• Q5 Hybrid has been on sale in Europe since 2011
  • On sale in U.S. at end of 2012, will get updated styling
  • All wheel drive hybrid sacrifices a bit of fuel economy for fun

After several indications it would show up at U.S. dealers by the end of 2011, Audi representatives have confirmed to AutoTrader.com that the hybrid version of Audi?s Q5 will finally be hitting North American shores by the end of 2012 as a 2013 model. Although the Q5 Hybrid has been available in Europe since 2011, it appears Audi thought it would make more sense to hold off on U.S. introduction until it could debut alongside the Q5's upcoming makeover.

Other VW Group models in this same vehicle category have already received the hybrid treatment, including the Volkswagen Touareg and the Porsche Cayenne, but Audi has been a bit slower to bring a hybrid solution to market. Perhaps the delinquency comes down to the German preference for high mileage diesel offerings, but it seems even that has to eventually succumb to the relentless onslaught of the hybrid.

Audi performance enthusiasts fear not, however, because even though the Q5 Hybrid Quattro will likely return around 27 mpg in combined driving (official U.S. tests have yet to be completed), tests of its European brethren indicate a 0-60 time of about 6.8 seconds under a monstrous torque of 354 lb-ft. For comparison, that?s roughly equivalent to the 3.2-liter V6 Q5?s stats, yet the hybrid returns significantly higher mileage. Yes, the German engineers could have lowered the performance quotient to return higher fuel economy, but, then, that isn?t really what Audi is about.

With its on-board lithium-ion battery, the Q5 Hybrid can switch between three driving modes depending on conditions: combustion engine alone, electric drive alone, and hybrid mode where both the electric motor and gas engine are working together to optimize power or fuel economy.

When the battery has a full charge the Q5 can travel up to 2 miles on electricity alone at speeds below 40 mph (this is not a plug-in, it can only recharge by recapturing energy from the brakes). The car can also be switched between three settings: ?D? is the normal setting and works to optimize fuel economy; ?S? is the sport mode and ignores fuel economy to improve performance; and ?EV? tries to keep the car running on battery power alone for as long as possible.

Instead of a mushy continuously variable transmission-found on such fuel-sippers as the Toyota Prius, the Q5 Hybrid opts for a highly modified 8-speed transmission in which all the meshing of the electric motor and gas engine is carried out before the power is transferred to the wheels. The 8-speed transmission should make the Q5 Hybrid feel very ?un-hybrid-like.?

Although Audi has promised the Q5 Hybrid will be on sale in the U.S. by the end of the year, pricing has not yet been announced. Audi remains tight-lipped, but says more info will become available a bit closer to launch.

What it means to you: If you?re looking for high fuel economy in an all-wheel drive luxury crossover that doesn?t skimp on performance, the debut of the Audi Q5 Hybrid at the end of 2012 may just be your match.

author photo

Nick Chambers is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.

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