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 2009 Audi A4 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 A4 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.