- A lesson in good taste
- Lots of drivetrain choices, all good
- Quick shifts from the eight-speed
- Quattro is standard
- Google Earth maps make Audi Connect a must-have
- We're not sold by Drive Select's adaptive controls
- Easy to spend more than $50,000
- Still no standard rearview camera
- Gas mileage isn't stellar on gas-only models
- 3G connectivity comes with subscription fee
The 2014 Audi Q5 gets quite serious about fuel economy with TDI power; it's still one of the most elegant, truly carlike luxury crossover SUVs.
The Audi Q5 has been one of the best luxury crossovers since its introduction, and this year it expands its offerings with a turbodiesel TDI edition that's good for a 31-mpg highway EPA rating.
In the Q5, Audi now offers a total of five powertrains, all coupled to standard all-wheel drive. With each one, Audi also equips the Q5 with a paddle-shifted, eight-speed automatic gearbox. With any of them, the Q5 delivers responsive handling and acceleration, despite its tall roof and good ground clearance.
Less of a shrunken Q7 than a more spacious Audi wagon, the Audi Q5 has pretty proportions and a cabin that's cleanly styled and trimmed to a high standard. The cohesive look fits snugly alongside Audi's car lineup, blending in easily with the Allroad wagon and even the A4 sedan, which all share its tall grille and slim LED-outlined headlamps. Its cockpit sets a high-water mark for simplicity and for fit and finish, particularly with the optional layered-oak trim, though we might wish for more recognizable buttons while we fumble to control the lush-looking non-touchscreen display.
Last year's push for higher fuel economy continues for 2014, even as Audi plots a higher-performance model for the Q5 lineup. We're happy with any of the carry-over powerplants, especially the 2.0-liter turbo four--it's lighter and almost as quick as the Q5 3.0T, with its 272-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6. We've spent less time with the Q5 Hybrid, which blends the power from a 54-hp electric motor and lithium-ion batteries for 245 hp net, but would tend to prefer the Q5 TDI we've driven extensively, anyway. The turbodiesel's acceleration is similar, its combined fuel economy higher, and its driving feel more natural. All-wheel drive is standard on all Q5 crossovers, as is an eight-speed, paddle-shifted automatic.
With all the non-hybrid drivetrains, the Q5 excels at in passing maneuvers, and out of corners, and it truly handles like a car, with the lean, responsive feel of a lower-riding wagon--though we'll pass on the user-adjustable driving inputs of Drive Select, and stick with the stock suspension and steering setups. (We may feel differently about the high-powered, 354-hp SQ5 edition coming soon. Stay tuned for more after our upcoming first drive.)
Passengers sit relatively high in the Q5, 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. The Q5 has excellent build quality and a tight, refined feel overall--although road noise can be an issue.
The Audi Q5 was an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013, 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. A rearview camera is available, but only in an expensive bundle of features. Bluetooth is now standard.
The Q5 can be equipped with a wide range of features, but its base price of around $38,000 can be driven up very rapidly 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, iPod connectivity, 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 Q5 3.0T can easily top $55,000. The Q5 also now offers as optional equipment Audi Connect 3G wireless Internet service, Google Earth mapping, adaptive cruise control with full braking at speeds of up to 19 mph, and a rear-seat entertainment system.