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2009 Audi Q5 3.2 quattro Review

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SEE ALSO: 2009 Audi Q5 Road Trip - Video

A German of Substance
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Perhaps the most popular automotive genre of all is the small crossover – an SUV-type vehicle developed from a small sedan platform. Here’s one of the best – and most expensive – the new-for-2009 Audi Q5, developed from the solid, competent sophisticated A4. I suppose you could think of the Q5 as the little brother of the wonderful Q7 that we wrote about last year.

First impressions are important and the Q5 made a good one. Just after it was delivered we jumped in for a hurried trip to town and it immediately impressed. The feeling of substance, heft and quality amazed us. Though the Q5 weighs just 4,178 pounds it felt heavier – not cumbersome, not bulky, not awkward – just solid and substantial.

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The Q5 is one of the most boldly styled in its class. It looks bigger than it is as well, I think, and our Ibis White version is really a standout. I was unprepared, though, for the kind of attention it garnered. As we were passing through town I noticed a Jeep Liberty full of teenagers passing on my right all craning their necks and gesturing. Finally, we pulled up to a light side by side and I lowered the passenger side window to see what they had to say. The skinny guy in the rear hollered, “We really love your car!” I could hear acquiescence among his colleagues as well.

It sure is a good looking ride. Artful lines intersect gracefully to project a distinctly Audi look. The overall shape seems bulky, rather than sleek, but it works on this vehicle. Large headlight and taillight designs fit the scale of the Q5. A distinctive, curved line of LEDs above each headlight constitute the daytime running lights. Large wheel arches are filled nicely with the standard 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/60 all-weather tires (19 and 20-inch wheels are optional).

Only one powertrain comes in the Q5 – a 3.2-liter, 270-horsepower V6 making 243 pound-feet of torque. Audi claims a zero-to-60 time of 6.8 seconds, though it didn’t feel that fast. We didn’t really push it particularly hard this week, so we don’t have hard numbers to share. It did feel like we had plenty of power to do whatever we needed to do. At least 91-octane fuel (premium) is recommended and the EPA rates it at 18mpg in the city and 23 on the highway. With a 19.8-gallon fuel tank we can expect close to 400 miles on a tank of fuel.

Power gets to all four wheels by way of a 6-speed Tiptronic transmission and Audi’s wonderful quattro all-wheel drive system. Quattro, as I have said many times is one of the best, if not the best system out there for managing the treacherous winter roads we so often experience here in the blizzardy north. I’ve probably spent more time skating confidently along on icy roads with the quattro system than any other and I’m quite enamored with it.

If you have a boat or a few horses to haul you may appreciate the Q5’s better than average towing capacity of 4,400 pounds, “when properly equipped.” That’s better than most in its class.

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Q5’s interior matches the best of the premium small SUVs. Remember, the competitors here are BMW X3, Mercedes GLK, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35 and Land Rover LR2 among others. High quality wood, plastics and metal trim fit together flawlessly and reflect a classically Teutonic aesthetic. The firm leather seats accommodate my broad beam quite comfortably. Gauges, controls and information systems are plentiful and can be complex but I had no trouble figuring things out without going to the book.

I have complained in the past about Audi’s navigation system controls being too complex but I no longer find that to be the case. The system is greatly improved and I found the map to be one of the best I’ve encountered.

Many of the car’s functions – audio, seat heaters, climate, navigation etc. – are controlled with the knob on the console called Multi Media Interface. Another system I’ve complained about. But this new version is intuitive and easily managed.

We had rear seat passengers this week who thought their environment to be plenty roomy and luxurious. Their only complaint was the size of the front seat headrests which severely restrict their view forward. They were impressed with the little bit of recline the seat backs are capable of and the 4 inches of fore and aft adjustment.

Our test car is equipped with the pricey (almost 3-grand), optional Audi Drive Select which allows us to choose between dynamic modes by varying suspension damping, throttle response, steering input, shift points and other variables to maximize smoothness, quickness or whatever mode might fit your mood. We kept it mostly in the standard mode and found the ride and handling typically German, that is, firm, tight and no-nonsense. Steering was rather stiff particularly at lower speeds, but not unpleasantly so. It just seemed that the Audi folks wanted to be sure I wasn’t taking the Q5 for granted by being too insulated from the process of driving.

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As a crossover part of the Q5’s job is to haul cargo, of course. With the second seat up we find a good 29.1 cubic-feet of space. That’s about 5 cubic-feet more than the Audi A4 Avant. With the seats folded flat we have a substantial 55 cubic-feet to stow our stuff.

Prices for the Q5 start at $37,200. Our tester has the Prestige Package costing $11,000 which includes: a cool panoramic sunroof, xenon headlights with led daytime running lights, Homelink, power tailgate, heated front seats, Bluetooth integration, driver’s seat memory, auto-dimming mirror with compass, power folding mirrors, Audi music interface with iPod cable, stainless steel trunk edge, premium Bang and Olufsen sound system, keyless entry and ignition, 19-inch wheels, Audi parking system with rear view camera, and Audi’s MMI navigation system. We also have the $2,950 Audi drive system and $500 side assist. Along with the $825 destination charge our sticker shows a substantial $52,475.

Audi’s warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the first scheduled maintenance is free.

Surely, the Q5 is in a price category that is attainable by a limited number of buyers but there are obviously enough of you out there to support quite a few vehicles in this luxury CUV category. If you’re one of these fortunate folks you’ll probably want to put the Q5 on your shopping list.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved