Despite its relatively small frame, the Audi Q5 is an important vehicle for Ingolstadt. 180,000 Q5s were sold last year worldwide, nearly 25,000 in the U.S., enough to make the crossover Audi's fourth best-selling model. To keep that momentum going, Audi has chosen to give the Q5 some cosmetic updates as well as a fresh crop of engines in time for the 2013 model year. In the U.S., that engine crop totals three: a 2.0-liter hybrid, a supercharged gas 3.0-liter, and a turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel.

Regardless of engine, each 2013 Q5 receives redesigned LED headlights with a parallelogram appearance, new bumpers, taillights and flat-bottomed exhaust tips, and a front grille with vertical slats just like the recently introduced Crossroad. Changes continue inside with new aluminum and oak trim packages, the introduction of Google maps in the navigation system, and an optional adaptive cruise control that brakes the Q5 to a complete stop in emergency situations. Electromechanical steering is now standard across the lineup to reduce energy consumption.

We drove the new Q5 hybrid first on a 25-mile loop that was largely flat, though somewhat winding, with minimal stopping. Already available in Europe, the new hybrid powertrain combines Audi's well-known 211-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four with a 54-hp electric motor. Combined, the two will produce up to 354 hp and knock out the 0-62 mph sprint in a claimed 7.1 seconds. Audi says the batteries are packaged in a way that doesn't infringe on cargo space, and a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission is employed.

Most impressive about the Q5 Hybrid is that it doesn't burden the driver with many of the common inconveniences we've come to expect from many such vehicles. For example, the vehicle is capable of being propelled by its electric motor alone up to around 60 mph, assuming there is enough power in the battery. The range in this mode is limited -- no more than a couple miles, assuming a fairly low speed and full battery charge -- but when then engine does kick back in, the transition back to gasoline power is so smooth as to be almost imperceptible. When testing the electric-only functionality by putting the Q5 into EV mode, the only real way to tell the engine had come back in was by the EV light shutting off and throttle response improving. (Throttle response is weakened in EV mode, as is typical.)

We were also impressed by the Q5 Hybrid's brakes, which showed none of the two-stage brake action, poor feel, or grabbiness we've experienced in other hybrid vehicles, including the VW Group's own Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid. Instead, brake response feels much as it does in a conventional vehicle, with good response and modulation. Around our short drive loop, we used a combination of EV and normal modes and achieved 29 mpg according to the vehicle's computer. Audi has not yet released an EPA figure for the Q5 Hybrid, but will do so before the vehicle's on-sale date this September. When it comes to market it will likely sit near the top of the Q5 model range, offered only with Quattro all-wheel drive and the Prestige upscale trim package. Look for a starting price in the low $50k range.

Next up was the Q5 3.0 TDI, the turbocharged diesel variant that's on sale in Europe now but won't hit U.S. soil until fall 2013. Inexplicably, this engine produces 20 more horsepower in the Q5 than in its current U.S. application powering the larger, heavier Q7. We expect that both vehicles will receive the 245-hp engine for the new model year.

As expected, the turbodiesel Q5 impressed us with its mammoth torque reserve - 428 lb-ft are available and it feels like it. The Q5 TDI surges away from a stop with authority and in relative quiet. There's very little of the characteristic diesel engine din here. With power from very low rpm nearly all the way to its sub-5000 rpm redline, it's easy to be traveling well in advance of the speed limit without realizing it. We found the ride comparable to the rest of the Q5 range, with taut suspension tuning making for little body roll. Rougher stretches of road do little to upset the chassis, which has a fantastic mix of control and comfort. The new electromechanical steering felt a little on the light side, as it did on the rest of the Q5 range, but this isn't out of character for the brand as a whole. Audi was unable to tell us if the TDI would feature the seven-speed S-Tronic gearbox when it makes it U.S. debut, but with that transmission, it claims a 6.5-second 0-60 mph run.

Because the Q5 TDI isn't due for another year, Audi doesn't have pricing or EPA estimate available, but on a slightly longer loop of more than 30 miles, we found that the TDI's fuel efficiency was roughly on par with the hybrid version.

Last up was the new supercharged 3.0-liter engine. This engine replaces the old naturally aspirated 3.2-liter mill as it has in the Q7. Again, Audi has tweaked the power output for the Q5, this time offering a bit less power than in other applications. Here, the engine produces 272 hp and 295 lb-ft, less than the 333 hp it cranks out in the S4 or even the 280 hp it makes in the Q7. Nevertheless, we found power delivery to be good -- roughly on par with the TDI version, but with an extra couple thousand rpm to play with. Audi's claimed 0-60 time also highlights the 3.0T as the athlete of the group, requiring just 5.9 seconds. Silky-smooth engine run-out and a slightly playful exhaust note make getting there fun, too.

Fuel economy, on the other hand, would appear to suffer. In our extremely unscientific, imprecise measurements using the Q5's on-board computer, we achieved roughly 20 mpg on the same drive loop where the TDI recorded nearly 30 mpg. We'll need to wait for EPA numbers and testing with a full U.S.-spec Q5 before we're able to confirm such a disparity. Start/stop will be included for the U.S. market to meet fuel economy goals, though the system can be deactivated.

The Q5 3.0T is likely to sit mid-pack in the lineup when it is released this fall along with the top-end hybrid. The standard 2.0T model will remain as the entry-level position in the Q5 range, though it gains the same cosmetic refinements and new steering system as the vehicles we drove.


2013 Audi Q5
BASE PRICE $36,500-51,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINES 2.0L/211-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC I-4
2.0L/211-hp/258-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC I-4 plus 54-hp/155-lb-ft electric motor, 255 hp/354 lb-ft comb
3.0L/272-hp/295-lb-ft supercharged V-6
3.0L/245-hp/428-lb-ft turbodiesel V-6
TRANSMISSIONS 8-speed auto; 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT 3950-4150 lb (MT est)
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 182.2 x 74.7 x 65.2 in
0-60 MPH 5.9-7.1 sec (mfr est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 14-28/21-33 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 112-120/120-241 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.69-1.18 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. Sept 2012 (TDI - Fall 2013)