The 2010 Audi Q5 tops TheCarConnection.com's ratings, thanks to sleek lines and a weekend-worthy cabin-though the gimmicky handling features would be better left behind.
The first compact luxury crossover from the brand, the 2010 Audi Q5 takes on the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLK and BMW X3 head to head-not to mention the class sales leader, the Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h crossovers. The Q5 is, for now, available in one configuration: a five-door wagon with a V-6 engine, an automatic transmission, and "quattro" all-wheel drive. The 2010 Audi Q5 sees a very slight price increase to $38,175, including destination charges.
In a class of handsomely sculpted all-weather wagons, the 2010 Audi Q5 stands out. It's a softly sculptured piece, using height and stance to convey SUV capability. As with the Volvo XC60, it's the opposite tack taken by the Benz GLK and Land Rover LR2, which wear more straight-edged sheetmetal. If its massive grille were a little less imposing, the Q5 would be as sophisticated as Audi's sedans-which also suffer from the same prominent nose. The slope of the roofline and the sedan-like tail lamps (with LED lighting) walk the best line between sport-ute size and German-wagon efficiency. The cabin's a fine example of a well-executed driving environment. There are a few too many small buttons, but Audi frames them in metallic trim, wood, and coordinated leathers and plastics to give the somewhat cluttered dash a unified, rich look.
The 2010 Audi Q5 performs near the top of its class. A 3.2-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic with manual gear selection and all-wheel drive. The engine's fairly sweet-revving, though a little louder and more vibration-prone than you might expect-just like the six-cylinder in the latest Lexus RX. Gear changes are quick and mostly trouble-free, unless you choose a downshift manually in Tiptronic mode at the wrong power point. The Q5 will obey, so long as it doesn't frag its engine doing so. There are still no paddle shift controls, and a four-cylinder turbo option would be a welcome addition to the lineup. As it stands, though, the V-6 Q5 accelerates to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds-well into sports-sedan territory. With all-wheel drive, about 8 inches of ground clearance, and hill descent control, the Q5 can handle moderate all-terrain activity, but it's clearly not meant for anything more than casual hill climbing. Towing capacity is 4,400 pounds, and fuel economy is 18/23 mpg. TheCarConnection.com observes just over 18 mpg in mostly city driving.
Handling and ride are more satisfying than in other luxury crossovers, but not ideal. Audi sends more power to the rear wheels by design (with a 40:60 power split to the AWD system), and the Q5 clearly wants to feel responsive and sporting. But as with other Audis, most Q5s are equipped with Drive Select. The electronic-control system allows drivers to dial in choices for steering feel, transmission shift speed, and throttle quickness-but none of the settings seems as good as a sole, well-developed ride and steering setup. With Drive Select in "auto" or "sport" mode, steering feel is too heavy on-center. In Comfort mode, ride quality doesn't soften enough to justify itself. TheCarConnection.com has driven an Audi S4 without Drive Select, and ride and steering feel seem in finer tune.
The 2010 Q5 ferries passengers and baggage smartly in a comfortable, roomy cabin. The largest vehicle in its class save for the 2010 Lexus RX, the Q5 grants front passengers more than enough leg- and shoulder room; headroom is numerically mid-pack, but even with a panoramic sunroof, the Q5 still offers enough height for six-foot drivers and passengers. The seats themselves are firm and adjust for great comfort, even in back, where the passengers can recline for long-trip ease. The second-row seats split and fold to create more cargo space, but even when five people (four adults, really) are seated inside, there's enough cargo room for four roll-on suitcases and a clear view out the rear hatch glass. Small storage abounds, down to the 1-liter cup holders molded in all the doors, the console, and the fold-down armrest in the backseat, so hydration isn't an issue, unless you're a sea creature.
The Q5 has made fast work of all safety tests. It rates five stars in all ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which also names it a Top Safety Pick. Standard front, side, and curtain airbags combine with anti-lock brakes as well as stability and traction control for those top safety ratings; Audi also offers a rearview camera and parking sensors to cut down on low-speed mishaps.
For $38,175, the 2010 Audi Q5 arrives in showrooms outfitted with standard features like three-zone climate control, 18-inch wheels, an AM/FM/CD player, Sirius Satellite Radio, leather seating, wood trim, heated power mirrors, and a tilt/telescope steering wheel. New features include 20-inch wheels, ash wood trim, and ventilated front seats. TheCarConnection.com tested a mechanically identical 2009 Q5 with a Premium Plus package, which added $4,300 for a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate, power heated seats, Bluetooth connectivity, an iPhone/iPod interface, and a six-CD changer. Atop that, a $3,000 Navigation package tacks on a hard-drive-based GPS mapping, parking sensors, a rearview camera, and a DVD player. The $2,950 Drive Select package is the one feature editors wish had been omitted from the options list; the 14-speaker, 505-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo system would have been more welcome.