What It Is
A luxury compact crossover with a fuel-efficient diesel engine
Confident ride, comfortable interior
Difficult infotainment system
Although it is a niche product, it is a top competitor.
You may think that Audi's most popular model would be the A4 sedan, but that title actually belongs to the Q5 crossover. Debuting for the 2009 model year, this compact utility vehicle slots below the Q7, which is the only other crossover offered by the brand. But the term "compact crossover" doesn't fully describe what it is, as this model is actually somewhat larger than other key competitors like the BMW X3.
Overall, we noticed that the Audi Q5 offers plenty of space for families and cargo without acting like a large vehicle. And despite a few misgivings, we generally came away with good impressions on ride quality and performance. While the competition is fierce in this segment, we think the Q5 is a worthy competitor.
What We DroveWe drove the diesel-powered Q5, which displaces 3.0 liters and produces 240 horsepower and a healthy 428 lb-ft of torque. This engine is available on the two upper trim levels on the Q5. Our model was the mid-level Premium Plus, which adds panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, keyless ignition, and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen above the standard model. Our model also tacked on a $3,500 package that brought along navigation, DVD player and HD radio, parking system plus, and Audi connect. All in all, the total cost of our model came to $51,445, including tax.
The 2014 Audi Q5 earned four stars in crash tests from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safety features include seat belt pretensioners, active rollover protection, side impact protection, front and rear impact body crumple zones, LATCH points, and an array of airbags.
The CommuteMorning drives down Sepulveda Boulevard near LAX are surprisingly calm, at least before 8:00. Our drive in the Q5 only enhanced this sensation, thanks to its smooth ride and quiet interior. This SUV handles road imperfections with poise. But we did notice the eight-speed transmission wasn't as smooth as we would have liked. While starting from a complete stop, we could definitely feel the shifts as the car accelerated up to speed again. We enjoyed this car's steering, which is effortless. And despite its larger body, the Q5 handles well on tight turns, providing for a confident ride feel.
Radio controls on the Q5 are located near the shifter, making them easy to reach. But actually working the knob to change stations is quite difficult. Turning the knob to the right moves the cursor up the screen, making it counter-intuitive for many drivers.
The Grocery RunThe Audi Q5 provides plenty of space for passengers in the back, as well as a surprising amount of space in the back. But when the seats are folded (almost flat to the floor) and drivers really need to maximize space, the SUV's maximum cargo capacity comes in slightly below the X3, RDX, SRX, QX50 and most others in its class. Still, we had no problem fitting in a week's worth of groceries for a small family in the trunk without the seats folded down. Thanks to the power liftgate and wide hatch, it was easy to load everything we needed inside.
Fortunately, the Q5's nimble handling makes it easy to pull into parking spaces. Our optional "Parking System Plus" showed us just how much room we have in the front and rear of the car for maneuvering.
The Weekend FunSometimes what seems like one car in the commute actually feels like another during long weekend drives. This is kind of how we felt about this model. During the commute where there are plenty of traffic lights, we enjoyed this car, but not nearly as much as when we drove it on long highway stretches. Passing other cars is easy, and you can hardly tell when you have reached the speed limit. We also noticed just how fuel-efficient this model is considering its size. While the Q5 TDI is rated at 31 mpg on the highway, we were able to do better than this when we tested it out.
Even after long rides, the Q5 keeps drivers comfortable with supportive yet forgiving seats. Our model had leather surface seats, as well as 8-way power and 4-way lumbar support. Unfortunately, our model did not include cooled seats like some other competitors.
We busted out the navigation for the first time during our weekend adventures, and unfortunately, we saw room for improvement. The list of turn-by-turn directions is cluttered with information about future turn-offs and traffic information, and we found it difficult to find information we needed quickly by looking at the screen. Nevertheless, we were able to successfully reach our destinations thanks to this system's quick response time.
SummaryWe enjoyed our time with the Q5, and it was quickly clear that this is a competent car in its segment. But the big question remains: Should buyers opt for the TDI or one of the standard gas engines? Considering that the TDI has a $2,100 price premium over the gas V-6 with the same equipment, but achieves 5 mpg better in the city and on the highway, the Q5 TDI may be an economical choice for buyers. Those looking for base models with fewer advanced features, however, won't be able to receive a diesel engine.
Luckily for Audi, there aren't too many other automakers offering a powerful yet fuel-efficient luxury diesel compact crossover. However, BMW is now entering the segment with an all-new diesel version of its X3. The BMW X3 xDrive28d may be a new competitor, but it is less powerful, providing only 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque from a turbo four-cylinder. We would say that Audi still remains the biggest player in luxury diesel cars, so consumers in this niche will definitely want to look at the Q5 TDI.
Spec BoxPrice-as-tested: $51,445
EPA City: 24
EPA Highway: 31
EPA Combined: 27
Cargo Space: groceries for the whole family
Child Seat Fitment, Second Row: Good
Estimated Combined Range: 534 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Not Available