The 2009 Audi Q5 is the German automaker's first compact sport-utility vehicle, and it's a direct competitor to the Mercedes-Benz GLK and BMW X3, as well as the Lexus RX crossovers. It's available in one drivetrain configuration, with "quattro" all-wheel drive, a six-cylinder engine, and a six-speed automatic. The 2009 Audi Q5 provided to TheCarConnection.com for this Bottom Line road test summary carries a base price of $38,025, including destination, and an as-delivered price of $48,275.
Even in its stylish class of luxury utes, the 2009 Audi Q5 is a handsome winner. Like the Volvo XC60, its softly sculptured lines use height and stance to convey all the right SUV messages, the opposite of the angularity that the GLK and LR2 depend on for their more masculine looks. The Q5 is more subtly good-looking than most sedans, in fact, except for the massive grille up front that's too large, too deep, and too everything. The slope of the roofline and the sedan-like tail lamps (with LED lighting) walk the best line between sport-ute size and German-wagon efficiency. It's the same story inside, where Audi's traditionally well-executed cabins make sense of what could be a lot of little buttons. Framing them in metallic trim, applying wood (like the maple in the vehicle tested by TheCarConnection.com), and matching leathers and plastics closely gives the somewhat cluttered dash a unified, rich look.
A single powertrain defines the 2009 Audi Q5 sold in America this year. It teams a 3.2-liter, 270-horsepower V-6, a six-speed automatic with manual gear selection, and all-wheel drive. The engine's fairly sweet-revving, though a little louder and more vibration-prone than you might expect--just like the six-cylinder in the latest Lexus RX. Gear changes are quick and mostly trouble-free, unless you choose a downshift manually in Tiptronic mode at the wrong power point. The Q5 will obey, so long as it doesn't frag its engine doing so. Paddle shift controls would be a plus to enhance the drivetrain's sporty feel; Audi says hybrid and diesel engines are possible in the future, and a turbocharged four-cylinder model is almost assured.
Handling and ride are a mixed bag; you can tell the Q5's essentials and the rearward power bias (40:60) want to feel responsive and sporting. But like the 2009 Audi A4, most U.S. vehicles come with Drive Select, an electronically variable system that allows drivers to choose response levels for steering, braking, transmission shifts, and throttle quickness. The vast preference for TheCarConnection.com's editors is a single well-developed suspension setting; the Q5 with Drive Select has heavy steering in all modes, and ride quality doesn't soften enough to justify variable controls. With all-wheel drive, about 8 inches of ground clearance, and hill descent control, the Q5 can handle moderate all-terrain activity, but it's clearly not meant for anything more than casual hill climbing. Towing capacity is 4,400 pounds, and fuel economy is 18/23 mpg. TheCarConnection observes just over 18 mpg in mostly city driving.
The 2009 Q5 offers a comfortable, roomy cabin and cargo hold for well-heeled buyers. As long as or longer overall than all the competition save for the 2010 Lexus RX, the Q5 is among the widest vehicles in its class and sports the longest wheelbase. That gives front passengers more than enough leg- and shoulder room; headroom is numerically mid-pack, but the Q5 tested here, with a panoramic sunroof, still has enough height for six-foot drivers and passengers. The seats themselves are firm and adjust for great comfort, even in back, where the passengers can recline for long-trip comfort. The second-row seats split and fold to create more cargo space, but even when five people (four adults, really) are seated inside, there's enough cargo room for four roll-on suitcases and a clear view out the rear hatch glass. Audi molds in 1-liter-sized drink holders in all the doors, the console, and the fold-down armrest in the backseat, so you'll remain well-hydrated.
Safety features abound on the Q5; Audi's crossover also earns five stars in all ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which also names it a Top Safety Pick. Standard front, side, and curtain airbags combine with anti-lock brakes as well as stability and traction control for those top safety ratings; Audi also offers a rearview camera and parking sensors to cut down on low-speed mishaps.
For $38,025, the 2009 Audi Q5 arrives in showrooms outfitted with standard features like three-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, an AM/FM/CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, leather seating, wood trim, heated power mirrors, and a tilt/telescope steering wheel. TheCarConnection.com's Premium Plus Q5 adds $4,300 for a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate, power heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity, an iPhone/iPod interface, and a six-CD changer. Atop that, a $3,000 Navigation package adds hard-drive-based GPS mapping, parking sensors, a rearview camera, and a DVD player. The $2,950 Drive Select package is the one feature editors wish was omitted from the options list; the 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo system would be more welcome.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Audi Q5 sports the sleek lines of a sweet German sedan, a date-worthy cabin, and good, hefty, but gimmicky handling.