By on May 13, 2009

Audi is pitching its late-to-the-party Q5 against Lexus’ recently refreshed RX350. Audi’s ad men would have you believe that the Q5 buyer is making a forceful statement of individuality and taste—in contrast to the RX buyer’s safe, boring, follow-the-herd mentality. It’s a strange play during these times of economic uncertainty but understandable. The Q5 is preaching to the choir. The majority of the Q5′s buyers will come from within the brand’s established audience, who consider Audi’s products the automotive equivalent of an Armani suit. Which makes the Q5 yet another fine young cannibal preying on whatever sales the Q7 may have generated and stealing business from the gotta-have-an-A4-on-stilts crowd. Hang on. Whose product line is this anyway?

Audi marketing punditry aside, the Q5′s exterior is breathtaking . . . for all the wrong reasons. You know you have problems when Audi’s website displays retouched renderings that make Playboy’s centerfolds look like Diane Arbus photographs. The discrepancy between the pictures and the actual car is shocking. The 2D representation seems more agile, angular and, well, better looking.

Unlike some, I quite like Audi’s shield grille (a.k.a. Billy the Big Mouth Bass). But it’s become an excuse for poor design. Audis were once known as the best-proportioned cars on the planet. In fact, you could say Audi’s proportions were their design. Not so here. So not so here. It’s too squat at the rear and too bulbous at the front. Although the Q5 is based on the same platform underpinning the A5 coupe, it’s not even in same league. Founding member, the League of Extra-Ordinary Gentlemen?

Fortunately, the Q5′s interior is a brand faithful rendering of the A4′s posh cabin. If there’s one reason to choose an Audi product over anything else at a similar price point, here, again, it is. Suffice it to say, the Q5’s color scheme, textures, fit and finish, lines and shapes upstaged my wife’s Coach Bag. I’m not a fan of wood inlays (too stuffy), but I’ll take mine in Cardamom Beige, please. The Q5′s rear seats offer fore-and-aft adjustment and recline. Although there’s not enough movement to provide any significant comfort advantage, and THE KIDS WILL DRIVE YOU NUTS, it’s a nice touch to impress nosy neighbors. As is the 3D sat nav, which is no more useful than a 2D system but a whole lot prettier.

Bonus! The Q5′s wider than big brother Q7 AND gives occupants more legroom. But lurking in the Q5′s rearview mirror: the ugly part of the horizontally truncated crossover equation. The Q5 has no more real usable trunk space than the A4. OK, the Q5 trumps the A4′s cargo capacity by five cubic feet (accommodating 29 cubic ft of luggage) you have to stack stuff to the rafters to do it. Needless to say, that’s an excellent way to kill whatever rearward visibility the Q5 can muster. And braking hard with said stuff stacked, well, one Briggs & Riley to the head can ruin your whole day.

Moving back to the front, all US trim levels are equipped with a 270hp TSI V6 and Quattro. The power provided is no more than merely adequate (i.e. perfectly suitable for a 4178 lb five-passenger vehicle that gets 18/20 mpg). Infiniti’s EX35 feels infinitely punchier, but so be it. Like Volvo’s XC60, the Q5′s strong suit is stability. A heavy crosswind sweeping the test course moved our sedan with an irresistible force; the Q5 was an immovable object. As you’d expect, the Q5′s handling dynamic is understeer über alles, Schätze—despite all this torque about rearward bias and repositioned engine weight.

As you’d expect, wheel size is critical to the Q5′s ride quality. The bigger wheels create a harder ride than you’d expect for one not-so-svelte. And once again, still, an Audi is let down by its steering. The Q5′s variable ratio steering is far too light, with about as much visceral feedback as a videogame. Dare I say it? Women. Parking.

The motoring press is ga-ga over Audi Drive Select, a press car standard option that blesses the Q5 with adjustable shocks and transmission settings. It’s a pointless $3000 expense given that the Q5 is what it is: a vehicle that likes being hustled about as much as an American tourist changing money in a Turkish bathhouse. That said, when you install the Q5′s roof rack’s cross-members, sensors tell the computer to adjust the ESP handling nanny to account for a higher center of gravity. In other words, the Q5′s stability control becomes more intrusive, earlier. Or, as Audi says, less intrusive without the cross members because the designers don’t have to account for the safety implications of roof mounted items that aren’t there. How great is that?

Put it all together and it’s clear that the Q5 is an excellent place to sit that’s a much better than the vehicle it replaces: the Q7.

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46 Comments on “Review: 2009 Audi Q5...”


  • avatar
    like.a.kite

    I thought it’d be nicer than that. Looking forward to the new X3.

    Not that fucking X1, however.

  • avatar

    Q3 on its way, too. Just ’cause.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    The Q5 replaces the Q7?

  • avatar
    gossard267

    I agree that the ad campaign is truly bizarre. Really, is panning the RX as a safe, reliable, hell-you-know type of choice supposed to be effective? Aren’t those attributes exactly why the RX dominates this segment? I mean, if I wanted something edgy and different, I probably wouldn’t consider yet another cute ute’ anyways.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    It looks so much like a Volkswagen. Put the new VDub face on the front, complete with “angry” headlamps, and you could easily have Tiguan’s big brother. The interior does look like a proper Audi, however, and that’s where you spend your time anyway. I just hate their current steering wheel.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Do they still make the Allroad? So this would mean Audi now sells the A4 Avant, Allroad, Q5, and A6 Avant, all of which are within a few inches of each other—and will add a Q3.

    Not bad, but they’re still lacking a competitor to the R-Class, X6 and CLS. They cannot afford to leave any niche undefended. Where’s my Q5-with-a-hatchback-roofline (Q6? Q4-and-seven-eighths?)? Or my A7 coupe-with-four-doors.

    Get with with program, Audi!

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It looks so much like a Volkswagen. Put the new VDub face on the front, complete with “angry” headlamps, and you could easily have Tiguan’s big brother

    Great idea! Let’s call it the “Touareg”!

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Where’s the diesel….?

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Mr. Curwood’s review captured the kinds of ambiguities that are part of Audi’s current DNA as well as those traits that nevertheless make an Audi quite appealing.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    The Q5 is better looking than any of its competition, X3, RDX, GLK, RX350, etc. And it fits well into the overall Audi family, it’s a smaller cheaper Q7 like it’s supposed to be. The interior is top notch and performance is fine, it’s not a sports car, more MPG is more valuable in this segment than more HP.

    If my wife didn’t need 3 rows I’d push her towards this as her next car instead of an MDX, Flex or another mini-van. Remember the people who buy these types of vehicles don’t really care about driving, they want a “commanding” view of the road (or are just short like my wife), they want comfort, style and some room to carry some stuff.

    A lot of reviewers harp on these small to mid-sized CUV’s for not adding any real space over a wagon. I agree to a point, but sometimes you aren’t stacking lots of things you just happen to have one tall and or long thing and while it fits in the CUV it wouldn’t fit in a wagon. While I as someone who enjoys driving would opt for a wagon due to the better driving dynamics 90% of driver’s just don’t care.

  • avatar

    Audi’s vague marketing is in no small part due to VW. You should see the email I got from VW trying to explain the Jetta Wagon, “Although the new wagon may not be as cool as the previous wagon…” WTF?! And we all know how confused marketing worked for GM.

  • avatar
    rochskier

    29 cu. ft. of luggage room?

    That’s got to be some kind of joke or typo, right?

    I mean, what’s the point of buying one of these if you can’t actually carry that much with it?

  • avatar
    Frayed Knot

    I would agree with Steve_S that the Q5 is the best looking of its competition, save perhaps the new Volvo XC60.

    I’ve been semi-actively shopping this market as I’m looking to get something larger than my A3, but I’ve been really disappointed with the cargo space in the CUV class. Just from eyeballing it, it looks like the Q5 doesn’t hold a lot more than my A3, and I just can see myself dropping that kind of money for not much more storage. The A4 Avant looks a lot more practical to me. Yes, the Q5 is taller, so you can theoretically stack things vertically to take advantage, but as the reviewer said, it cuts out rear visibility.

    The Q5 is not alone in this regard – the trunks of the RDX and the X3 are also rather disappointing. The only CUVs that I’ve looked at that seem to have a good amount of cargo space is the XC60 and the Mazda CX-7.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    It’s certainly news to me that the RX350 is a compact luxury “cute ute” I always considered it a midsize– competing with the ML and X5.

    Just eyeballing them, to me the X3, GLK, RDX, XC60, Q5 are all a class smaller than the RX350, although I haven’t really looked at the specs of the new model RX350. Is it smaller than the previous model?

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I wouldn’t take this over an A4 Avant, which has a more usable cargo area and (to my eye) looks much sexier.
    I’m looking at a wagon purchase in 9 months, and have been mulling over a CPO A4 avant, a CPO 3 series wagon, a CPO X3, or a Jetta Sportwagen SE. I had been thining about some compact SUV’s, but they had very tall cargo areas that won’t hold three dogs. The VW Routan specifically comes to mind.

    I currently own a Mini Cooper S, and am not especially fond of run-flat tires. . . which may disuade me from the 3-series wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      riddler

      You’re not alone in not liking the run-flat tires.  The former president of BMW Group Canada didn’t like them, either.  In a company meeting he said that they were not popular options and wished they could be removed.  Unfortunately, the current lineup was designed to not have a spare tire, so they were stuck with them.  I know, I was at the meeting.

  • avatar
    tcwarnke

    Looks like a Saturn Vue

  • avatar
    jkross22

    @revolver:

    My neighbor bought an ’07 3 series and complained about excessive tire noise due to the run flats. When one of the tires gave up, he replaced all four with regular tires and now loves the car even more than when he bought it. He said he won’t take the car out of town, so if/when he does get a flat, he’ll just have it towed. Sounds like a pain, but if you really like the car, maybe it’s worth the sacrifice of convenience.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I mean, what’s the point of buying one of these if you can’t actually carry that much with it?

    Gross margin. Audi can charge a lot more for this than they can for an A3 or A4 Avant.

    It’s the kind of logic that used to work when credit was easy. Now it’s a recipe for lots full of cars no one will be buying.

  • avatar
    carguy

    gossard267 has hit the nail on the head. The Lexus RX dominates this segment because its comfortable, safe and deadly dull. The target demographic of these mid size CUVs is just not that interested in sporty handling or bleeding edge design. No surprise that Audi has tried to copy the RX formula for success.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    As for exterior styling, I think the LR LR2 is the best in this cute ute segment. Problem is, I’ve only seen pictures of it, never actually seen one on the road as sales of the LR2 are horrendous.

    One of the reasons I think the RX350 does so well in this segment is because it is actually a midsize, so the cargo and space complaints are absent. The RX350 is actually big enough to be a family car. As I said before, it really competes with the ML and X5, so it is defintely bigger than these cute utes. Also, anybody else notice that almost all RX350′s are driven by women.

  • avatar
    wsn

    dcdriver :
    May 13th, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Just eyeballing them, to me the X3, GLK, RDX, XC60, Q5 are all a class smaller than the RX350, although I haven’t really looked at the specs of the new model RX350. Is it smaller than the previous model?

    —————————————–

    I agree. There is no comparison in size.

    Maybe he is comparing in price. VW is know to sell tiny crap boxes for a lot of money.

  • avatar
    gossard267

    The RX is definitely more practical than this Audi.

    Q5:

    Luggage – 29 cubic ft
    Max Cargo – 57

    2010 RX:

    Luggage – 40
    Max Cargo – 80

    So it is bigger, certainly. But it is still a cute ute’ in a key way: it has styling that, as dcdriver notes, seems to overwhelmingly appeal to women. Most other luxury utes seem styled with a blocky, slashing, almost disorienting series of creases and folds that make them seem larger than they are. The RX, at least historically, has a much more gentle shape that I think allows it to seem ‘cute’, despite being much larger inside than many competitors.

    Also, the RX is indeed 5 inches longer than the Q5, per Edmunds, but it is basically the same width and height.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    While I don’t think it will be a huge sales hit, I think the XC60 will be more successful than either the Q5 or GLK. I just don’t think M-B and Audi buyers really want a car in this segment.

    Seems like most couples/families even those that buy luzury cars have a “large” car (mid-sze or larger SUV) and a mid-size or smaller sedan. I see a lot of driveways with a 3 and an X5, an S60 and an XC90, and E and an ML, an ES350 and an RX, a TL and an MDX. Where does that leave these small CUV’s. Seems like a smallish SUV with decent off-road capability would be the perfect “3rd car” If that is this segment’s best purpose, it isn’t going to sell very well.

  • avatar
    dpr

    @psarhjinian:

    Gross margin. Audi can charge a lot more for this than they can for an A3 or A4 Avant.

    They can, but they don’t.

    An A4 3.2 sedan (3.2 avant doesn’t seem to be available in N.A.) has an MSRP of $40K. Guessing from the price of an A4 2.0T Avant, a 3.2 Avant might be $43K. The Q5 is only $37K.

    Even the mammoth Q7 is $6K cheaper than the A6 Avant.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Do they still make the Allroad? So this would mean Audi now sells the A4 Avant, Allroad, Q5, and A6 Avant, all of which are within a few inches of each other—and will add a Q3.

    In Europe they have an A4 based Allroad and an A6 based Allroad. OTOH, the Qs don’t sell so well there, like all CUVs. But the A4 Allroad appears to be coming to the US, so whatever.

    An A4 3.2 sedan (3.2 avant doesn’t seem to be available in N.A.) has an MSRP of $40K. Guessing from the price of an A4 2.0T Avant, a 3.2 Avant might be $43K. The Q5 is only $37K.

    I’d make some minor quibbles… the Avant premium versus the sedan is only about $1.5K, not $3K. Also the 3.2 Q5 has the three trim levels, whereas the 3.2 A4 only has the two higher trim levels of the A4. (The 2.0T has all three.) Yet OTOH the lowest trim level in the Q5 includes some options that aren’t in the lowest trim level on the A4.

    In general, though, I agree with you. Audi doesn’t really charge a lot more, if any, for the Q5 than for the A4. This is true of other manufacturers and their CUVs as well.

    The 3.2 A4 is definitely going away for 2010, though. Makes sense; there’s little point in taking that engine over the 2.0T or the supercharged 3.0 in the 2010 S4. The 2.0T is probably going to go in the Q5 as well.

  • avatar

    I drove one a few weeks ago, but failed to generate sufficient enthusiasm to write about it. Maybe tomorrow…

    I drove a base model with base wheels. It’s much less attractive with the base wheels. That said, a former Q7 owner in the showroom at the time thought it was a Q7. I happen to see a bit much resemblance to the VUE, like another commenter here.

    I was let down by the interior. Not bad, but not nearly as nice as the ultra-spec interiors in the NAIAS cars.

    The engine felt stronger and sounded nicer than I expected. The steering and handling were as described in this review.

    TrueDelta hopes to have reliability stats on these as soon as possible. Know someone who owns one? Send them here:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    An A4 3.2 sedan (3.2 avant doesn’t seem to be available in N.A.) has an MSRP of $40K. Guessing from the price of an A4 2.0T Avant, a 3.2 Avant might be $43K. The Q5 is only $37K.

    The operative word is margin, not MSRP. The CUV push comes straight from the need to get customers to pay more without getting more. You cannot charge a premium for wagon versus the sedan it’s based on, but you can charge it for a crossover.

  • avatar
    hurls

    The 3.2 A4 is definitely going away for 2010, though. Makes sense; there’s little point in taking that engine over the 2.0T or the supercharged 3.0 in the 2010 S4. The 2.0T is probably going to go in the Q5 as well.

    Well, as someone who has just been cross shopping the recently reviewed RDX and an A4 Avant, that’s too bad. I didn’t even consider the Q5, at least in part because I didn’t want to pay the extra money for the less-torquey V6 over the 2.0T. Not sure how the 2.0T would handle the extra weight of the Q5, but in the A4 Avant it’s noticeably quick and torquey. And pretty economical as well (both in terms of MPG and MSRP).

    Not to mention all the conventional arguments about estate/wagon vs. CUV. If Acura sold a TSX estate, I’d have been cross shopping that instead.

    Going in this afternoon to sign the papers on the Avant, so you can tell where my decision-making process lead me.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    The operative word is margin, not MSRP. The CUV push comes straight from the need to get customers to pay more without getting more. You cannot charge a premium for wagon versus the sedan it’s based on, but you can charge it for a crossover.

    But they don’t actually charge a premium for a crossover right now, not in MSRP, not in invoice, not in actually what consumers are paying. I’d agree with you in theory, but they don’t seem to be doing it. Yes, the operative word is margin, and I suppose it’s somehow possible that the crossover costs less to manufacture than the wagon, but I doubt it. Since the Q5 probably costs at least at much to make and bring over, we can safely compare MSRP to compare margin.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Actually, I have to take back the 2.0T comment, at least for 2010 and in North America. The order guide is out, and they’re keeping the other engines (including the diesel) in Europe. But the 3.2 is definitely going away in the A4 for 2010; just doesn’t bring enough to the table compared to the 2.0T or the new S4. Not a lot of people wanted to pay $3k more for a bit more horses but less torque.

  • avatar
    James2

    I like the RX-bashing ads. I don’t think they are panning the RX, but just saying the thing is too ubiquitous –so if you wanted to stand out from the crowd, you get one of these.

    The problem is, Toyota/Lexus types don’t give a damn, so Audi is just wasting its money.

    Whatever. Just from the ads the Q5 looks way better than the latest RX, as once again Toyota designers show a talent for penning fuglyness. (On the way to work I was laughing at that clown car, the FJ Cruiser).

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “I mean, what’s the point of buying one of these if you can’t actually carry that much with it?”

    Didn’t the man just say, so his short wife can see over traffic?

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    Didn’t the man just say, so his short wife can see over traffic?

    When I hear that argument in the USA, I often wonder how that works. If every third* other idiot has an SUV/CUV/pickup, how exactly do you gain a visibility advantage?

    Clowns.

    * 1/3 might be an exaggeration on my part….

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @MikeInCanada :
    Where’s the diesel….?

    In Europe. 2.0TDI is the entry level Q5. 3.0 TDI more expensive.

    From Audi Germany’s online configurator:

    Gas
    2.0 TFSI 155(211) 6-Gang quattro 40,700.00
    2.0 TFSI 155(211) S tronic quattro 42,850.00
    3.2 FSI 199(270) S tronic quattro 46,900.00
    Diesel
    2.0 TDI 125(170) 6-Gang quattro 38,800.00
    2.0 TDI 125(170) S tronic quattro 40,950.00
    3.0 TDI 176(240) S tronic quattro 47,900.00

    -> 2.0 TDI is cheaper than the 2.0 gasser.
    -> US mandatory slushbox is not available in Europe
    I have seen a few Q5s on the road, but no gassers yet.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @revolver1978 :
    I wouldn’t take this over an A4 Avant, which has a more usable cargo area and (to my eye) looks much sexier.

    If you are 93 years old, the higher ground clearance of he Q5 will be appreciated. If you’re not…

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    So, which one should I tell my girlfriend to get: this or the GLK 350?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    If she’s under 93, neither.
    A4 wagon all he way.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Two words: Po. Zer.

  • avatar
    vman_sti

    I’ve got a Q5. It’s my wifes car but I’ll drive it when the family is out together. I’m impressed with it. Compared to the other ‘luxury’ CUVs, it’s got the best fuel mileage, tows the most (by far), great interior, most cargo in its class (RX350 should not be in the same class), got for invoice and great trade-in. 26.5 miles/gallon on the highway this past weekend.

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    When I hear that argument in the USA, I often wonder how that works. If every third* other idiot has an SUV/CUV/pickup, how exactly do you gain a visibility advantage?

    Well, you certainly get a disadvantage by not joining the arms race.

  • avatar
    PC323

    It just seems interesting that most people have complained about cargo room. We are talking about a mid-size luxury SUV right? The Q5 is not made for hauling 22 kids and your 3 bedroom house wherever you go. If that’s your needs then go buy an Escalade ESV and U-Haul trailer.

    I think Audi has done a tremendous job of standing out from the rest. A stylish crossover with solid features and options, gas mileage is better than it’s competition, tow capacity is among the best, and price is very competitive.

    I’ve been impressed so far with two of the test drives I’ve had in the last two weeks and I’m seriously considering the purchase.

    Of course I could be like very third household and soccer mom and get a Lexus (which I would have to explain to my girlfriend as to how I became a soccer mom) but it’s not about what everyone else has. The Audi Q5 is a good addition to the current norm and all we need now is the TDI version.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    A Nice car for the older people with money not for married couple, who are just starting a family with limited budget.

  • avatar
    revolver1978

    I feel like a bit of a broken record here, but . . . if the styling so so terrible, and Audi’s website has only doctored photos, why are the only images from press releases? Not much “truth” about that – and it’s not just this review, it is practically every new car review on TTAC.

  • avatar
    Raoul

    Hey – it’s a C utility vehicle. I drove the CX60 and the Q5 and the Q5 came with plenty of go power that the CX only had with the turbo version. Both were nice CUVs, but the Audi handling, Xenons, suspension, and tow potential seemed a much better value. My wife will be the primary driver and she certainly doesn’t need 275 ponies, except when fully loaded in the mountains, but I liked the drive, too. The interiors are the usual Audi quality and fit Audi gives the luxury (?) CUV interior. We need a vehicle to transport winter tires for changeouts, the occasional lawn vehicles, etc. and this fits the bill. It should be a great local UV and drive well on trips – I plan to have it for 7-9 years. The Q5 looks exactly like the pictures and has the Audi “finesse muscle look”.

    The Acura, BMW, and Lexus seemed like old designs in engines and handling, to me. Audi makes great cars with top safety ratings and the CUV is form followng function in our case.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    The Q5 makes sense for areas with rough roads or side curbs that would eat an A4 Avant alive (we USA’ers can’t get AllRoad A4′s).
    Pity that CU rated Audi near the bottom on its reliability surveys (the Q5′s one of the offenders), and JDPOWER doesn’t look much better for ‘em.  Perhaps TrueDelta will find otherwise, but given high cost of Audi maintenance, bad reliability gives this potential customer pause.


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