Automobile Magazine has just driven the all-new, , a vehicle that made its world debut this past April at the Beijing auto show and which is Audi‘s answer to the . The is the latest luxury entry in the small crossover SUV market segment that has grown rapidly in recent years and which is expected to continue expanding as more and more Americans ditch their full-size SUVs for smaller crossovers that drive better, achieve better fuel economy, and yet retain many of the utility and all-weather features of traditional SUVs. While vehicles as myriad as the , , , Saturn Vue, and serve the mainstream part of this market segment, the 2009 joins the likes of the BMW , the , and the in serving the luxury slice of the small-crossover segment. When it goes on sale here in February or March of 2009, it will also be joined by the all-new Mercedes-Benz GLK and the all-new . Like those vehicles, the Q5 attempts to let its drivers have it all: attractive, modern styling; a powerful but efficient drivetrain; a luxurious, versatile interior; a full complement of safety equipment; and a sporty driving experience. Now that we’ve driven the U.S.-spec version of the in Valencia, Spain, let’s see how successful Audi was in meeting those goals.
Not just another pretty face.
To our eyes, the Q5 is a very handsome, even pretty, vehicle, with good proportions and exquisite detailing in items like the LED headlights and taillamps. Audi’s modern, so-called shield grille dominates the front-end styling, and it makes for a very attractive face. In America, the Q5 will be offered exclusively with a full chrome treatment for the grille, whereas in other markets it is available in glossy black and matte gray guise as well. The European market also is offered an off-road styling package with polished front scuff plates, but at launch, Audi of America will not offer that here. Eighteen-, nineteen-, and twenty-inch wheels will be offered, and all of them are attractive, save for a twenty-inch chrome wheel (twenty-inch aluminum are also available).
In Spain, where Audi enjoys a higher luxury-brand awareness and regard than BMW and Mercedes-Benz (so claims Audi) and where Audi A3s and A4s are a very common site, people on the streets of Valencia took favorable notice of the Q5. We expect that Americans will like it, as well.
Step in, sit down, enjoy.
Anyone who has sat inside the 2009 Audi Q5’s big brother, the , or for that matter in the new, or Audi’s flagship, the supercoupe, will instantly recognize the Q5’s interior design theme, instrument panel, and controls. As in all contemporary Audi models, the Q5’s interior is beautifully rendered in quality plastics, supple leather, and precisely engineered controls. It’s a very pleasant place to be.
For the U.S. market, many features will of course be standard, such as power seats, windows, and locks; leather upholstery, a ten-speaker stereo, 60/40-split rear seats that recline and also slide fore and aft by four inches; and a new-and-improved version of Audi’s MMI, or Multi-Media Interface, system that controls climate, radio, and navigation functions through a central knob and a display screen.
Audi of America plans two major options packages plus a number of stand-alone options.
The first options package will include bi-xenon headlights and a power-operated tailgate, among other items. (Cornering headlights will not be offered.)
The second options package will offer keyless start, a blind-spot detection system, nineteen-inch wheels, and a 14-speaker, 504-watt, Bang & Olufsen stereo system.
Among the stand-alone options are:
- An all-new navigation system, bundled with a rearview camera, that is likely to cost about $2400;
- A panoramic sunroof, which Audi claims is the biggest in the segment;
- The aforementioned Bang & Olufsen stereo, which will probably cost about $1000;
- An S Line exterior appearance package, which includes twenty-inch wheels;
- The aforementioned twenty-inch chrome wheels;
- Adaptive cruise control;
- Audi Drive Select, which allows the driver to choose among three levels of tuning for three dynamic parameters: powertrain, suspension, and steering. This option is likely to cost close to $3000; more details on it are below.
Get lost? Not with Audi‘s new, advanced, 3D navigation system.
The screen display for the optional navigation system is among the best we’ve seen. It provides three-dimensional-style images of buildings and topography that’s similar to what you see on Google Earth. Audi of America has not yet confirmed, but we expect they will offer a traffic-reporting function as well; the Euro-spec vehicles we drove in Spain had the feature.
The MMI interface itself is pretty much the same as it currently is in other Audis, which is to say largely quite intuitive and easy to use, at least when compared with BMW‘s iDrive. As with all such systems, there’s a learning curve, although we expect most owners will master what they need fairly quickly. With one new feature, if you have the MMI screen set to display the navigation map and you then change the settings for climate control, the stereo, or the seat heaters, a small inset box will pop up on the left or right side of the nav screen temporarily. In previous iterations of MMI, these temporary indicators would take up the entire nav screen. It’s a small but welcome detail.
The navigation system ditches DVD storage drives in favor of a 40-gigabyte, hard-drive storage system that can accommodate more detailed maps of the entire continental United States than we have seen in the past, plus many more POIs (points of interest, such as restaurants). The system also allows you to set aside several gigabytes of storage space for up to 2000 tracks of MP3 music. Naturally, full iPod connectivity is available, wherein you can use the MMI controller to access play lists.
Standard V-6 power and Quattro all-wheel drive. But how about that turbo four-cylinder, Audi?
In a decision that clearly was made well before gasoline crested $4 per gallon, the U.S.-market will be offered exclusively with Audi’s 3.2-liter, direct-injection V-6, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission – there’s no four-cylinder model. Since the 2009 Audi Q5 does not go on sale until next winter, Audi is months away from receiving official EPA fuel economy ratings, but Audi of America product planning head Filip Brabec says that their preliminary expectations are 17 mpg city, 24 highway for the V-6.
In Spain, we drove a Q5 equipped with the V-6 and Audi’s upcoming S Tronic seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, which performed brilliantly, with sharp off-the-line throttle response and crisp, rev-matching upshifts. Unfortunately, the S Tronic will not be offered in the U.S.-market Q5, at least initially, but our past experience with Audi’s six-speed Tiptronic automatic, the sole U.S. Q5 transmission, has been largely favorable. In any case, with 270 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, the V-6 offers plenty of performance for the Q5; Audi claims a 0-to-62-mph time of 6.8 seconds. The top speed will be limited to 130 mph due to tire specifications.
We also had the opportunity to drive a Q5 fitted with Audi’s superb 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which is newly available in the but which at this juncture Audi of America will not offer in the Q5. With 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, it takes the Q5 to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds, according to Audi, and it suffers little in driving performance when compared with the V-6. It’s clear when speaking to Audi officials that they wish this engine would be available from the get-go when the Q5 goes on sale in the United States in February or March 2009, but it won’t be. However, Audi of America’s Brabec allows that any engine that already is engineered for the chassis (which underpins the Q5) could fairly easily be homologated for U.S. duty. Our prediction: the 2.0 TFSI will be brought to the United States just as soon as Audi of America can make a business case to its parent, Audi AG.
Naturally, Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system is standard, and here it offers a 40:60 front:rear torque split. Although the Q5 is clearly not intended to be a rock-crawling off-roader, Audi maintains that it has the capability to tackle most off-pavement tasks that owners will throw at it. Ground clearance is 7.9 inches, the approach and departure angles are both 25.0 inches, and the Q5, Audi claims, can climb hills with up to 31 degrees of incline. Hill-descent control is standard.
Take control: Dial in your preferences for the chassis, the steering, and the powertrain response.
Audi Drive Select, a stand-alone option that will cost close to $3000 when the Q5 arrives in America, allows the driver to choose among three settings – comfort, normal, or sport – for throttle response, power assistance for the steering, and shift points for the transmission. The driver can mix and match his or her choices for each parameter or create a custom program.
The Drive Select system can be augmented with electronically adjustable suspension dampers and with Dynamic Steering. Audi’s version of BMW‘s Active Steering, it varies the steering ratio and power assistance continuously. In concert with Drive Select, we found that it made a substantial difference in the Q5’s steering feel, giving it very fast response with minimal lock-to-lock, especially at low speeds.
The Q5 puts the “sport” back into “sport-utility.”
The Q5 is based on the same platform as the new Audi A4, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this new crossover drives more like a sport sedan than an SUV. In that vein, it’s a lot like the new Infiniti FX50 and the : SUVs with a whole new level of driving prowess.
From the first turn of the steering wheel on our test car, we noticed the faster, firmer-feeling steering, a welcome change from what you find in many Audis. This was thanks to the Audi Driver Select program, and although that option is rather expensive, we’d want it in our Q5.
Body control and grip are superb, but not at the expense of ride quality over rough pavement (and we did find some rough pavement around Valencia, surfaces that were every bit as bad as what we have back home in southeast Michigan). On smooth pavement, the Q5 rides very well, if firmly, without undue harshness. We were very comfortable riding in both the front passenger’s seat and the driver’s seat.
The Q5’s V-6 sounds great as you rev it to the limit in each gear. It offers plenty of torque, and great throttle response off the line. As noted above, it’s a shame that we won’t get Audi’s new S Tronic 7-speed transmission for the Q5, but Audi officials say that they prefer to introduce that transmission on a sportier vehicle than a crossover. We imagine that, eventually, it will also trickle down to the Q5.
A standout performance in a new class of crossovers.
We came away very impressed by the 2009 Audi Q5. It clearly has surpassed the aging BMW X3 in terms of exterior styling, interior ambience, drivability, and comfort. Audi will face plenty of challengers in this segment, though, from the new Mercedes GLK and , as well as from the existing entries from Acura, Land Rover, and BMW. Buyers in this category might also consider the new Audi A4 Avant, which shares its platform with the Q5. Although we like the Q5 as it is, we hope Audi of America finds a way to offer it soon with the superb 2.0 TFSI four-cylinder turbocharged engine and perhaps also the 3.0-liter TDI V-6 diesel that is debuting this winter in the Q5’s larger sibling, the Q7.
Click here to read about Joe DeMatio’s conversation with Audi of America’s product planner, Filip Brabec.
2009 Audi Q5
Base price (estimated): $39,000
On sale: February or March 2009
Engine: 3.2-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 270 hp @ 6500 rpm
Torque: 243 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
L x W x H: 182.2 x 74.0 x 65.1 in
Legroom F/R: n/a
Headroom F/R: n/a
Cargo capacity (seats up/down): 19.1/55.1 cu ft
Curb Weight: 3836 lb
Fuel economy (Audi-estimated, preliminary city/highway): 17/24 mpg