2009 Audi Q5

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 BMW X6: 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 Volvo XC60, 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
Drive: Four-wheel

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

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