Sporty Audi Q5 holds its own
Summit Daily auto writer
I think I was truly sold on the Audi Q5 the moment I figured out that the small but sprightly SUV could hold a corner so well and at such a high rate of speed that the gum flew out of my mouth. This, on snow tires, no less.
And while your first impressions of travel in the Q5 might produce thoughts like “gee, the suspension seems a little stiff,” treat the Audi more like a sporty sedan and less like you’ve come to expect from a traditionally wobbly SUV … and it all makes sense.
Audi’s first entry into the small SUV world, the Q5 can be seen as a scaled-down version of the marginally gargantuan Q7, but is not simply an Audi-ized version of the Volkswagen Tiguan.
The Q5 shares its basic architecture with the A4 sedan and as a result, while the 110.5-inch wheelbase is not quite long enough to offer backseat passengers the magnificent acreage found in the Q7, you do get reasonable proportions.
And powered by the gutsy, 270-horsepower 3.2-liter FSI V-6 engine, you have a 23-mpg vehicle whose velocity and versatility is only enhanced by Autobahn-worthy stability.
I can say this with some truth as a friend had the good grace to enjoy a Q5 in Europe for three weeks in January, and even equipped with the Euro-spec, 140-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbodiesel, she enjoyed many hours of 100-mph-plus cruising in Germany, without an apparent care in the world.
Much of my overall glee during my short time with the Q5 may be attributed to the first really good snow tires I’ve experienced on a test car this winter (budget cutbacks have left many of our local test vehicles equipped with iffy summer tires). The Dunlop Winter Sport 3Ds allow actual, honest-to-god stopping on ice, poised handling on snow and yet are still totally sound on pavement. They’d probably make even your crappy old Grand Am work like a pro on the slick stuff.
Mated to the Audi, they made for a bulletproof combination. The six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission is also a wonderfully intuitive piece of work, especially when clicked into the higher-revving sport mode. My tester lacked wheel-mounted paddles (plus the console-mounted pushbutton starter seen on other Audi models, which might have helped my friend).
Q5’s only shortfall is a slightly generic look when viewed from the front quarter aspect – when everyone and their dog in the auto world is churning out small, roundish SUVs, things kinda blur together – though the large and genuinely storm drain-styled front grille and a gentle swoop to the body line do add some extra class.
I also liked the Q5-embossed adaptive xenon headlamps with LED daytime lights. Like the Tiguan, the Q5’s impressively large side mirrors give you great rear views but are large enough to impair some forward vision.
The Q5’s other details are resplendent with Audi’s typical devotion to functional style, ranging from the busy-but-easily-learnable MMI audio and navigation interface, to some very supportive but wonderfully comfortable leather seating.
The newest generation of navigation also offers tremendously well-rendered, almost 3D maps, making it the first system I’ve seen to show Colorado’s foothills and mountains in realistic aspect.
Cabin colors and feels (beyond the cinnamon-colored leather, the stainless steel door sills and the real ash wood inlay) do emphasize a lot of plastic, but it’s not quite as obvious as other luxury competitors. The new Cadillac SRX’s door panels look like an injection-molded Coleman cooler compared to Audi’s more well-rounded work.
Climbing into the rear seat does reveal Q5’s slightly stocky stature (you gotta do a little dance to jump up over the wheel wells), but it’s not impossibly small. Rear seats down, you can also load 57 cubic feet of gear, with access helped by a powered liftgate. A full-cabin sunroof also provides almost convertible-like views.
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