Responsive and almost as carlike as Audi's excellent Allroad wagon, the Q5 earns some of the highest handling marks of any compact luxury crossover. It feels lean and responsive, especially with its entry-level drivetrain.
The carryover base engine this year is Audi's 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, and it's a pleasant, torquey choice that gets our nod for the Q5. It's rated at 211 horsepower, and gets its power sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel drive. In a package weighing in at about 4,100 pounds, the pleasantly torque turbo four runs 0-60 mph times of about 7.0 seconds, and hits a top speed of 130 mph.
Last year's upgrade, a normally-aspirated V-6, is replaced this year by the supercharged version of Audi's 3.0-liter V-6. A good uptick from the older six with far more torque, the new engine's tuned to produce 272 horsepower via the same automatic and all-wheel-drive system, which puts its 0-60 mph time at 6.0 seconds (despite 250 pounds or so in extra curb weight), with the same top speed. It's only available with more expensive features, and fuel economy drops from 23 mpg combined to 21 mpg combined--so while we're gripped by the higher output and the Q5's ability to blast free of on-ramp inertia, the turbo four's a better everyday choice despite a little more coarseness in its game.
Both engines mate up well with the eight-speed automatic--it has closely spaced gears and responsive shifting to go with improved gas mileage, and paddle-shift controls are available--to cut down on the driving distraction of choosing gears manually at the lever, of course.
Audi's quattro all-wheel drive system plus eight inches of ground clearance make the Q5 a good pick for deep snow and steep driveways. The Q5 can also tow up to 4,400 pounds.
This year there's also a Q5 Hybrid, which pairs the turbo four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion batteries for a net of 245 hp and 354 pound-feet of torque, for a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds and combined gas mileage of 26 mpg. We haven't had a chance to drive it yet, but we'll update this review as soon as we get into one.
Driven back to back against some other luxury crossovers without German heritage, the Audi Q5's dynamics come off as taut and carlike. Especially in the lightest-weight turbo four model, the Q5 excels in passing maneuvers, and out of corners. That's with an asterisk: we'd recommend against Audi's adaptive Drive Select controls for steering, transmission, and throttle, and pass on the adaptive suspension, too. Given our recent experience in a 3.0T with the standard suspension and without Drive Select--and past drives with those features--the simpler Q5 just feels better, with more natural response to road flaws. Steering in this case is still typically electric-assist numb, but at least it's predictable and tracks well, which we haven't always found to be the case with Drive Select.Should you choose Drive Select, you'll get four modes of operation--Auto, Sport, Individual, or Comfort. Each one has distinctive feel programmed into each of the vital driving input channels, but each one feels out of touch with the other. Take a note: save the money for the B&O audio.