In the sales life of an automotive model, usually the longer it is in production, the more “dialed-in” the vehicle is. In the case of the mid-size Q5 SUV, this axiom applies.
For the 2013 model year, Audi has freshened up the cosmetics, infotainment, and the powertrain to make this the best year yet for the Q5.
Audi has eliminated the 3.2 FSI from the 2013 Q5 lineup. Replacing this engine is the superb 272 hp version of the 3.0T Supercharged V6, from the Q7, A6, etc. coupled to the competent and refined ZF sourced eight-speed automatic. The 3.2 FSI in 2012 was rated at 270 hp @6000 rpm, and 243 lb-ft torque @3000 rpm, and was coupled with a six-speed automatic. The 2.0T version has 258 lb-ft, greater than the 3.2 FSI, and the 3.0T as installed has 295 lb-ft.
Audi has also eliminated the 3.2 FSI from all models and series for North America for 2013. Fortunately for us, the Q5 has an expanded motor palette of choices, starting with the 211 hp 2.0T, 272 hp 3.0T, a 2.0T Hybrid, and by this fall, a 240 hp TDI version. As you will read, the top of the line Q5 will be the SQ5 with 354 hp due in showrooms by September 2013.
Increasing the performance and fuel economy, and decreasing CO2 emissions was accomplished by swapping engines and transmissions. According to Motor Trend, the 0-60 time for the Q5 3.2 was 6.6 seconds, with the Q5 3.0T needing just 5.5 seconds.
I wanted to test drive this engine combination, not only to experience the difference in fuel economy and performance, but also to get a taste of things to come in the SQ5 this fall. My Moonlight Blue metallic test car was equipped with the Prestige package, Comfort package, and 20” wheels with 255/45 summer tires. The sticker came in at about $57K. I do not know what the SQ5 will be priced at, but I suppose not too far from this one.
First thing one notices is how lovely these front seats are. With the ventilation and heating besides the power lumbar, you can easily find a super comfortable driving position. Included in the Comfort package is additional leather on the instrument cluster nacelle, as well as on the center armrests and door panels. Firing up the engine and taking off, the power from dead stop is really a great change from the 3.2. While the 2.0T is very competent and more than adequate for driving, the 3.0T as well as the superb eight-speed transmission brings a sporting nature and gut-tickling acceleration. 5.5 seconds in a 0-60 time is no slouch.
Driving up to Angeles Crest for a long ride on all kinds of turns reveals an almost ideal combination of sport and comfort with the 20” summer tires and stock suspension. Very impressive out of the box! I just wished the B8-allroad was as dialed in as this Q5. Braking is adequate and doesn’t suffer any fade or pedal modulation issues. Repeated hard braking did not induce any bad behavior. It will be interesting to see how the brake upgrade is handled in the SQ5 and how that translates into better braking performance.
Overall the handling for an upright and tall vehicle is well balanced. I’m not saying this car can handle as well as a B8-Avant due to the Avant’s lower center of gravity and chassis weight balance, but for an medium size SUV, two thumbs up.
Driving in the city is a little frustrating as the sense of power under your foot makes you yearn for some road to open it up. Fuel economy averaged about 17 mpg in the stop and go urban driving. On the highway, this engine loafs at 70 mph, and returns an easy to obtain 23 mpg.
According to my daughter who accompanied us on a Sunday drive and occupied the rear seat, the seat squabs are not comfortable for a long trip for adults. As most of these rear seats will be occupied with kids in car seats, or with the rear seats down carrying lots of kit, I do not think this will be a problem overall.
Except in direct blazing summer sun, I do like the panorama sunroof that comes standard. When the sun is at a particular angle in front of you, the light leakage through the cloth cover can be annoying. However, the ventilation and just plain open air on a nice day make up for that.
The cargo carrying capacity of the Q5 versus the B8-Avant gives an advantage with the cargo height. Carrying a sofa or chair can be easily accomplished in the Q5. My German shepherd gave me her two paws up for the rear area.
The infotainment system upgrade is so cool. You can use a smart-phone on Wi-Fi with the Audi Connect (courtesy of T-Mobile), tune into Pandora, and then connect your audio portion through Bluetooth. Alternatively, you can play those songs in your phone or iPod/iPad through the system hardwired with the USB connector in the glove compartment. The vastly improved graphics as well as Google Earth are all part of the Navigation, and getting real time traffic alerts is useful.
You cannot distort this sound system without distorting you ear drums first. Very clean and well balanced tones come out of the multitude of speakers and sub-woofer.
Perusing the options on the Audi USA configurator, I have some suggestions for getting a superbly optioned vehicle for the best value. First I think the 3.0T version is great fun. If you are after fuel economy, wait for the TDI version this fall. If you are on a tight budget, get the base 2.0T model for less than $38K, and you will have a great car.
The 3.0T Premium Plus comes in at $43,900. Metallic paint adds $475. If you have the funds, you might consider a custom color at $2,200, but for now let’s stay with one of the standard colors, say Cuvée Silver metallic. Sport interior package with the Chestnut Brown leather adds a very worthwhile $500, and the S-line package adds another $2500. For $3k, you get amazing leather sport seats with four-way lumbar, and leather wrapped three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles. The car will also have adaptive suspension, Audi drive select, 20” wheels with summer tires, and a black cloth headliner. Next up is the Audi MMI Navigation plus package for $3,550. This “must have” package includes a CD/DVD player and HD radio, Audi parking system with the rear view camera (a valuable safety feature with such a large vehicle to park), Color driver information system, Audi music interface, voice control for navigation, audio functions, and telephone. This takes us to $51,820 including destination charge. You could add the Bang and Olufsen sound system for $850, and the rear seat entertainment system for another $1,950, but it all comes down to your budget.
If you are inclined to have your car tuned by APR or Stasis, there could be another 100 ponies lurking under the hood. That could be amazing!
I expect the upcoming TDI version to be as balanced and accomplished as the 3.0T version, except a little slower. It could be a hoot to get over 30 mpg with this lovely vehicle.
So what will the SQ5 bring over a well optioned Q5 3.0T? I am looking forward to finding out.
For the moment, this is one of the most dialed in Audi models I have driven.