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The 2012 Audi Q5 is part of a burgeoning class of compact luxury crossovers, but it's one of the most stylish, fuel-efficient, and enjoyable to drive among tough competition that includes the Mercedes-Benz GLK and BMW X3.Nice proportions, and a clean, cohesive look inside and out make the Q5 feel less like merely a downsized Q7 and instead more like a ground-up new design for those who want a vehicle that's taller and perhaps more versatile than the Audi A4 Avant (wagon). Inside, it's a well-executed driving environment, with the sort of stylish simplicity—trimmed with rich materials that add a luxury undertone—that Audi seems to do better than anyone else.
Last year, Audi has broadened the Q5's appeal with the introduction of a new 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder model and new eight-speed automatic transmission, and while its 211-horsepower output is quite a bit lower than the 270-hp V-6 in the Q5 3.2 model, we almost unconditionally recommend the 2.0T. It actually produces more torque than the V-6—258 pound feet, versus 243 lb-ft—so it never feels off its game with the new automatic's closely spaced gears and responsive shifting, and secondly, it's a lot more fuel-efficient, at an EPA-rated 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway. The smaller engine isn't quite as quick to 60 mph (7.1 seconds, versus 6.7), and the down side is that it's a bit more coarse in sound, but it excels at in passing maneuvers, and out of corners. Overall, the Q5 handles like a car, with the lean, responsive feel of a lower-riding wagon, but the steering, as in the A4 sedan, has an overly damped feel.
You sit relatively high in the 2012 Q5, at least compared to passenger cars, with more than enough headroom and legroom in front, and the seats themselves are firm and adjustable to a wide range of sizes. Even in back, there's a enough legroom for most adults, thanks to a rather long wheelbase. Cabin materials are about the best they come in this class, with a rich, unified feel throughout and nice detailing. Furthermore, the Q5 has excellent build quality and a tight, refined feel overall--although road noise can be an issue.
The 2012 Audi Q5 remains an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2012, and it has one of the most complete sets of safety features in this class; rear thorax airbags, which aren't broadly offered, are optional here.
The Q5 can be equipped with a wide range of features, but its base price of around $35k can very rapidly be driven up by checking a few option boxes. Standard equipment includes a ten-speaker sound system, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, power front seats, tri-zone climate control, Sirius satellite radio, and an SD card slot that can manage up to 32 gigabytes of music. Premium Plus and Prestige models load on the luxuries, and a Prestige 3.2 tops $50k. In addition, Audi nickles and dimes buyers for things like Bluetooth, or an iPod interface, which are standard on most other models, even cheap ones. For 2012, rear-door sunshades have been added to the top Prestige model, and an Advanced Key system is offered on the Premium Plus.