2014 Audi Q5 Performance

8.0
Performance

The Audi Q5 is one of the rare crossover vehicles with true multiple personalities--in the best possible sense. With a choice of five engines, all the different Q5s impart their own driving feel, from brightly enthusiastic to sensibly pragmatic. In every case, the Q5's well-sorted suspension responds capably.

For the most nimble model, choose the base 2.0-liter turbo-4. It has 220 hp, down versus other gas-powered models, but it weighs less even at its 4,100-pound curb weight. It's plenty assertive in the Q5, with smooth power and not much turbo lag, quick enough to hit 60 mph in 7 seconds and to cruise to a 130-mph top speed.

The Q5 rides on the firm side; we'd choose the TDI or supercharged six-cylinders for the best economy or performance, respectively.

Most buyers will at least look at the 272-hp supercharged V-6. It's a second quicker to 60 mph, but has the same all-wheel-drive system and 8-speed automatic as other models. With more weight on the nose, it's not as deft to steer as the turbo-4 Q5, but this V-6 can blast away traffic inertia and hug exit ramps like a champ, even if the magnitude of difference over the turbo-4 isn't all that great.

Audi offers two fuel-conscious Q5s. The turbodiesel has EPA combined ratings of 27 mpg, and twists out 428 lb-ft of torque, which keeps straight-line performance in line with its gas-powered relatives. Tire noise is higher, too, thanks to the extra weight the diesel heaps on the nose.

Choose the Hybrid instead, and your turbo-4 gets an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack as its new besties. With 245 hp net and 354 lb-ft of torque, it can outgun the turbo-4 alone, while it turns in 26 mpg EPA combined.

Shortly, we'll have the story on the SQ5, the first Audi crossover ever to earn the S badge. With the high-output supercharged six, the 354-hp SQ5 promises 5.1-second runs to 60 mph and a 155-mph top speed. Stay tuned for more on this version, soon.

On all Q5 SUVs, the 8-speed automatic has responsive shift feel and tightly spaced gears, with paddle controls that let you take over the helm. Most versions have all-wheel drive and 8 inches of ground clearance, and the combination gives the Q5 fine all-weather traction. Depending on the engine, some Q5s can tow 4,400 pounds.

Especially as a turbo-4, the Q5 has carlike road manners with handling that's more taut than you might expect. It's a blast, pulling out of corners or passing on highways. The steering is predictable and tracks rather well, though it's not laden with feedback.

We'd skip Drive Select, which tailors steering, throttle, transmission and stability control from Comfort to Sport modes. The programming choices feel especially algorithmic, not rhythmic, and can make the Q5 feel out of touch with its own senses. We'd spend the money on the fine B&O stereo system instead.

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