Yes, we're disappointed, too, that diesel won't come to our shores until 2010 (and it will not be the stupendous V-6), and we're disappointed we aren't getting the new seven-speed gearbox until, at the earliest, in the second model year. Audi reckons the speedier shifting seven-speed is not yet refined enough for American tastes and won't bring it here, at least in its SUVs, until it matches the quality of the new generation of Tiptronic. Refined for additional quickness, precision, and smoothness, Tiptronic compares well with the best of the auto-shifters, though we'll reserve final judgment on its interplay with the engine until we drive it up and down some mountains with a full load.

The new V-6 revs freely and delivers its power in a cushioned lump of torque thanks to reduced internal friction and Audi's innovative valve-lift technology, which enhances cylinder filling on the intake side and helps deliver a European-cycle average of 25 mpg and more than sufficient pulling power. The spec sheet says the Q5 will run from 0 to 62 mph in 6.8 sec; and it can pull a class-leading 2400 lb. Significantly aiding performance and consumption are a relatively modest 3836-lb curb weight and a class-leading 0.33 coefficient of drag.

Built on the new A4 platform but longer, wider, and, of course, taller than the sedan, the Q5's dimensions are at or near top of class in every dimension except height. Audi wanted excellent handling and so took special care to lower the car's stance for a more gravity-friendly experience in the twisties. Even if you're going small, though, size still matters. The Q5 sits on a best-in-segment 9.22-ft wheelbase, a major contributor to the Q5's luxurious ride. And, its 15-ft overall length contains a spacious five-passenger interior and minimum of 19 cu ft of cargo space with a load width of about 41 in. The rear seats are split in a 60/40 ratio, can be adjusted separately for rake and fore and aft (by almost 4 in.), and they also fold flat to provide 55 cu ft of cargo space and a load length of almost 67 in. (which can be made even longer by folding forward the front passenger seat).

In contrast to its big brother, the Q5 was built to battle the freeways and escape the confines of paved roads, even if it isn't fitted with the optional off-road package (wheel arch extensions, partially dark-tinted bumpers, front and rear stainless steel underbody guards, restyled tailpipes and door sill plates, 19-in. running gear). In addition to its standard Quattro all-wheel drive, the Q5's revised ESP stability system (with a new type of valve for even quicker response, brake-fade compensation, wet-weather disc wipe, and towing stabilization) offers an off-road mode for even more emphasis on traction.