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.

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.

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.

Those who love to drive will want to order Audi Drive Select, which manages throttle position, steering ratio, and electronic shock control for comfort or performance, in any combination. It includes a new dynamic steering system that can vary its ratio by almost 100 percent, depending on road speed and the chosen mode in Drive Select. And, boy, does it work. In full comfort the steering is highly boosted for quick moves (two turns, lock to lock), while in the full sport mode it tightens up to deliver the feedback and precision usually found only in a high-performance sports car. This amazing system also can automatically provide a certain level of countersteer if the tail end starts to slide or if the nose begins to plow, when the ratio is made more indirect for a short time so that the driver is unlikely to turn the wheel beyond the limit of good grip.

Though all these systems sound intrusive, they aren't. We sampled all four engines on short hauls around the outskirts of Valencia, Spain, and all fared well in the matadorial dramas played out on Spanish streets. Power was always there when needed to squeeze in front of an aggressive SEAT, the brakes were easily modulated for blending into the scrum through a traffic circle, and the steering directed us with unerring accuracy away from taxi drivers practicing for their Formula 1 careers.

Standard features abound, a requirement for the Q5's feature-rich segment, and include LED taillamps; 18-in. running gear; an even better version of Audi's celebrated multimedia system, with 3D-enhanced navigation graphics, toggle-switch search functionality, and the capability to find the most fuel-efficient route; full leather seating; a 180-watt, 10-speaker sound system with iPod and Bluetooth synchronization; heated and ventilated front seats; a thermal heated/cooled cupholder; and a roof-rack sensor that signals the Q5 to adjust its suspension dynamics when the rack's crossmember is deployed. Maximum roof storage is 220 lb.

Notable options include bi-Xenon headlamps; a power tailgate; the largest sunroof in class; sideview assist; 19-in. wheels; Audi Drive Select; and a 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system with 14 speakers and digital radio reception. The S-Line will ride on 20-inchers, also available with a chrome finish.

Any way it's calculated, the Q5 should add lots of numbers to Audi's ever-growing bottom line. The company sold over a million cars worldwide for the first time in 2007, but that seven-figure sum should increase by a factor of Q5.


2009 AUDI Q5
Base price $39,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.2L/270-hp/243-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight 3850 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 110.6 in
Length x width x height 182.2 x 74.8 x 65.2
0-60 mph 6.8 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 18/25 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 0.94 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. March 2009

  • «
  • |
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
  • |
  • View Full Article