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2011 Audi Q5 2.0T quattro Tiptronic Review By Steve Purdy +VIDEO

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Audi Buyers Guide - Specs, Reviews, Prices and Comparisons

A Cool, Classy Crossover
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

We’re in the middle of a series of Audi products as we review the Q5 small crossover. We started with the amazing A7, then the cute and practical A3, now the Q5 and next week the big, luxurious A8L limo.

As we immerse ourselves in these Teutonic wonders we’re struck by an overwhelming appreciation that Audi stuck with the US market after suffering a near fatal blow (in the US at least) back in the 1980s around “unintended acceleration.” Sound familiar? Some of our younger readers may not be aware of what happened then, but it was not unlike what happened to Toyota over the past couple of years. That is, a couple of incidents occurred where drivers lost control of their cars blaming it on an unexplained failure in the car’s mechanical systems resulting in the car running wild in spite of the driver’s foot mashing on the brake pedal. In both Audi and Toyota cases no one has ever been able to reproduce the nebulous fault and in both cases frenzied media and ravenous litigators piled on.

In any case the most noticeable lasting result with Audi products has been the necessity to have our foot firmly on the brake in order to shift from neutral to drive. A few other cars are designed this way, but fortunately not many.

Now, back to the car at hand, the fun, attractive, upscale Audi Q5 compact crossover first introduced as a 2009 model using a new platform called MLP, for Modular Longitudinal Platform. The 5-passenger Q5 slots between the larger, 3-row seat Q7 and the soon-to-be-introduced Q3, which will be based on the Volkswagon Tiguan. (Tiguan, by the way, has been substantially updated and will be the basis of our upcoming road trip story exploring Lake Tahoe. Watch for that one in October.)

Four iterations make up the Q5 lineup: Premium and Premium Plus models powered by the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine, and Premium Plus and Prestige models with the 3.2-liter FSI V6. The 2.0TFSI cars start at $35,200 and the 3.2 FSI cars start at $42,500. All Q5s are equipped with Audi’s trusty quattro all-wheel drive system. (Prices for the Q5s go up just a couple hundred bucks for 2012.)

Our tester shows a base price of $35,200. The extra-cost Quartz Gray metallic paint costs $475 extra and the Bluetooth & Homelink package adds $700. (It seems odd that a car this costly would charge extra for Bluetooth capability, don’t you think?) Heated front seats cost another $450 and iPod interface is $300. With the $850 destination charge, it all adds up to $38,000.

Visually, our first impression is that of a classically German conservative design – lovely, but conservative, rather like an engineer’s mistress. It looks nothing like we would expect of something classified as a “compact.” It appears larger than compact crossovers like the Equinox, X3, and Santa Fe. With the standard 18-inch wheels (19-inchers on the 3.2 FSI), smooth lines and deep grille it looks attractively modern but not angular as is becoming the trend. Look closely, in fact, and you’ll see some remarkably cool LED running lights and taillights along with xenon headlight and other subtle details. In spite of the smooth and less-than-dramatic lines the Audi Q5 must push a lot of wind out of the way to get down the road. With a coefficient of drag of 0.33 the Q5 is quite admirable for a crossover.

Inside, we also find an impressive environment. A little bit of wood, other very nice materials and lots of buttons, dials, rollers, knobs and readouts provide control and information enough to make us feel like we’re really in charge. Like the previous Audis we’ve reviewed we found the controls and systems surprisingly easy to manage. There was a time not long ago when we were critical of the complexity of the Audi (and the other German) systems finding them confusing and unnecessarily complex. Either we’ve become acclimated to all the complexity or Audi has learned to make it more intuitive. Perhaps both. In any case, we found it well appointed and well designed, indeed.

Space inside felt generous for a compact CUV. Up front the standard leather, 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat accommodated my girth easily. Rear seat passengers will find a more comfortable environment in the Q5 than most competing crossovers with the exclusive standard fore and aft adjustment as well as a bit of recline. Standard also is the three-zone climate control. Interior volume is 53.9 cubic-feet and luggage capacity is an impressive 29.1 cubic-feet.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine generates 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Zero-to-60 mph time is listed at 7.1 seconds with a top speed of 130 mph. With a curb weight of just over 4,000 pounds the Q5 feels substantial but not cumbersome. We felt no appreciable turbo lag indicating a remarkable job of engine tuning. Like many single turbos, though, we had to get the rpms up a bit before we felt the full thrust.

Feeding the power to the road is this wonderful new 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission mated to Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive, self-locking center differential. Sixth gear is 1.0 with seventh and eighth being overdrive allowing the highway mileage to improve substantially. The transmission also has engine/throttle mapping that can adjust shift points to driving style and conditions.

The Audi Q5 suspension provides a feeling of solid control. Even on tight curves and cloverleaf freeway ramps we can maintain speeds enough to trigger just a spurt of adrenalin without excessive lean. With fully independent front five-link geometry and rear trapezoidal-link and steel coil springs all around, the talented Audi engineers have tuned it just about right for a balance of performance, handling and comfort. Folks who regularly ply rough, pitted roads might find it a bit stiff but the nearly 8 inches of ground clearance will serve them well on those roads. Even with all-wheel drive it’s not meant to be an off-roader (no skid plates, for instance) but will serve well on snow, mud and other bad roads.

Watch TACH video promo of the 2012 Audi Q5

The Audi Q5 boasts six airbags, active and passive rollover mitigation systems, a rigid body structure with side impact beams and all the chassis dynamics we now expect in upscale cars, like ABS (anti-lock brankes) and ESP (electronic stabilization program). The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named the Q5 a Top Safety Pick.

The EPA rates the 2.0 TFSI Q5 at 20-mpg in the city, 27 on the highway with a 22-mpg average. With a 19.4 gallon fuel tank we can expect a cruising range of over 400 miles in mixed driving. With the turbo, of course, premium fuel is recommended.

Best-in-class standard towing capacity is 4,400 pounds with a tongue weight limit of 440 pounds. Roof load limit is rated at 220 pounds and a sensor up there will tell the car if a roof rack has been attached so that the electronic stability system will kick in a bit sooner.

Audi’s new car warranty covers the Q5, including powertrain, for four years or 50,000 miles with the first service free. The body is warranted against corrosion for 12 years and unlimited miles.

The competition in this segment of small, premium crossovers is stiff with such challengers as the BMW X3, Land Rover LR2 HSE, Mercedes GLK350, Lexus RX350 and Acura RDX. While we don’t have them side-by-side for a comparison, we think the Audi Q5 needn’t take a back seat to any. The standard Quattro all-wheel drive, 8-speed transmission, LED DRLs, overall competence and rear seat flexibility may set it apart just enough.

Take a close look at the Audi Q5 if you’re in that market.

Watch the Q5 Hybrid promo video

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved