Audi’s Q5 serves up extra-solid performance |

Audi’s Q5 serves up extra-solid performance

Andy Stonehouse
summit daily auto writer
2011 Audi Q5 2.0 Quattro Tiptronic

As I discovered when I first drove an Audi Q5 last year, there are small SUV crossovers, and then there are Audis – and you do not compare the two after you’ve driven the Audi.

The Q5’s looks might elicit a generic response, but sit behind the wheel and head out on an old-fashioned joyride, and you’ll see that all the sporty DNA and nearly magnetic grip of the Quattro system makes this a very different kind of animal.

True enough, the Q5’s tightly sprung suspension, rigidly effective steering and even stiff leather seating is the antithesis of many softer options, but … that’s the Audi deal, and it lives strongly in the Q5, itself the smaller brother of the gargantuan Q7.

My drive this year was in a Q5 equipped with the smaller 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, tuned more in accord with the 211-horsepower version found in the A4 sedan, and I found it to be nearly bulletproof.

Last year’s drive was in the 270-HP 3.2-liter V6; the smaller engine got me up to speed with almost the same oomph, yet generated at least the 27 mpg highway figure it’s stickered at, and reached into the low 30s on certain jaunts.

This is partially due, I suppose, to the new eight-speed Tiptronic (automatic) transmission, which sashays through the gears in an effortless fashion. Eight gears is a lot, indeed, but the technology is increasingly impressive. I would opt not to think about the eventual repair costs. Audi long-timers understand what they’re signing up for. If you’re in for enhanced personal control, the gear shifter can be clicked into manual Tiptronic mode and clicked up and down, many times.

The rigidity is still there (did I really expect anything else) and that’s going to prove a little jarring for some drivers; steering also seemed a little on the strong-armed side. Should you opt to drive in a sporty fashion, the Q5 sticks to corners in an almost frightening fashion, and it appears that the machine can very capably cruise at about 95 mph for hours at end, though you’d hardly be able to sense the high speeds.

This year’s Q5 tester was sans the full navigation setup, but you still get a color TV screen providing audio and car setup functions. I hear that the higher-end models now feature a Palm Pilot-styled input stylus, but mine was merely a central control knob and the ring of not-at-first-, but eventually intuitive controls.

And true to form, Audi’s air conditioning and heating controls are micromanagement at its finest, with fan speed, distribution, temperature and seat heater settings easily dialed up and displayed on that screen.

Stiff efficiency also spreads out to the hard rubberized or leather-topped wheel and controls, plus a rigid but efficient interior design.

The stiff, supportive seating spreads to the second row, though passengers didn’t complain, and a 60/40 split dropped to allow a reasonable 57 cubic feet of cargo space, plus a hard tonneau cover to secure your goods.

Up above, one of the most gigantic panorama sunroofs in the business covers the entire cabin, although the slow-to-deploy opaque screen may not be quite adequate on exceptionally sunny days.

PS: Dear readers, I do apologize for the onslaught of Audi reviews and a dearth of, say, Ford or General Motors vehicles – if you have some suggestions or requests for machines you’d like to see reviewed in the future, please pass them along to and I’ll forward them to my car providers.

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