "along the route" option would've been nice). The display screen is big and clear, the cockpit is ergonomically perfect and the joystick controls (in both the console and the steering wheel) are very intuitive. The voice-command system—the navigation is programmed to respond to basic statements like "I need money" or "I'm hungry"—is cool in theory but a little gimmicky in execution. Way better than Ford Sync though.
The "Prestige" package comes with an aptly-named Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker sound system—yep, it bangs. Thankfully, the Q5 also comes with a handy iPod cable in the glove compartment (it's about time!) for seamless integration with the in-dash console. Unlike other iPod-auto integration systems we've used, the Q5 instantly recognizes all of your music and allows you to speed-search your entire catalogue. Using the steering-wheel controls to comb through a 60GB iPod while driving may not be the safest move, but it sure kills time in traffic.
The Q5 is the type of car that doesn't elicit double-takes so much as long, measured, admiring looks from grown-ass adults. Like, "I want to marry that!" instead of "I want to fuck!" It has a presence, this one.
ONE MORE THING:
For an extra $500, Audi offers "side assist": a sensor light on each rearview mirror that goes on when a car is in your blind spot. Perfect for chronic cutter-offers. You know who you are. Assholes.
SUMMARY: We love pretty much everything about the Q5, but we also pretty much love everything from Audi. It's not the most budget-friendly choice but for a crossover CUV, it's the Complex choice.