Audi Q5: A Luxury Gas Sipper

by The Car Family

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If you relish the challenge of roads such as the Ortega Highway, Rim of the World Drive, Angeles Crest, and Highways 243 and 74, the Audi Q5 could be your best friend. Fun on the run whether carving canyons or battling inclines, this five-seater’s handling is going to remind you of why they came up with the term sport utility vehicle. It also is going to befriend you when you refill with excellent fuel economy combined with a 20 gallon gas tank and you have the ability to easily get to San Francisco without refueling.


The Audi is easily the class of the luxury SUV class if you like sporty handling. For those who want a soft ride stick with the Lexus RX. If you need more cargo room the domestic manufacturers have a multitude of good choices. And, if you can afford the gas try the other German entries. But you aren’t going to find a better combination of handling, safety, and energy efficiency in one, albeit, somewhat expensive, package. We were smitten, but we are pushovers for good mileage, a perky engine, and a sport suspension.

Mom’s view: This is an interesting vehicle. It looks big on the outside, but is a bit tight inside for cargo space. I liked the Q5, but for the price it should have more standard features. What it does have in abundance are safety features. It comes standard with ability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. I always recommend ordering the optional safety equipment. In the Audi’s case that includes must have items such as rear side airbags, a backup camera, a lane departure warning system, xenon headlights and even a braking system that warns the driver of a problem ahead. Crash scores are exceptional.


The Audi’s step-over is a bit high due to the nearly 8 inches of ground clearance and the rear hatch is also very difficult to reach if you are under 5’4”, but everything else from the interior lighting to the leather seats provide reassurance that those payments are worth it. Our first pit stop with the Audi was after four hours of tedium, better known as the Interstate 5. When we stepped out of the Q5 nothing. No stiffness, no fatigue, no dreading another four hours on the road. High praise indeed. Overall, a little too much car for my domestic needs. The A4 is what I crave.

Dad’s view: It cost just $43 for gas to drive from Upland to San Jose and the six hours flew by as it simply squashed the Grapevine. We listened to the free satellite radio, watched the driver’s computer mpg readouts escalate, and let the cruise control do the work. The Q5 got 32 mpg on Interstate 5 while keeping pace with the other bored drivers. The secret is a combination of a smallish, turbocharged 2.0-liter, inline-4 engine creating 211 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The transmission does hunt a bit for the right gear, but most of the time is a smooth workaholic. Visibility to the sides is quite good thanks to large mirrors, but there is clearly a need for the optional rearview camera as visibility in that direction is limited. I liked the AudiQ5 due to its just right size, ability to tow more than many other competitors, and the eight-speed transmission. This is as close as you are going to get a a continuous variable transmission and its attendant fuel saving attributes without having to sacrifice the ability to shift for yourself if you feel the need. And, I felt the need a great deal as the turbocharged engine has very little lag and was eager to please.


Young working woman’s view: The steering is interesting. It has an electric assist that adjusts to the situation. When you are parking in a tight spot it is light and when you hit the highway it is heavier. The tight turning radius makes parking in crowded mall lots less dramatic when people are watching.


I did notice that the sun washed out the monitor readings and the dash instrument fonts are quite small. It is a good thing Audi also offers a digital readout for your speed because the analog speedometer is arranged so what looks like 60 is really 80. And, since this is a fairly quiet ride, going well over the limit without noticing is the norm on highways. Like mom, I like the A4 best.

Young working male’s view: Call me practical, well no one ever has, but I think the Audi is more suited for those who need its well proven Quattro all wheel drive and clearance. Sadly, my practical sedan does not get the gas mileage this SUV does and isn’t as easy to park. That bulldog like front catches a lot of wind and our gas mileage went down nearly 30 percent when we were buffeted by a weak Santa Ana. The sound system is good and there were connections for an iPod and other electronic niceties, but you have to order some expensive options to harvest the best tunes in the Audi.

Family conference: The Q5 isn’t for everyone because it is made to be driven.