In the world of luxury crossovers, the competition never sleeps. That's probably why the 2014 Audi Q5 boasts not one but two new powerplants, even though it was already one of the best vehicles in this segment.
Specifically, there's a new TDI turbodiesel V6 that cranks out a whopping 428 lb-ft of torque and still manages 31 miles per gallon on the highway. And for performance junkies, there's the SQ5 model with its juiced-up, 354-horsepower supercharged V6. If that seems like overkill, you can get a lesser version of that V6 with 275 hp in the regular Q5. And there's also a gas/electric hybrid Q5 that offers a potent mix of power and fuel efficiency.
As ever, the 2014 Q5 is based on the A4 sedan, and that works wonders for its driving character. The Q5 naturally rides higher and holds more cargo than the A4, yet it hugs the pavement like a hatchback. People often buy these vehicles so they can sit up high and feel safe, even if it means sacrificing some handling capability. In the Q5, the sacrifice is so small that most drivers won't even notice.
There are nits to pick, of course, including lackluster performance from the base 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine. Nonetheless, we're solidly in Audi's corner on this one. It's a good thing the competition isn't sleeping, because Audi seems intent on making the Q5 better with each passing year.
What's New for 2014?
The 2.0T engine's output is up to 220 hp this year. And all Q5 models come standard with Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, while all except the entry-level 2.0T Premium are equipped with keyless entry/ignition. The 354-hp SQ5 debuts for 2014, as does the Q5 TDI turbodiesel with its 31 mpg hwy. Also, the 3.0T and TDI are eligible for an S-Line Plus package that adds performance and aesthetic enhancements.
What We Like
Fun to drive; high-quality interior; available with diesel or hybrid power; good fuel economy; satisfying supercharged V6
What We Don't
Smallish cargo hold; forgettable 4-cylinder performance
All Q5 models employ an 8-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel drive.
The Q5 2.0T is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is rated at 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy.
The Q5 Hybrid pairs the 2.0T engine with a 40-kilowatt electric motor. Output is rated at 245 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 24 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.
The Q5 TDI has a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that generates 240 hp and 428 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy checks in at 24 mpg city/31 mpg hwy.
The Q5 3.0T pumps out 272 hp and 295 lb-ft from its supercharged 3.0-liter V6. Fuel economy is 18 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.
The SQ5 -- the first-ever S variant of any Audi Q model -- cranks out 354 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque thanks to a souped-up version of the 3.0T model's V6. Fuel economy drops to 16 mpg city/23 mpg hwy.
Standard Features & Options
The 2014 Audi Q5 is offered in three trim levels: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. Note that the 2.0T is only available in Premium or Premium Plus trim, the Hybrid comes only as a Prestige and the other three specifications (TDI, 3.0T and SQ5) come in either Premium Plus or Prestige trim.
The 2.0T Premium ($38,195) comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, LED taillights, a sunroof, leather upholstery, power front seats with adjustable lumbar, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, wood-grain interior trim, tri-zone automatic climate control (including a separate temperature control for the back seat), Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, the Multi-Media Interface (MMI) system with a dash-mounted control knob, and a 10-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input, an SD card reader and satellite radio.
The 2.0T Premium Plus ($42,095) adds xenon headlamps with LED running lights, a panoramic sunroof, a power lift gate, auto-dimming mirrors, keyless entry with push-button ignition, driver memory functions and heated seats. Notably, the 3.0T Premium Plus ($45,295) and TDI Premium Plus ($47,395) have some standard features that the 2.0T doesn't, including 19-in alloy wheels and S-line styling enhancements.
The Hybrid Prestige ($52,195), 3.0T Prestige ($52,795) and TDI Prestige ($54,895) step up to adaptive xenon headlamps, manual rear sunshades, a blind spot monitoring system, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and an MMI navigation system that includes an upgraded display screen, a console-mounted control knob with a joystick-like top and an extra SD slot.
Meanwhile, the SQ5 Premium Plus ($52,795) and SQ5 Prestige ($60,295) have 20-in wheels, unique exterior styling, quad exhaust tips, upgraded brakes, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sport seats, exclusive sport gauges, aluminum pedals and a super-cool S shift knob.
Many of the higher trims' features are available on lower trims as options. The S-Line Plus package (3.0T and TDI only) adds 20-in wheels with summer performance tires, matte black roof rails and high-gloss black exterior trim. The Prestige trim is eligible for some exclusive upgrades, including a leather-trimmed dashboard, cooled front seats, adaptive cruise control and the Drive Select system, which provides electronic adjustments for steering, transmission and throttle calibrations.
Also available is Audi connect, which employs a 3G data connection to integrate Google Maps into MMI Plus. Additional Audi connect features include Google search with voice-command functionality, mobile Wi-Fi connectivity for up to eight devices and real-time weather and travel information.
Maximum cargo space is on the small side at 57.3 cu ft. And while the 29.1 cu ft of space behind the rear seat backs sounds ample, we've found it challenging to fit a couple golf bags into this relatively narrow cargo area. At least the Q5 Hybrid's battery pack is positioned so as not to compromise what cargo space there is.
The 2014 Audi Q5 features standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.
The government had not crash-tested the Q5 as of this writing, but the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Q5 its highest rating of Good in every category.
Behind the Wheel
In our interior evaluation, we found that the Q5's front seats are comfortable enough, but they lack the range of adjustments some competitors provide (BMW, for example) and their lateral support is minimal -- except for the excellent sport seats in the SQ5. Thanks to the standard seat-height adjustment and tilt-telescopic wheel, though, everyone should be able to find a comfortable driving position.
Behind that leather-wrapped wheel, the gauges are classic Audi: two simple circles for the tachometer and speedometer, with numerals rendered in Audi's distinctive font. The materials quality is excellent for this price range. As with the A4, however, the Q5's ergonomics are hit-or-miss. Try to adjust the climate control's fan speed and you'll see what we mean -- it's a two-step process.
The Q5 makes the most of its compact rear compartment by providing slide and recline functions for the back seat, not to mention the rare luxury of separate rear temperature controls. While the bottom cushion is still somewhat lower than our taller editors would prefer, we'd call the Q5's rear-passenger space satisfactory for this class.
Under the hood, we feel the base 2.0T engine is somewhat underpowered for luxury-crossover duty, though many owners seem to think it's just fine in the real world. Still, we much prefer the snappy acceleration of the 3.0T or the vast torque of the TDI. Better yet, grab an SQ5 and enjoy sports-car-like performance, including the benchmark 0-to-60 sprint of just 5.1 seconds. As for the Hybrid, we can't see picking it over the TDI, which delivers slightly better performance and fuel economy for less coin.
At reasonable cornering speeds, the Q5 feels like the sport sedan of compact luxury crossovers -- an A4 on stilts, yes, but an A4 nonetheless. Push harder and you'll be smacked by old man Understeer, but that's forgivable. No one buys one of these to chase motorcycles in the hills. The true calling of the Q5 is to traverse both highways and patchy urban pavement with lofty composure. And for the most part, that's exactly what it does. The ride gets rather firm with the 20-in wheels, though.
Other Cars to Consider
BMW X3 -- The athletic X3 sports a pair of wonderful turbocharged engines, and its interior is right there with the Audi in terms of quality.
Cadillac SRX -- The SRX features robust V6 power, a beautiful cabin and a unique sense of style.
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class -- The GLK's butch styling makes a strong statement, and the baby Benz offers far more power than the Q5 2.0T at a comparable price.
If you're looking for the best all-around Q5, our pick is the new TDI model thanks to its stellar combination of torque and mpg. But if you don't mind taking a hit in the fuel economy column, take the fully caffeinated SQ5 for a spin. But be forewarned, you might not want to come back.