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2013 Audi Q5

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
July 31, 2013

Buying tip

We're still sold on the Q5 2.0T for its economy and mid-line performance, but some options just aren't available with it. Pass up the Drive Select and adaptive cruise control and stick with the turbo four to keep the pricetag reasonable.

features & specs

quattro 4-Door 2.0T Premium
quattro 4-Door 2.0T Premium Plus
quattro 4-Door 2.0T Prestige Hybrid
20 city / 28 hwy
20 city / 28 hwy
24 city / 30 hwy

The 2013 Audi Q5 is one of the more carlike crossovers, with elegant execution, smart high-tech features, and very good passenger space.

The Audi Q5 redefines the term "car-like" as used to refer to the driving characteristics of a crossover utility vehicle. Almost straddling the border between crossovers and wagons, the Q5 feels truly car-like, despite the taller roof line, extra ground clearance, and standard quattro all-wheel drive.

The Q5 wasn't the first luxury crossover in the U.S., and it's not the newest, but what it offers in handling, acceleration, and passenger space make it one of the top options in its size class, and even a viable alternative to those shopping for sedans and wagons like the Audi A4 or Allroad.

It's much closer to those roots than some of its competition--the BMW X3, the Cadillac SRX, the Range Rover Evoque, the Mercedes-Benz GLK--and it shows plainly, right off the bat in styling.

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The Q5 isn't so much a downsized Q7 as it is a grown-up A4 Avant. The proportions are just about perfect, and the look is cohesive and clean, inside and out. The changes made to the A4 this year have merged onto the Q5's front end, in the reshaped grille and in headlamps ringed in LED tubes. The cabin's sprouted a few more buttons and a richer LCD display, but still sets a benchmark for visual simplicity--and for the synergy of styling and materials that elevates the cabin to a higher plane, especially in the layered-oak treatment we've seen in a few recent test cars.

For the 2013 model year, the Audi Q5 carries over its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but offers as a high-output option its 272-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 coupled to an eight-speed automatic--and introduces a new Q5 Hybrid to the mix. The hybrid blends the turbo four powertrain and eight-speed automatic with lithium-ion batteries and a 54-hp electric motor for a net of 245 hp, a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, and combined gas mileage of 26 mpg. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard with the hybrid, as it is with the other powertrains.

The 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder remains our pick in the lineup, for its lively acceleration and good fuel economy; the added weight from standard all-wheel drive is offset in the fuel-economy numbers by a responsive eight-speed automatic. The V-6 is quieter and about second quicker to 60 mph, but adds thousands to the Q5's already stiff sticker price and extracts a significant gas-mileage penalty. With either gas-only powertrain, 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.

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 remains 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.

The Q5 can be equipped with a wide range of features, but its base price of around $37,000 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, and an SD card slot that can manage up to 32 gigabytes of music--but you'll pay extra for Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. 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.


2013 Audi Q5


Smoothly shaped and spare of detail, the Audi Q5 wears enduring metal and rich materials, inside and out.

A cohesive take on the compact crossover, the Audi Q5 has some of the loveliest lines and spares us all the overuse of lines and details that shout "SUV" from the rooftops of some other crossovers. It's pretty, and it's elegant--it's almost an Allroad, for better or worse.

At the front, the Q5 adopts some of the light touch-ups applied to the rest of the A4/A5 family of vehicles. The grille is reshaped with some chamfers at the top corners, and the headlamps are slimmed down (and trimmed with LED daytime running lights, tube-style). Subtly curving, car-like roof lines tail off toward a rear end capped by new LED taillamps. It's rounded and somewhat blunt--to its core, German.

Inside, the Q5 offers a well-executed driving environment, with the sort of stylish simplicity—trimmed with rich materials that add a luxury undertone—that Audi still seems to do better than anyone else. Just as in most other models from the Audi lineup, there's a rather wide center console, clearly differentiating the driver and front passenger areas, cockpit style, yet the dash itself isn't all that curvy or claustrophobic--rather, it's more upright and forward, helping maximize a sense of space. A beautiful layered oak trim is now an option, elevating bits of the dash with a furniture-like finish.

Audi frames all this in metallic trim, wood, and coordinated leathers and plastics to give the somewhat cluttered dash a unified look. About our only complaint about the design is that, at least directly around the driver--even with the MMI interface--there are a few too many buttons.

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2013 Audi Q5


All versions perform like responsive wagons, though we'd avoid the Audi Q5's optional Drive Select, and stick with normal-sized tires.

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.

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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.

2013 Audi Q5

Comfort & Quality

With the sensibly sized Q5, Audi has a good combination of passenger space and cargo room.

The Q5 is a compact crossover, and one with a relatively small footprint. It's packaged quite well, with great room for four adults and luggage, and the flexibility to handle other scenarios with aplomb.

The driving position is high and commanding in the Q5, and the standard seats are exceptionally comfortable, with excellent support from all angles. Head and leg room are ample and the range of adjustability with the power front seats and telescoping/tilting wheel is wide enough for most drivers. Skip the panoramic sunroof if you want to spare taller passengers some head room, but it's not as vital an issue as in, say, a Range Rover Evoque.

Even in back, there's enough legroom for most adults, thanks to a rather long wheelbase. You skip the surprise legroom crunch of the A4-based Allroad, although just as in any compact crossover, you won't be able to fit three adults comfortably across the second-row bench seat. The rear seat slides on a track, and the seatbacks recline for better touring comfort--while they also fold down for more cargo space.

With the seats folded, the Q5 moves from about 29 cubic feet to more than 57 cubic feet of storage space. There's enough cargo room for four roll-on suitcases and a clear view out the rear hatch glass. Small storage abounds, down to the 1-liter cup holders molded in all the doors, the console, and the fold-down armrest in the backseat.

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 and on four-cylinder models, you'll hear the engine hit a coarse note or two when accelerating.

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2013 Audi Q5


Safety's been a strong point with the Audi Q5, and blind-spot monitors can't hurt.

The Audi Q5 hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but it's still one of the safer vehicles on the road according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It's an IIHS Top Safety Pick again this year, though it doesn't yet have data for its new small-overlap test.

The Q5 also has one of the most complete safety regimens in the segment. Its stability-control system gets more aggressive when it senses a roof rack is attached; rear side airbags are an option; and all-wheel drive is standard equipment.

We don't think Bluetooth or a rearview camera should be options at this price point, but good visibility is baked into in the Q5's design. Combined with the rather large side mirrors, drivers will have good outward visibility without the high-tech solutions. If you want them, they can be paired with optional adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitors.


2013 Audi Q5


Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are options on base versions, but Audi Connect brings Google Earth maps into the Audi Q5's nav system.

The Q5 has a moderately reasonable base price of about $37,000, but it's easy to trip over the options list, and not so easy to keep prices under $50,000.

The $36,795 Audi Q5 2.0T comes with most of the features we'd expect to see in a premium-brand vehicle. And true to form, the base version's dubbed Premium, in Audi's trim designations. It includes power windows, locks, and heated exterior mirrors; an AM/FM/XM/CD player with an SD card slot for additional memory; leather upholstery and walnut trim; power front seats; and 18-inch wheels.

That's plenty, but to get an iPod interface and Bluetooth, you'll need to pay $1,000 to get them, or spend $4,300 to step up to the Premium Plus package, which also adds heated front seats; a panoramic sunroof; a power tailgate; and a xenon headlight package with LED daytime running lights. The turbo-four model's options include a navigation system bundled with a rearview camera, for $3,550; a $500 package with sport seats, a sport steering wheel and shift paddles requires the Premium Plus trim. Rear-seat airbags, an entertainment system, and different wood or aluminum trim are stand-alone options.

The $44,795 Q5 3.0T has standard 19-inch wheels, S line exterior trim, and Premium Plus content. For $7,500 the Prestige trim adds standard adaptive lighting; navigation; blind-spot monitors; a Bang & Olufsen audio system; and a heated/cooled cupholder. Stand-alone options include adaptive cruise and Drive Select; the Sport interior; an S line package with 20-inch wheels, sport interior, adaptive suspension, and aluminum trim; and a Comfort package with a leather instrument panel, ventilated front seats, and premium Milano leather. Our most recent Q5, a Q5 3.0T with Comfort add-ons, bore a sticker price of more than $55,000.

Hybrids come only in the equivalent of Prestige trim, at $50,795. The Comfort and Sport interiors are options, as are different 19-inch wheels and 20-inch wheels, rear side airbags, a DVD entertainment system, and interior trim.

We're still clumsy when it comes to running Audi's MMI and navigation system smoothly. It doesn't have the depth of voice control that other systems do, nor does it allow touchscreen contact. What it does have--aside from four new hard buttons that provide hot-key access to major functions--is lovely Google Earth mapping, integrated with Audi Connect, the brand's data-connectivity package. For a monthly fee of under $40, drivers get beautifully flowing and accurate maps, as well as real-time traffic information and local search. They also get connectivity for up to eight devices inside the car, all provided by Audi's 3G link to T-Mobile. Yes, you already pay for that with your smartphone--but does your navigation system look this good?

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2013 Audi Q5

Fuel Economy

Gas mileage makes gains with the Audi Q5 Hybrid edition, but some mainstream crossovers pass it easily on the EPA scale.

The Audi Q5 isn't among the best five-passenger crossovers for gas mileage, but fuel economy is up significantly this year with the addition of the new Hybrid model.

The Q5 Hybrid is rated by the EPA at 24 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway, or 26 mpg combined. That's easily the best of the luxury-marque crossovers of its kind--but it's a few miles per gallon behind the non-hybrid, four-cylinder Chevy Equinox, at 32 mpg highway, for example. It's worth keeping in mind that all version of the Q5 do include standard all-wheel drive, however.

The V-6 Q5 is at the opposite end of the spectrum, at 18/26 mpg, or 21 mpg combined. Consider the lower fuel economy the cost of its best-in-lineup acceleration.

The base Q5 remains the best compromise for value and gas mileage. At 20/28 mpg, or 23 mpg combined, it's competitive in its class--and we've seen solid numbers near the higher end of the combined figure (24 mpg) in a mix of spirited city and highway driving.

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