09 Audi Q5 (First Look) | Buyer Guide

09AudiQ5

Audi Takes On the BMW X3

The new Audi Q5 faces some fierce competition in the luxury-car marketplace. Established compact crossovers, like the BMW X3 have dominated this segment for years. But I had a chance to put on 600 miles on Q5 over a long weekend, and I think this car is up to the challenge.

Audi based the Q5 on its latest A4 sedan. It shares the same platform, V-6 engine and Quattro all-wheel-drive system. On the outside, the Q5 looks like a tall wagon version of the A4, with its single-frame grille and the hefty fender flares. On the inside, the A4 shines through again, in the instrument panel and controls. However, the Q5 gets the latest Multi-Media Interface (MMI), which uses a 40-gigabite hard drive, and can store 1000 MP3 music files. Yet, the MMI is still not all that intuitive to use.

Under the hood, a 3.2-liter, 270-hp, V-6 packs plenty of punch. Teamed with the six-speed automatic gearbox, it will rush the Q5 to 60 in 6.7 seconds. Standard Quattro all-wheel drive allocates 60-percent of the power to the rear, to give the Q5 a rear-wheel drive feel.

However, what distinguishes the Q5 the most is the Audi Drive Select option. This system enables the driver to select programs to adjust the stiffness of the shocks, the transmission shift points and the steering ratio. The “Comfort” setting smoothes out the road, and provides a relaxed driving experience. “Auto,” the default position, firms things up a bit, and “Dynamic” tightens everything up when you want to take on a twisty road. I tried out these various settings on my drive, and found that the Q5 offers a happy combination of freeway cruiser and sports wagon.

The Q5 is on sale now. The base price is $37,200.

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