A few weeks before I got into this Audi Q5 TDI, I spent several days in the SQ5, which is basically a lifted S4 wagon. The SQ5 is a land rocket for families that will leave some sports car drivers wondering if they made the right choice in vehicle. As you can imagine, I was prepared for a big step down in performance with the diesel version, which wasn't even an S model. After a week of the normal suburban grind followed by a short family road trip, I came away wondering which version of the Q5 is the clear winner.

First let's start with some specs. The Q5 TDI is powered by Audi's 3.0 liter direct-injection turbo diesel V-6 which produces 240 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. For comparison sake, the SQ5 uses a supercharged 3.0 liter gas V6 producing 354 hp but only 347 lb-ft of torque. The Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, which might be the Audi's closest natural competitor, also uses a 3.0 liter turbocharged V6 producing 240 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The Q5 TDI weighs in at a relatively svelte 4415 lb while the Jeep has nearly half a ton on it weighing in at 5401 lb. The Jeep is substantially bigger on the outside, measuring 7.2 inches longer than the Audi's 182.6 length and 2.6 inches wider than the Audi's 82.2 inch width. The substantial size difference results in just 0.7 inches difference in front legroom and 1.2 inches in rear legroom. The biggest difference is 11 cubic-feet in trunk volume, the Audi at 57.3 compared to the Jeep's 68.3 cubic feet.

So, what difference does a thousand pounds make in performance numbers? Turns out it's huge. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel is no slouch getting to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 16.0 seconds at 83.3 mph. The Audi TDI however destroys it, blasting to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds and ripping through the quarter-mile in 14.4 seconds at 92.8 mph. Well what about the Grand Cherokee with 5.7 liters of thumping of V-8? Nope, Audi still takes it to school with the V8 Jeep still needing 6.6 seconds to get to 60 mph and 14.9 seconds for the quarter, but it does match the Audi's trap speed. So the moral of the story: unless you're in the SRT Grand Cherokee, don't mess with Audis at the stoplight grand prix.

Acceleration, especially at launch, is downright shocking in the Audi. The TDI is actually a tenth of a second faster to 30 mph than the SQ5, 1.7 seconds compared to a 1.8. Brake torqueing the TDI gives a little exhaust growl, but also a little whistle from the turbo spooling. Side step the brake pedal and all 428 lb-ft of torque twists through the driveline and yanks the ground from under you using all four contact patches. The first couple of launches were downright shocking in their force. It's completely unexpected in a vehicle that looks so sedate. While I'm not sure I could buy a Q5 and not check the $3500 S-Line box on the order sheet, I can really appreciate the sleeper aspect of this car. After 30 mph, the SQ5 can use all that horsepower up high to walk away from the TDI, but at the low-end, there isn't a comparison.

As we know, roads aren't always straight, and the Audi again excels in the turns. The Q5 TDI, even in non-S trim, puts in a pretty impressive 26.8 second figure-8 lap which is only 0.4 seconds behind the SRT's lap time and 2.4 seconds faster the diesel Jeep's lap. The Audi also does 60-0 mph a full 7 feet shorter than the Grand Cherokee Diesel's 122 feet. The SQ5 does the figure-8 in 25.9 seconds and stops from 60 mph in 104 feet.

In fairness, as stated above, all roads aren't straight, but all roads aren't paved, either. Without testing back-to-back I can't say with 100% certainty, but my gut feeling is that if you want to go offroad, and I mean really offroad, there is no choice but the jeep. The Audi will be phenomenal in snow and on dirt roads, but on real trails, it will quickly become obvious which one is the SUV and which one is the CUV.

If you were buying by the pound, the Grand Cherokee is without a doubt the better deal. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4x4 EcoDiesel we've been referencing here came in at $56,990 while the Audi Q5 TDI we tested had a sticker price of $51,445. Our tester came with the MMI Navigation Plus Package that includes a rear view camera, driver information display, navigation, voice control, Audi Connect and HD Radio. The only other option is the Glaciar White Metallic paint that is responsible for $500 of the final price. Our Real MPG Testing matched up with the EPA ratings of 24 city, 31 Highway pretty well with our tester recording 23.5 mpg urban and 33.1 mpg in extra-urban. The Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel is rated at 21/28 city/highway mpg respectively. Again, that extra 1000 lb and bigger frontal area take their toll.

So the question is, if it came time to plunk down my hard-earned cash on either the TDI or the supercharged SQ5 which way would I go? Well, I think if it were my money, the TDI with S-Line package is the way to go. Not only would I feel better about using less fuel, but the fact that the TDI will easily surpass a 500 mile range on road trips is what makes it so attractive. There is also that deep down low diesel torque that makes it so effortless to accelerate in everyday situations.


2014 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro
BASE PRICE $47,395
PRICE AS TESTED $51,445
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.0L/240-hp/428-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4415 lb (54/46%)
WHEELBASE 110.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 182.6 x 82.2 x 65.2 in
0-60 MPH 5.7 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.4 sec @ 92.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 115 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.84 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.8 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 24/31/27 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 157/122 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.83 lb/mile