The ABS meanwhile automatically recognizes the Q5 is off road and adjusts the application of the brakes in such a way that small mounds of dirt, gravel, or snow build up in front of the tires for shorter stopping distances. For steep hills, hill-descent control maintains the speed at which it is activated -- between around 5 and 19 mph -- by using engine braking and, if necessary, applying the brakes.

Serious off-roaders will want to know the Q5 has a ground clearance of 7.87 in., a fording depth of 19.68 in., approach and departure angles of 25 degrees, an unloaded ramp breakover angle of 18 degrees, and axles that can articulate through a range of 6.3 in. Those with gravel driveways or occasional snow will need to know nothing more than how to turn on the vehicle and choose a gear.

Should there be an impediment to retrieving the mail at the end of the drive (such as a brick wall or ornamental shrub, perhaps), the Q5's stout structure and passive safety features are ready for action. The body is constructed mostly of high-strength steels, with 9.1 percent of the overall weight drawn from super-strength boron steel. Audi is the first carmaker to install the gear to produce this extremely strong steel, which involves heating the blanks to 1742 degrees and then quenching and cooling them in a cooled die. Moreover, specific areas of the body structure can be heat-treated differently to produce a range of strength zones. (Steel geeks, listen: These super-strength alloys have tensile strengths as high as 1600 megapascals!)

It would take some effort to stray from the road in the Q5, as its suspension, steering, and brakes are carlike, and the effort required to keep the un-carlike mass of the vehicle in total control is about the same as tooling around in the family sedan. A bit of understeer will creep into the picture if the driver gets too greedy in a corner, but the brains of the stability control help it avoid excessive plow. To induce oversteer in the Q5 is to admit to a short circuit between the ears. Electronically triggered adaptive shock absorbers keep the Q5's keel even through the bends and soak up bumps as though it were a luxury sedan and not an SUV under your butt.