Automobile Magazine recently concluded a yearlong test of an Audi Q5 with the 3.2-liter V-6 engine which was the only engine available at launch. We came away thinking that the V-6-powered Q5 is a very quick and sporty-driving crossover, but we wished for better fuel economy. For 2011, Audi answered by adding a second engine option: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo.
After its successful application in the A4 (where it has supplanted the V-6 entirely), Audi’s all-conquering 2.0T moved upmarket into the A5 coupe, and now to this Q5. Paired with a highly efficient 8-speed automatic, the turbo four delivers on its promise of better fuel economy, with an impressive 20 mpg city and 27 mpg on the highway–and that’s with all-wheel drive, which is standard. Not only is that significantly better than the V-6 Q5’s 18/23 mpg, but it also blows away the all-wheel-drive Acura RD-X, which also has a turbo four but manages only 17/22 mpg. And it beats even the two-wheel-drive versions of the RDX and all its six-cylinder competitors, including the Lexus RX350, the Lincoln MKX, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, the BMW X3, the Volvo XC60, and the Cadillac SRX.
Best of all is that this segment-topping fuel economy comes at essentially no cost in drivability. Yes, the 2.0T is a bit slower than its blistering-fast six-cylinder sibling, but 7.1 seconds from 0 to 60 mph is hardly sluggish and it’s only 0.4 second behind the 3.2-liter. Because Audi’s turbo four makes all of its 258 pound-feet of torque available at only 1500 rpm, the 8-speed automatic usually has to drop down only one gear for most on-the-move calls for acceleration, making the Q5 2.0T very responsive in real-world driving. In other respects, the driving 2.0T is pretty much a repeat of our experience with the six-cylinder Q5. This tall-boy crossover is an agile handler but at a cost of an occasionally stiff ride. And here, as in several other Audis, the steering is marred by too much variation in the level of power assist. The driver’s environment is much the same, with leather again standard. This example was missing the optional navigation system that we had on our long-term Q5, but even without it, you get Audi’s MMI multi-media controller, although it’s in a slightly less convenient location on the dashboard rather than on the center console.
Audi has positioned the 2.0T as the base model, and at a starting price of $36,075, it’s $7300 less expensive than the Q5 3.2. Appropriately, Audi is now playing up the performance aspect of the 3.2, by making the S-Line exterior package standard on that model and offering rolling stock as large as 20 inches, with summer performance tires.
Chalk up the Q5 as another success for Audi’s ultra-versatile direct-injected turbo four. But this engine’s greatest challenge still lies ahead: it’s headed for the redesigned 2012 A6. We’ll be interested to see if it continues to impress us as much as it did here.
2011 Audi Q5 2.0T
Base price: $36,075
Price as tested: $38,975
Standard equipment: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, 18-inch wheels, roof rails with crossbars, power front seats, leather seating surfaces
Options on this vehicle: Panorama sunroof, Bluetooth and HomeLink package, heated front seats, Audi music interface with iPod cable
Key options not on vehicle: Premium Plus package, Audi Drive Select, navigation system, Bang & Olufsen sound system, HD radio, voice control system, rear-seat side airbags, 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights w/self leveling and LED DRLs
20/27/22 mpg (city/highway/combined)
2.0L I-4 turbo
Horsepower: 211 hp @ 4300 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Curb weight: 4090 lb
Wheels/tires: 235/60 R18 Dunlop Grandtrek
2.0-liter turbo four is a new base model.