Audi Q5: Turbo Diesel Road Music

By Frank A. Aukofer, June 13th, 2015

In music, the roadie embodies a crucial component of a traveling band, working behind the scenes to ensure that everything is set up for top performance. With that thought in mind, the 2015 Audi Q5 TDI is not unlike the premier roadie of motoring: As a collection of well-engineered functions that work in harmony, it delivers more than the sum of its parts, operating so unobtrusively you don't give them a second thought.

The Q5 nestles in the current sweet spot of the marketplace: compact crossover utility vehicles. Almost all of them -- popular priced or luxury -- are selling like tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

Crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs, are built like automobiles, with unit-body construction and modest off-road capabilities. Audi Q5 competitors include the X3 from BMW, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, Acura RDX, Lincoln MKC, Porsche Macan, Lexus NX, and Buick Encore. They sell for premium prices, though some are moderate and others reside in the nosebleed category.

What sets our tested Q5 TDI apart is the 240-horsepower V-6 diesel engine, which delivers a whopping 428 lb.-ft. of torque along with enviable fuel economy of 24/31/27 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined test cycles.

Aside from the fact that diesel fuel is usually about as expensive as premium gasoline, modern diesel engines are otherwise so unobtrusive that anyone would be hard pressed to distinguish them.

In the Q5, the only hint that something is different is the slight hesitation when you punch the start button. Gasoline engines, which have spark plugs, fire up instantly, where the Q5's diesel, which relies on high compression to light the fuel/air mixture, takes about a second.

After that, it's all smooth and silent running. Whether puttering around town or cruising the Interstates, there is no hint of diesel clatter thanks to sophisticated engineering combined with extensive sound deadening materials.

Because diesels deliver massive torque (or low rpm twisting force), they generally accelerate quickly off the line (assuming optimum drivetrain gearing). The Q5 TDI (Turbo Direct Injection) is no exception: 0-to-60 mph acceleration is estimated by the manufacturer at 6.5 seconds, with a top speed of 130 mph.

While some diesels lag a bit when passing on a two-lane highway, the Q5, with its eight-speed automatic transmission, is an exception. Punch the pedal and the transmission instantly downshifts for rapid overtaking and peace of mind.

None of this comes cheap. The tested Q5 TDI carried a starting price of $47,925, which included electronic stability control as part of a full suite of safety equipment, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate, leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, audio system with satellite radio, and power seats and mirrors with memory settings.

In addition, the tester came with optional navigation, premium Bang & Olufsen audio with high-definition radio, rear camera, and parking assist. All of that brought the as-tested price to $52,775.

Typical of Audi, the interior displays classy design with high-quality materials, including dark brown leather upholstery, leather-covered steering wheel, and natural ash wood trim. The only jarring note was the sunshade for the panoramic sunroof, which was made out of a perforated cheese-cloth-like material that admitted too much sunlight.

The front seats, with myriad adjustments that include lumbar, are comfortable and supportive for long-distance cruising. In back, accommodations for two passengers are first rate (except for the occasional unfortunate who must sit in the middle perch on a hard cushion straddling a giant, squared-off floor hump).

Although the Q5's handling and performance are more than capable in any situation, it comes into its own as a road car. Despite its compact dimensions and short wheelbase (relative to larger siblings and competitors), the Q5 delivers a balanced compromise between ride and handling.

The ride tilts a tad toward the stiff side of the spectrum, but the suspension system and tires are supple enough to soak up most road challenges. It only feels unsettled on the toughest of potholes, but the tradeoff in quick steering responses for rapid lane changes is worth it.

The Q5 comes with different personalities, from the base model with a 220-hp four-cylinder gasoline engine to the adrenaline rush of the SQ5, with its supercharged, 354-hp 3.0-liter V-6 engine, that's more sports car than family hauler.

For customers who don't mind seeking out diesel fuel, the Q5 TDI delivers an optimum combination of performance, family utility, and outstanding fuel economy. You can make beautiful highway music with this roadie.

Specifications

Base price $47,925 (as tested: $52,775)
Curb weight 4,475 lbs.
Displacement 3.0-liter
Engine type DOHC turbodiesel V-6
Epa mileage rating 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 19.8 gal.
Horsepower (net) 240 at 3750 rpm
Overall length 182.6 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 428 at 1750 rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger compact AWD CUV
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