2009 Audi Q5
New Face, Familiar Territory
By Kirill Ougarov

WE LIKE: Agile handling, V-6 engine, interior design.
WE DON'T LIKE: Artificial steering feel, high price.

Coming off a win in a four-way comparo against three other SUOTY contenders, the A4-based Q5 joined the competition with something of a head start. Created to give Audi a slice of the growing compact-luxury-crossover market, it proved its mettle against tough competition.

The Q5's best assets are its powertrain and chassis. In the U.S., it's offered only with a 270-horsepower, 243-pound-foot, 3.2-liter V-6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, a combination that prompted nothing but praise for its response, ample torque, and smooth and quick shifts. Shift paddles were high on the wish list and should be standard, not part of the $2950 S-line option package. Its chassis and suspension setup ensured that the Q5 would prove agile and surefooted on the twisty roads, regardless of pavement quality and even when there was no road at all. Unfortunately, steering feels artificial and numb. The optional Audi Drive Select tightened up the suspension nicely when set to dynamic mode, further improving handling, but steering merely became heavy (perhaps too heavy) with no extra feel. Interior space is par for the course, with larger passengers finding the rear seat cramped. Cargo room is decent (29.1 cubic feet, 57.3 with rear seats folded), but handily outclassed by the RX.

Styling is standard-fare Audi. Staffers generally liked the design of the cabin ("It has a beautiful interior," quoth associate editor Harwood), but griped about the exterior ("Its looks, while clean and modern, are just so blah-especially next to that flying-wedge ZDX," says St. Antoine. Detroit editor Lassa shares the sentiment: "I find its styling a bit too bloblike, especially in white").

Its weakest point is price. The base model starts at $38,025, and our well-equipped contender checked in at $48,275. With full kit, the price goes well north of $50,000.

Audi will sell far more Q5s here than A4 Avants, but unless there are legions of shoppers out there who can withstand the sticker shock and are willing to trade cargo room for driving dynamics in their compact SUV, it won't pry many sales away from the Lexus.

2010 Audi Q5
Base price range $38,025
Price as tested $48,275
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.2L/270-hp/243-lb-ft DOHC V-6
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4295 lb (54/46%)
Wheelbase 110.5 in
Length x width x height 182.2 x 74.0 x 65.1 in
0-60 mph 6.7 sec
Quarter mile 15.1 sec @ 92.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 122 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.80 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 27.5 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)
MT observed fuel econ 16.0 mpg
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 18/23 mpg
CO2 emissions 0.98 lb/mile
Engineering ***
Design ***
Interior/Functionality ***
Performance ****
On-road refinement ****
Off-road ability ***
Value **
Moves the bar up. Just barely.