2010 Audi Q5
Base price: $37,350 – $48,850
As tested: $48,425
MPG: 18 city/23 highway
- Gorgeous inside and out
- Rich materials, meticulous build quality
- Terrific to drive
- Complicated, maddening controls
- Anemic air conditioning
By Jim Prueter
Beautifully built, exquisitely appointed, maddening controls
The newest offering from Audi is the Q5 compact luxury crossover utility vehicle that fills a hole in the Audi lineup. Competing vehicles include BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK, Volvo XC60, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti EX35, Land Rover LR2 and Lexus RX 350.
Exquisitely appointed and constructed with precision, the Q5 comes in three flavors: Premium ($37,350), Premium Plus ($41,400) and Prestige ($48,850). All three models are powered by the same 3.2-liter 270 horsepower V-6 with a six-speed TiptronicÒ automatic transmission and QuattroÒ all-wheel drive. Checking every option box, the Q5 will top out around $55,000. With maximum towing capacity of 4400 pounds, it leads its class. Premium fuel is required.
Audi DNA is instantly recognizable in the Q5, with the duplicative trapezoidal “corporate face” grille, redundant on the steering hub and found across the entire product line from A3 to A8, and jewel-look LED daytime running indicators above the headlamps, which we first experienced on the exotic R8 sports car. Taillamps are also individual LED lit.
While most manufacturers agonize over “crossover” designs and produce products that come off as ugly, protuberant and superfluous, Audi consistently seems to nail it with dignified class and timeless appeal. The Q5 is no exception.
Consistent with every Audi is the impeccably “corner office” tailored interior that has you begging to sit a spell and rack up the miles simply because it’s such a feel-good place to be.
Driver and passenger room is ample, standard leather seats easily adjust to a comfortable position regardless of occupant size. Rear bench splits 60/40, both sides slide fore and aft and recline, but cushions are too flat, firm and uncomfortable. A seat release is built into the rear cargo area to flip the seat backs forward. Tailgate is power operated up and down.
Materials are first rate, like stainless steel trim instead of plastic on the doorsills. Quality is unsurpassed. Fit and finish are beyond reproach with tight gaps between body panels and interior trim pieces and absolutely zero rattles, vibrations or squeaks. Nobody builds better interiors than Audi: classy without flash or filigree.
But not all is well with the Q5, the most glaring faux pas flaw being the ridiculous multi-media interface (MMI) control system, a console mounted rotary dial controller through which the driver adjusts a multitude of vehicle settings including audio, climate, navigation and other menu items.
Simply changing the radio band or even a station requires a search through a menu list that displays on the LCD screen on the center stack. The problem with MMI is it’s nearlyo the side of the road so you don’t take your eyes off where you’re going and endanger yourself, passengers and others on the road. Simply baffling.
We didn’t care much for Audi’s navigation system. While the graphics are excellent with lots of three-dimensional screens, it’s error prone with too few street labels and missing information. Lexus and especially Acura and Infiniti systems are far superior and much easier to program and use.
Our other major complaint with the Q5 is the climate control system that didn’t adequately cool the interior on a 101° Arizona day, even with the three-zone climate control setting on “Lo” and fan at max.
On the road the Q5 is an absolute pleasure to drive. Getting from zero to 60 takes a quick 6.7 seconds. Everything feels completely balanced and integrated including steering, cornering and brakes. Eighteen-inch alloy wheels are standard, 19-inch optional and 20-inch standard with the S-Line Package.
Our test Q5 came equipped with the optional Audi drive select ($2950) that provides 27 different settings for handling, steering and performance response. It allows the driver to select the aggressiveness of the steering, transmission and suspension setting from soft, to firm and everything in between.
Standard safety gear includes driver and passenger front and seat-mounted side airbags, inflatable side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control with rollover mitigation and anti-lock brake system. Torso side-impact airbags for the rear seats are optional, as is a blind-spot warning system. Our tester came equipped with the optional rearview-parking camera.
The Q5 earned the highest vehicle crash test rating of five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and was named a Top Safety Pick with the highest rating of “Good” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Since its introduction, the Q5 has become the second-best-selling Audi, just behind the A4 sedan. While Audi loyalists will embrace the addition of Q5 to the lineup, it may not have the same appeal to the faithful of other luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Lexus. Still, if you’re in the market for a compact luxury crossover it’s worth a test drive.