Pardon our math, but 5 can represent a greater value than 7. Proof? Audi's upcoming Q5, when read as an algebraic expression or as a force on the car market, equals a higher value than the Q7. We worked it out during a day driving Audi's upcoming compact SUV, and the way we figured it, Q times 5 is so impressive a factor it could very well amount to the most successful Audi launch ever in the Americas.

In real estate, it's all a question of location, but the critical component of the car business is timing, and whereas the full-size Q7 reached market late in the boom-and-bust cycle of that segment, the Q5 will hit these shores next March, when more buyers than ever will be forsaking size for efficiency. And, because the competition for our ever more reticent spending will be so fierce, Value x Quality will become an even more critical factor in the equation for success. In short, the Q5 is good math at the right time.

The first North American Q5 comes powered by a 3.2L FSI V-6 with 270 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque, matched to a seven-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox and self-locking center differential that sends drive to all four wheels, normally in a 60 rear/40 front ratio. Should the need arise for more traction, the system automatically shifts power forward, to a maximum of 64 percent, or to the rear, to a maximum of 82 percent.

Pricing has yet to be determined, but Audi says the Q5 with be comparable with its chief rivals, the BMW X3 and new Mercedes-Benz GLK. Several levels of option packages and stand-alone extras and a sportier S-Line model will provide good excuses to spend lots more.

European Q5s (starting price is EUR 38,300) make their debut late this year with three different engines, all with direct injection and turbochargers; the 3.2 V-6 will join them early next year. First out of the gate are a brand-new gasoline 2.0L TFSI with 211 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed manual; and two diesels, a 2.0L TDI with 170 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.0L V-6 TDI with 240 hp and an enormous 368 lb-ft of torque, both offered with Audi's new seven-speed twin-clutch S Tronic automatic transmission.