February 18, 2009
By: Robert S. Schultz
Audi typically eases back on the throttle at the Chicago Auto Show, the latest rendition of which is currently underway at McCormick Place. Its timing and proximity-so close to the Detroit show in January-rule out major premieres or announcements in the Second City. Instead of rock stars and official speeches, Audi lets the cars do the talking.
So it was, then, that AudiWorld struck up a conversation with Audi’s newest entry, the Q5 crossover. Occupying center stage in Chicago next to the R8 V10, the Q5 will appear in dealerships later this month. In the tradition of hard-hitting Chicago journalism, we lobbed some tough questions at the Q5 to test its mettle.
Welcome, Q5. Where’ve you been all this time?
Are you suggesting I’m late? Actually, I’m early. I wasn’t scheduled to go on sale until March, but it now looks like I’ll be arriving at the end of February.
Not a moment too soon. The BMW X3, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX35 and Lexus RX350 have had the crossover party all to themselves for quite a while. Think you can muscle your way in?
Admittedly, I’m not the first crossover on the scene. Give Audi their due, though. They realized there was a hole in the lineup, and I think you’ll see they got it right.
I’m the first crossover that a driving enthusiast could love.
Whoa. The BMW X3 is already in its second generation. There’s the equally new Mercedes-Benz GLK. The Lexus RX350 practically defines the crossover segment. And you’re saying the Q5 goes one better?
Exactly. I’m a no-compromises crossover-equal parts luxury, performance, and convenience.
You’re saying the other crossovers all make concessions?
Yes, in one way or another. No amount of luxury can compensate for a ride that’s too harsh. Or, great handling without the amenities owners want isn’t acceptable either. The Q5, on the other hand, has a lot of bests.
Let’s get to them. How about starting with something that’s on nearly everybody’s mind these days-fuel economy?
Glad you asked. My EPA rating is best in class, at 18 mpg city/23 mpg highway. And that’s with 270 hp from a 3.2L V6.
Is a V6 engine the way to go, especially now?
Well, keep in mind I was conceived back in 2005. It was a different world then.
Yes, things changed quickly. So what about the 2.0, and diesel? Long term, gas prices are expected to remain high.
You’ll have to ask Audi about that. Suffice it to say I’m looking forward to a long future, with a number of powertrain options under discussion. But I still think the V6 was the right decision for my debut, especially considering what it can do.
How about 0-60 in about 6.7 seconds? No slouch here. And my towing capacity is 4400 pounds-best in class, again.
Granted, those are some impressive numbers. But not every crossover buyer is going to be trailering jet skis or snowmobiles. What’s your carrying capacity?
Let’s stay with the “best in class” theme. I’m the only crossover that comes with roof rails and crossbars-standard. Perfect for things like bikes and skis (though there’s a very handy pass-through in the rear seatback, too).
How much are we talking about?
Actually, you can put 200 lbs. up here. What’s more, the ESP system automatically adjusts for the extra weight on top.
Pretty high-tech. But what about everyday stuff, you know, groceries, the Louis Vuitton gym bag, kitty litter?
Just pop the hatch. Power liftgate, clamshell opening that’s tall and wide, liftover height at bumper level, and a privacy shelf so no one can see inside.
All well and good. What about passengers? Didn’t you make a big point about the luxury part of the equation?
Where do I start? Leather seating; wood inlays; separate climate control for the rear-another best in class; rear seats that recline and slide-exclusive to the Q5 among my competitors; 60/40 split rear seats-controlled by levers in the cargo compartment; height adjustable front seat belts (who’s doing that anymore?); sculpted door panels to create a spacious feeling in the cabin; dual-zone climate control for the driver and passenger; third generation nav with 3D graphics and real-time traffic information; and, get this, one-liter bottle holders everywhere in the vehicle.
The engineers in Germany must have loved that.
Let’s say it required a little translation. But it shows you how far Audi went to develop the Q5 primarily for U.S. tastes and needs.
By U.S. crossover standards, it’s all quite subtle.
Well, Audis aren’t ostentatious, if that’s what you mean. I think I’ve got a great body. Not pumped up, like I’m on steroids. Not cute, either. Overall, it’s a rounded look, but you see those sharp lines along my shoulder and lower flanks? They’re meant to convey action, texture and refinement. Everywhere you look there’s Audi’s typical attention to detail. Daytime running lights now totally integrated into the headlamps. Q5 logos etched onto the inside of the lenses. A double-layer hood that’s crimped and glued underneath. Power folding outside mirrors. An aluminum drip rail along the roofline with machined grooves on the underside. LED taillights . . .
Well, the Q5 certainly feels familiar, especially sitting inside.
That’s by design. Lots of A4 and A5 similarities, especially in the dash and console, which reflect Audi’s latest interior design standards. Remember, I’m built on the same modular platform as the A4 and A5. And you know what that means, right?
Hey, who’s asking the questions here?
Sorry. It means some of the same dynamic qualities and features that everyone loves in the A4/A5 have been dialed in to the Q5.
And those would be?
Drive Select is available-hear that, enthusiasts? quattro is standard, of course, and rear-biased (40/60). Extensive use of aluminum in the suspension to reduce unpsrung weight. Longer wheelbase, wider track, shorter front overhang . . .
Sounds like you could almost be describing a sporty car.
See, you called me a car. People around Audi do that, too. It’s kind of what makes the Q5 different. Audi wasn’t content to simply match the others in the crossover segment, but to raise the bar, to set new benchmarks.
That brings us back to where we began, doesn’t it? What is a crossover, really?
Hey, all I care about is what an Audi crossover is. Look, a crossover isn’t for everybody. But Audi has developed the Q5 to be a vehicle that’s worth a second look by the car enthusiast. If you want or need this kind of utility, Audi doesn’t make you compromise on style, luxury or driving dynamics.
Audi obviously has high expectations for you.
This isn’t the best time to talk numbers, as you can imagine, but I think I’m going to be almost as popular as the A4. My price should definitely attract attention, starting at $37,200.
Indeed. Well, thank you, Q5. You might just become the life of the crossover party.
Oh, crossovers are so boring. It’s time to shake things up.