Test Drive: Audi Q5

Top Rated Premium Compact SUV

The luxury compact SUV segment is filled with outstanding products from Volvo, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Acura and several others, but the Audi Q5 probably ranks as the best of the bunch according to reports by buff and consumer magazines.

First introduced in 2009, the Audi Q5 has quickly developed its top ranking because of its superb styling and efficient drivetrain.? We recently had a chance to sample the changes made to the 2011 model and came away agreeing that the Q5 is the one to beat.

While the Audi Q5 is heavy on positives, it?s not without some shortcomings, the largest being the high price point. ?However for 2011, that complaint was answered somewhat with the availability of the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the Premium and Premium plus models.? That dropped the starting price by $2,100.? We think that?s great, because this is one of our favorite engines.? The latest iteration of this 2.0-liter engine is a 211-hp and 258-lb.ft. of torque version that propels the Q5 from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds.? The EPA lists fuel economy at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. We actually averaged 25.5 mpg.

The top model, the 3.2, has Audi?s smooth 270-hp, 3.2-liter V-6.? It?s just slightly quicker than the four-cylinder making the 0 to 60 mph run in 6.7 seconds and getting an 18/23 mpg EPA rating.

First offered in the U.S. as a 2009 model, the Q5 was outfitted with several other important changes for the 2011 model including the eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive to go with the 2.0T four-cylinder version.

The upper level 3.2 model has a six-speed Tiptronic and quattro standard for the two trim levels.? The top level Prestige model now has standard adaptive headlights, HD Radio? and navigation.? Adaptive cruise control is now also offered as an option on the Prestige.

About the same size as the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, the Audi Q5 looks like a smaller version of its older and 18-inch longer sibling, the Q7.? The Q7 has three rows of seating as opposed to the two rows in the Q5.? The Q5 wears the Audi family deep cross-hatch grille, clean side panels and modified coupe-like roof line with a wider C pillar.

Inside the simple interior is nicely organized with most of the major controls conveniently located around the console-mounted shifter, plus there are some redundant controls on the multifunction dials on the steering wheel. The large color display screen, mounted high on the center stack, is controlled via the MMI Navigation plus system (a large dial and a few buttons located just aft the shifter).? Several manufacturers use similar controls, but we think this one is the more user-friendly systems.? The group of MMI control navigation, audio, communications, trip computer and several vehicle functions.? Many of the features can also be accessed by voice controls.

Using the manual selections of the MMI, we liked the way the selected control lights the active mode making it easy to glance down and identify which function is active.? The electronic parking brake is also a nice feature included on the panel.? Overall, the interior is exceptionally well organized and comfortable.

We like the four-cylinder turbo engine because it has excellent acceleration with minimal turbo lag, the good fuel economy and a lower price.? The engine always seems more powerful than the numbers indicate.? Different variations of the engine are used in many of the Audi and Volkswagen models.

The Q5 rides on the same basic platform as the A4 sedan, and as a result, takes on many of the handling characteristics of that exceptional sedan.? The sophisticated four-wheel independent suspension, large brakes and state of the art quattro permanent all-wheel drive system, combined with all the latest electronic safety equipment give this little crossover/SUV excellent handling characteristics on all types of surfaces.

The Q5, with the four-cylinder turbo engine, eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and quattro now starts at $36,075, including the destination charge.? The price is $2,100 less than the entry 2010 model and still includes features like leather seating, real wood trim, rain sensor wipers, Sirius Satellite Radio and most of the other features we expect on an upscale vehicle.? For someone that wants it all, the 3.2 Premium Plus starts at $43,375 and can top out at just over $58,000 with all the bells and whistles.

Bill and Barbara Schaffer

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