Exclusive Preview: 2009 Audi Q5
Exactly one week today Audi will use its press conference at the LA Auto Show to debut a new concept vehicle. Details of that car are under tight embargo, but sources have confirmed that an Audi Q5 concept should be expected.
We originally expected to see the full blown Q5 production vehicle displayed, however Audi will probably use the concept to show off the Q5’s proportions and design while at the same time featuring technical elements that are not yet ready to move into the production lineup.
In the mean time, plans for the Q5 remain on track and it is a strong possibility that we’ll see the world debut just a few months later at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit or certainly by April’s big auto show in New York. Regardless of what form the concept takes next week in Los Angeles – and AudiWorld will of course be live at the event – we thought we’d take a quick look at what to expect from the Audi Q5 production vehicle.
Earlier in the year there were many reports of the Q5 being based on Audi’s Roadjet Concept vehicle which was shown in Detroit in 2006. This is clearly incorrect, as the Roadjet was more of sneak peak at what an A5 spaceback / liftback might look like. The Roadjet also put Audi’s new longitudinally installed engine on display, as well as a number of other techno items (7-speed DSG, car-to-car communications, LED lighting, etc).
More correctly, the Q5 will be based on the same modular platform as the recent A5/S5 and the B8 A4. With the engine running north-south and the transmission further behind the axle the Q5 will get the benefit of improved handling (more of a new A4-like drive) and a much less intrusive powertrain in the interior. Recall the design of the Q7 which includes a significant powertrain hump which protrudes into the driving area; with Audi’s new MLP (Modular Longitudinal Platform) that hump will be eliminated in the Q5.
From an exterior design perspective this spy photo shows a vehicle which, while painted matte black and including coverings intended to confuse the eye, is “dead on” according to our sources. Familiar elements such as the single frame grille, integrated headlights and high hood are evident. The wide back of the Q5 helps keep it both looking firmly planted to the ground, as well as aggressively sporty.
Early plans for the Q5 included a V8 powerplant at launch, however ongoing record fuel prices in the US have all but eliminated that offering. Speaking of the US specifically – where the Q5 is intended to be a major attraction in the lineup – even the sister Audi Q7 sells only around 20% V8’s, while competitors Cadillac SRX (35%), Mercedes-Benz M-Class (18%) and BMW X5 (25%) aren’t seeing high V8 uptake either. As a result the 3.2-liter FSI V6 will be the initial North American launch engine. No 4-cylinder powerplant is planned either as Audi (correctly) believes that this puts the Q5’s performance too far below that of its closest competitors, including the BMW X3.
While the V8 is out, Audi’s superb 3.0-liter TDI is waiting in the wings. This powerplant has been tested and is absolutely ready to go in the Q5, however Audi’s sales and marketing appears positioned to supplant the TDI as a launch powerplant for economic reasons. In reality the diesel powerplant is quite expensive, meaning there would be a significant delta between the pricing of the Q5 3.2 V6 and the Q5 3.0 TDI. Audi does not want to confuse the market or damped the enthusiasm for either the new Q5 or its TDI offering by co-mingling the two at launch. We can therefore expect the Q5 3.0 TDI with certainly, just not for 9-months or so after initial vehicle availability.
Speaking of initial vehicle availability, we hear that the Q5 will go on sale in the US as a 2009 model late in calendar year 2008.