The Truth About Cars » Q5 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Q5 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Review (With Video) Mon, 18 May 2015 12:00:24 +0000 Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This […]

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This Lincoln is essentially the same size as the Lexus NX and Mercedes GLK. Although the MKC is finally the same size as its competition, it marches to a different drummer, and after a week I finally realized something. It’s refreshing to have something different.


Let’s talk competition first. The MKC is Lincoln’s answer to the X3, Q5, NX, XC60, and GLK. This seems to confuse some folks who assume the MKC and the Lexus NX were designed to compete against the X1 and Evoque. Looking at the specs, the MKC sits right between the GLK and Q5 in overall dimensions.

By now you’ve probably heard the MKC is the “Lincoln Escape”, but what does that really mean? The MKC shares safety systems and body structure designs with the Escape. However, it shares no sheetmetal with the Ford. Lincoln didn’t just re-skin the Escape, either. They widened the body and the track while they were at it, resulting in a lower, wider stance that’s more appropriate in the luxury segment than the perky upright character of the Escape. This is essentially the same formula that Lexus used to make the Lexus NX, which is a cousin to the RAV4. Like the NX and RAV4, parts of the Escape lurk inside the MKC, but you have to look fairly hard to find them.

The MKC receives Lincoln’s latest grille design, which is more restrained than the MKT’s odd-looking schnoz. Although pictures of the MKC seem polarizing, passers-by thought the MKC was attractive in person. If you think something about the rear looks a hair unfinished, you’re not alone. It’s the lack of a protruding bumper of any sort. Aside from the unfinished aesthetic, lacking any real bumper means mishaps with taller vehicles are likely to damage the rear hatch in addition to the bumper cover, increasing repair costs.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior


The MKC wears the best interior Lincoln has ever created. Period. More than that, the model with real leather is arguably a nicer place to spend your time than the current Q5, GLK, QX50, RDX, or XC60. Opt for the Black Label package and things are taken to the next level. Lincoln shoppers have more ability to customize their crossover than most of the competition with four different upholstery colors that coordinate with three different dashboard and door colors and two wood veneer options (you can’t mix and match). Opting for the Black Label edition gives you an additional four “themes” to choose from. If you want this kind of selection, the MKC and Evoque are really your only options, and the Range Rover doesn’t allow as much customization on base models.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003

Front seat comfort depends greatly on your body shape. I’m 6-feet tall and found the seat bottom cushions oddly short and lack thigh support. A 5-foot 4-inch tall person told me the seats fit like a glove. Despite being smaller than all but the Mercedes GLK, the rear seats proved comfortable and easily as accommodating as the XC60.

The cargo area is the biggest compromise in the MKC. It’s notably smaller than most of the competition with just 25 cubes of room behind the rear seats. You’ll find about 20 percent more room in the Volvo.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console


MyLincoln Touch is oddly named for sure, and it’s received more than its share of bad press. Does it crash now and then? Sure. But I actually think MLT is a reason to put the MKC on your list, not take it off. Volvo’s Sensus Connect uses a smaller screen and, despite the new connected features, still lacks decent control of iOS/USB media devices. Audi’s MMI and Mercedes COMAND are attractive systems, but lack the voice command library you get in the Lincoln. iDrive is still my preferred infotainment option, but Lincoln may give it come competition with SYNC3, due out next year.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001


Under the hood, the order sheet starts out with a 2.0L direct-injection turbo engine good for 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a 6-cylinder engine filling out the top of the range like the Europeans, Lincoln opted to borrow the 2.3L turbo from the new Mustang instead. Five years ago, that would have been derided as insane, but Lexus has gone 4-cylinder only in the new NX and Volvo has committed to the demise of their five and six cylinder turbos as well. Sadly, the 2.3L engine loses some grunt in the translation, dropping from 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft in the Mustang to 285 ponies and 305 lb-ft of twist. 2.0L shoppers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive while the 2.3L model gets all-wheel drive as standard.

Both engines are mated to the 6F35 6-speed automatic transaxle. The 6F35 transaxle is likely the reason for the power reduction from the tune used in the Mustang. Although Ford does not specifically list torque capabilities like General Motors, the Ford 6F35 is substantially similar to the GM 6T50 transaxle, topping out at 260 lb-ft. (GM and Ford designed their 6-speed transaxles together.) Since the engine cradle design in the MKC is largely unchanged from the Escape, the higher torque capacity 6F50 and 6F55 transaxles likely didn’t fit. In order to accommodate the 2.3L engine, Ford replaced the 6F35’s standard torque converter with a higher torque unit but no transmission internals were changed. This allowed the entire package to have approximately the same dimensions as the 2.0L drivetrain. I suspect this also explains why the maximum tow rating drops 1,000lbs when equipped with the 2.3L engine.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2


In an interesting twist, most MKCs on dealer lots will have a suspension with active dampers. This is a significant difference between the Lincoln and the competition which generally doesn’t have active dampers available at any price. This means we must have a quick suspension lesson since active dampers are a huge part of the MKC’s personality.

Springs and dampers work together to make a car ride and handle a certain way. Springs support the vehicle’s ride height and compress and rebound to conform to the road surface. Dampers control the movement of the spring in both directions. Spring and damping rates are carefully matched by vehicle engineers and in most cars they are fixed. In vehicles with dynamic dampers, the spring rate stays constant and the damping rate becomes a variable. In order for this to work, you have to start with a “soft” spring and when you want a firmer ride you attempt to compensate with “firmer” damping. While systems like this greatly improve the ride and allow the driver to customize the suspension within a particular range, they can feel quite different.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

The first hint Lincoln had a different mission in mind for the MKC is obvious when you start driving. If the suspension is in comfort mode, you get the softest ride in this segment by a mile. The MKC is so soft in this mode that I initially assumed the baby Lincoln was 1,000lbs heavier. With the suspension in normal mode, the MKC feels more buttoned down, but there is still plenty of tip and dive and body roll. “Sport” firms things up but the feeling isn’t the same as you’d find in a traditionally sprung vehicle. The reason is that although the dampers can restrict motion, the springs are still pillowy soft.

Initially I was disconcerted by the soft suspension and assumed the athletic abilities would be harmed as a result. I was wrong. With a 0-60 sprint of 6.15 seconds, the MKC 2.3L beats most of the entries, matches the 325 hp XC60 R-Design and only lags the X3 xDrive35i and RDX in the non-performance category. It also stopped from 60 MPH in an impressive 112 feet in our tests and a respectable .83Gs in Edmund’s skidpad test. (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad.) That’s all possible because the MKC is light for a luxury crossover, ranging from 3,791 in FWD 2.0L trim to to 3,989 lbs in the AWD 2.3L model.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001


As you’d expect from Lincoln, pricing starts low at $33,100, undercutting BMW by over $5,000, and we get about $500 of additional equipment in the base MKC. Adding AWD to the base model tacks on $2,495. That sounds steep but Lincoln bundles the dynamic suspension and a few other goodies with it. Our 2.3L AWD tester started at $40,145 and had $7,775 of options added to make an essentially fully loaded MKC.

The Black Label model is an interesting option. Black Label is about luxury and customization, not performance. This means you can get the 2.0L engine with front wheel drive in Black Label trim starting at $46,205. For the extra dosh, a “shopping assistant” will help you choose from four unique interior themes, five unique wood veneers and some extra paint options. The interior is further upgraded with faux-suede headliners and more standard features. In addition to the goodies, you get improved service with scheduled maintenance and wear item coverage (shocks, belts, etc), a loaner car when yours is in for service, lifetime car washes at a Lincoln dealer and annual detailing services.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001

I have to admit when I first took the MKC out on the road, I didn’t like it. The well-appointed interior is attractive, but the ultra-plush driving dynamics took some getting used to. Then an odd thing happened. A friend of mine who is in her early 30s said “I’m tired of the harsh ride in my X3 but I still want a crossover.” I had her drive the MKC and it was love at first tip and dive. I suddenly realized: from the Lexus NX to the Mercedes GLK, every one of the competition is trying to be the soft-roader that can lap the Nurburgring in under 9 minutes. Except the MKC.

The Lincoln can hang with the middle of the pack in terms of handling, but the handling feel is an entirely different matter. The soft suspension makes turn-in feel lazy, steering feel non-existent and the cabin hushed. The combination means the MKC is eminently capable with high limits, but the design of the vehicle makes it hard to determine where those limits are located. If that sounds like the kind of product Lexus used to be known for (before they too started chasing BMW), you’re right. Once I stopped chasing the X3, I realized how refreshing it was to have a competitive product without the “me-too.” Bravo Lincoln.

Lincoln provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.26 Seconds

0-60: 6.15 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 92.5 MPH

Average economy: 20.3 MPG over 699 miles

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front .CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Headlamp 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Side 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seat Controls.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Speaker 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Steering Wheel.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior-001

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Capsule Review: 2014 Audi SQ5 Sat, 01 Nov 2014 12:35:32 +0000 The number of double-takes was odd, I thought. In the summer, with the top down in a red Camaro ZL1, rubberneckers are a dime a dozen. But the SQ5 is a subtly enhanced version of the Audi Q5, a small crossover that’s been around for more than five years; the best-selling model at one of […]

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2014 Audi SQ5The number of double-takes was odd, I thought. In the summer, with the top down in a red Camaro ZL1, rubberneckers are a dime a dozen. But the SQ5 is a subtly enhanced version of the Audi Q5, a small crossover that’s been around for more than five years; the best-selling model at one of America’s/Canada’s fastest-growing luxury brands. Sure, this one has optional 21-inch alloy wheels, valued at $800, but are big wheels enough to cause the majority of passersby to turn for another look?

Ah yes, the noise, that’s what did it. Audi’s supercharged 3.0L V6 does have the tendency to bark melodically, particularly when Audi Drive Select is used to switch engine noise (along with engine/transmission and steering) to Dynamic mode, up a notch from Comfort and Auto. Added to that was the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, which was used extensively at wake-the-neighbours volume. How civilized.

Less civilized is the amount of understeer and the way that understeer is encountered prematurely. Yet that’s only a surprise because of the dynamics manifested by the SQ5 most of the time – it’s not a high-riding SUV that you drive like an SUV. At all. Naturally, when taking corners like the TTS you forgot it wasn’t, the SQ5 plows sooner and with more disconcerting pressure on the outside front tire than you expected. After all, you forgot you were driving a 4400-pound, 65.3-inch tall utility vehicle, not a 3858-pound, 55.4-inch tall S4.

2014 Audi SQ5That you could forget something so obvious is a testament to the SQ5’s overall balance. Of greater interest to those who prefer the SQ5 over conventional Q5s like the 220-horsepower 2.0T and 240-horsepower 3.0L TDI because of the SQ5’s rate of acceleration, ride quality is firm but compliant over the worst roads, if slightly busy in routine driving.

But what acceleration it is. The SQ5 is less expensive than other hyper-quick SUVs, the AMGs and M-badged BMWs, less costly than the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, as well. Audi’s supercharged 3.0L, with 354 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque, is mated here to an 8-speed automatic, not the 7-speed dual-clutch from the similarly engined S4.

Not at any moment do you feel as though the meat of the power band is located elsewhere, although Comfort mode does seem to use very economy-minded programming for the 8-speed auto, refusing to drop down a gear without a real kick in the pants. Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel-drive means firm prods of the throttle always result in instantaneous forward motion almost regardless of surface. (We’d strongly recommend something other than 255/40R/21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GTs if you’ll be driving in snow. Nothing kills the benefits of all-wheel-drive quite like skipping out on winter tires.)

The true brute force of the supercharged V6 is felt not from rest but at speed, however. Squirting around traffic to get to an off-ramp ahead, rather than behind, of a line of slow-moving CR-Vs and RAV4s is a task completed with shocking quickness.

TTAC 2014 Audi SQ5All the while, SQ5 pilots are ensconced in a typically classy Audi interior. There are letdowns. For starters, the interior doesn’t feel fresh, perhaps because of the overarching darkness. Even the optional aluminum inlays ($1100) don’t spice up the ambience. I wouldn’t say the SQ5 offers luxury-like silence, either, with wind noise being rather prevalent. There are a number of blanked-out switches in prominent locations, too, which always causes you to wonder what you’re missing out on after spending $53,595, or $68,745 fully equipped ((U.S. market pricing including destination). Audi’s MMI is simple, though, with shortcut buttons spread around a central control knob, and everything feels so very expensive. As it ought to.

Rear seat space does not stand out, not for its snugness or its abundance of space. Yet cargo dimensions are a letdown. The Q5 is 183 inches long from bumper to bumper and 75.2 inches wide. That’s nearly five inches longer and nearly four inches wider than the Honda CR-V, but the CR-V offers 24% more seats-folded cargo capacity and 28% more space behind the rear seats. The SQ5 remains a flexible cargo carrier, but the sloping roof which helps to make all Q5s so handsome reduces the SQ5’s ability to take a young family away on vacation.

2014 Audi SQ5 interiorThe SQ5 is not alone in this luxury crossover cargo conundrum: GLKs and X3s are also down on luggage capacity compared with America’s similarly-sized top-selling utility vehicles.

The Audi SQ5 is the fast Q5, an older and popular vehicle, and thus a common vehicle. It’s also tiny in the back and, not unexpectedly, quite a guzzler. We averaged 18.7 mpg during the week Audi Canada allowed the SQ5 to visit our driveway, in keeping with its ratings and appropriate for a pickup truck. Fortunately, Audi adds a healthy dose of standard equipment to the SQ5’s performance credentials, the kind of stuff we often see on premium brand option sheets: panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, three-zone automatic climate control, keyless access, twelve-way power seats with driver memory.

One could make an argument that with this amount of power, unavailable in the Q5’s direct rivals, and this level of equipment, the SQ5 is making an overture to the value-conscious corners of our brains. Meanwhile, the SQ5 is also playing another tune, courtesy of Bang & Olufsen and a supercharged 3.0L, in order to tug on our heartstrings.

Timothy Cain is the founder of, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Thu, 03 Jan 2013 13:00:08 +0000 We’re all familiar with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, from its new-for-2010-looks-like-2002 exterior to its “they want how much for this?” interior. But the fourth model year is MCE time. Mid-cycle, has Stuttgart enhanced its compact crossover enough that previous rejecters should reconsider it? This being an MCE, the “aimed for G-Wagen, hit late-model Forester” metal hasn’t changed. More […]

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We’re all familiar with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, from its new-for-2010-looks-like-2002 exterior to its “they want how much for this?” interior. But the fourth model year is MCE time. Mid-cycle, has Stuttgart enhanced its compact crossover enough that previous rejecters should reconsider it?

This being an MCE, the “aimed for G-Wagen, hit late-model Forester” metal hasn’t changed. More Volvo than any post-Horbury Volvo, it remains the yang to the Audi Q5’s yin. New light assemblies and fascias address an LED deficit (and then some) while taking the box they append uptown.

Mercedes got the message that many people (or at least many reviewers) found the original GLK interior overly basic, to put it kindly.

The revised interior has more soft surfaces and looks more worthy of a price north of forty. Plain, hard-edged black plastic surfaces are out, displaced by some subtle curves (though the basic forms remain blocky), additional wood trim, and many not-so-subtle chrome bits. The new white-ringed instrument faces are classier. Unless it’s dusk, when the main thing you’ll notice is how hard it is to read silver digits on a white background.

Before you get carried away by visions of opulence, realize that the seat cushions remain flat and firm. Rear legroom also hasn’t changed, and so remains short of the segment average. A six-footer will fit behind a six-footer even if they’re wearing tall hats, but shins will be grazed. If you need more space, a dealer will happily show you something in a larger size.

The GLK brochure proclaims the “SUV embodiment of a sport sedan’s soul.” From the start, the fundamentals have been present: a big V6, nearly balanced weight distribution, and 19-inch wheels shod with low-profile rubber, all as standard equipment. For 2013, the V6 receives direct injection and a power bump from 268 to 302. Lay into it, and the GLK350 will scoot, but the powertrain’s initial response isn’t snappy as engine remains paired with an aging (if updated) seven-speed automatic. The newly offered (and standard) shift paddles don’t help. Add in the need to hit a button on the console to activate them (the P-R-N-D shifter is column-mounted), and they might as well sign up for unemployment.

The 2013 GLK’s retuned suspension feels tighter than I recall from the one one I drove two years ago. Body control is up while lean in hard turns is down. The steering, now electric-assist, contains less slop than the previous hydraulic unit while providing a similarly low level of feedback. Drive the GLK the way such vehicles are typically driven, and it behaves well, with the ride quality and quietness people expect from a premium brand and the evident solidity people expect from a Mercedes. Push the ute, though, and you’ll discover limited grip as the outside front Latitude Tour HP scrubs and a non-defeatable, far-from-transparent stability control system jerks your chain. If you’re looking for fun, you’re much more likely to find it in the competing Audi, BMW, Infiniti, or Volvo.

Fuel economy has also been enhanced. In addition to direct injection and electric-assist steering, the GLK350 has gained an automatic start/stop system. Unlike Munich’s contraption, which produces shudders unbecoming any machinery this side of a Tata Nano, Stuttgart’s operates almost imperceptibly. The EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 24 highway might seem less than impressive, but they’re considerably better than last year’s 16/21! (Unlike with an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but like the Infiniti EX37, you can get rear-wheel-drive. The EPA highway figure is then 25.)

Like Toyota’s hybrids, the updated GLK grades your driving. The grades are more precise than in a lowly Prius c—out of 100 rather than on a five-point scale—yet they are considerably less helpful. In a Prius c, the grades are for the current accelerate-cruise-brake cycle. In the Mercedes, they’re for the entire period since the car was started or the system was manually reset. Consequently, the link between what you do and the grade you receive is far less intuitive. You start out with a 50. From there, it’s easy to sink your score into the teens, and surprisingly difficult to nudge it over 80. On one suburban drive I managed a 98 with a feather-light foot and a sharp eye for anything that might require the brakes. The trip computer reported 28 mpg. When paying less attention to my driving, but still driving far from aggressively, the trip computer reported a score in the 40s and about 21 mpg. If your foot is at all heavy you won’t observe north of 20 in the suburbs, with 16-17 a very real possibility. Require better fuel economy? A GLK250 BlueTec powered by a 190-horsepower, 2.1-liter diesel arrives next spring.

Of course, most people don’t buy Mercedes for how they handle or how far they go on a gallon. What likely matters most—beyond the three-pointed star—is the amount of technology packed into the vehicle, and especially that focused on safety. To remind you of the priority the GLK puts on your well-being, the front seat belts are given a very firm tug each time you start the car.

Every redesigned or refreshed Mercedes beginning with the 2010 E-Class has received a drowsiness monitor as standard equipment. The system works entirely by evaluating the frequency and amplitude of steering corrections. So, if you are not aware that you’re falling asleep, a “coffee cup” icon below the speedometer will inform you.

Blind spot and lane departure warnings are available in passive and active forms. In “active,” the system doesn’t only warn you via a large graphic between the tach and speedometer. It also selectively blips the brakes and tugs the wheel to help get the car back where it’s supposed to be. I found the blind spot system helpful, perhaps because the warning light in the mirror alone was sufficient and I never tripped the “active” level. The lane departure system, on the other hand, proved a PITA. Touch the lane marker (quite easy to do with the one on the blind side) and you’d think death was imminent from the strength of the system’s reaction. To be fair to Mercedes, I haven’t yet encountered a lane departure system that wasn’t a nuisance. This one was only the most intrusive of the bunch.

The optional adaptive cruise control impresses, even in traffic. On some of my trips around town I let the GLK do most of the driving. (The car gave its own driving style a grade of 46%.) Even if it’s not on, the Distronic system will sound a warning if you approach the car ahead too quickly. If you don’t react, it will attempt to stop the car itself. In a major ergonomic revolution (for Mercedes, at least), the turn signal and cruise control stalk have swapped positions. I made it through the entire week without setting the vehicle speed in an attempt to signal.

The GLK is also now able to steer itself into a parallel parking space. Unfortunately, life in the burbs provided no opportunity to test this system.

The Lighting Package now includes, in addition to steering-linked xenon headlamps, “adaptive highbeam assist.” Theoretically, this means that the car determines the appropriate and safe amount of forward lighting, and automatically provides it. In practice, it meant I had to switch the lamps out of “auto” to get the high beams. In “auto,” the car almost always rescinds your request for the brights the moment you release the stalk.

On the infotainment front, the GLK can now connect you to news, Google search, Yelp, Facebook and (when parked) the entire Internet for $14 a month on top of the $280/year basic “mbrace” telematics fee. Yes, it all costs money. Load up a GLK350, and the price jumps from $39,995 to the tested car’s $55,015. Even at this price the tested GLK lacked proximity key ($650), premium audio ($810), an Appearance Package (20s, shiny roof rails), and an AMG Styling Package that includes the previous and adds more aggressively styled fascias and wheels ($1,990). For the sake of comparison, let’s add the first two options, yielding an MSRP of $56,475.

This only seems like too much money for a compact SUV until you compare the competition. A loaded BMW X3 xDrive35i lists for $620 more—and running both through TrueDelta’s Car Price Comparison Tool finds that over $3,000 of the stuff on the Benz isn’t available on the BMW. Adjust for this, and the BMW is $3,700 higher. An Audi Q5 3.0T lists for a scant $45 more. But back in the 1990s, the idea of an Audi costing even a dime more than a Mercedes would have been written off as just another one of Piech’s insane ambitions. After adjusting for feature differences the Audi is $500 more. Of course, if you’re willing to go non-German, an Infiniti EX37 or a Volvo XC60 is about $3,000 less. Or, if you don’t need 300+ horsepower, the 240-horsepower X3 xDrive28i is about $1,200 less than the GLK while the 211-horsepower Q5 2.0T (not available with some of the 3.0T’s pricey options) undercuts a similarly decontented Mercedes by about $4,000.

Which leaves us where? Those who liked the GLK’s exterior before will like it more now. Those who didn’t like it before most likely still won’t, unless their issue was insufficiently fancy lights. Performance and handling have both improved, but not by enough to win over driving enthusiasts. The array of available technology could impress some people. Competitors offer many of the same features, but the GLK could have the most in the class, at least for now. Most of all, though, the dramatically upgraded interior could warrant another look. When you think of how people actually use this class of vehicle, an upscale look and feel matters a great deal, and the 2013 GLK is a much more credible luxury vehicle than the 2012 was.

Mercedes-Benz provided a GLK350 with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

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Review: 2011 Audi Q5 Fri, 16 Sep 2011 19:27:47 +0000 Tick off all the boxes on an Audi Q5 order form, and you’ll find yourself staring at a $58,350 tab. Too much for a compact crossover? Well, the example seen here will set you back $20,000 less. Now I know what you’re thinking: “A mere $38,400 for a right-sized chunk of German engineering? Sign me […]

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Tick off all the boxes on an Audi Q5 order form, and you’ll find yourself staring at a $58,350 tab. Too much for a compact crossover? Well, the example seen here will set you back $20,000 less. Now I know what you’re thinking: “A mere $38,400 for a right-sized chunk of German engineering? Sign me up!” Not so fast—to save twenty large you must give up something. But what?

The Q5’s outer shell is very much current Audi…except it also strongly resembles the latest Cayenne. (And the latest VW Touareg for that matter. Time for a Fortune cover?) If these lines are viable for the far pricier Porsche—and dealers can’t keep the peppers on the lot—then certainly they’re sufficiently upscale for this Audi. One wrinkle: the full tab nets the twenty-inch five-spoke wheels the designers had in mind when they penned the Q5’s exterior. At the other end of the spectrum, you get the 18s seen here. Not bad rims, and certainly far from tiny by historical standards, but ensconced in a clean-to-a-fault soap bar with wheel openings sized for dubs they take the whole downmarket.

When optioned with the Luxury Package, the Q5 contends with the Infiniti EX35 for the segment’s best interior, with soft leather covering not only the seats but also the door armrests and the hood over the instruments. But with this package the price jumps well into the fifties—it’s only available with the V6 and top trim level. The base interior, though it shares the same Teutonically tasteful design and solid construction, is a decidedly less opulent place. The door armrests are molded soft-touch plastic with hard plastic door pulls, and the seat upholstery, though technically leather, like much automotive cowhide easily passes for vinyl. (In fact, I have in my notes that “the vinyl isn’t as convincing as some.”) All-black with a smattering of wood trim not your thing? Any of the three two-toned color schemes, offered at no additional cost, warms the cabin up considerably. But even then the interior doesn’t have the cozy, custom-tailored ambiance you’ll find inside the Infiniti (assuming you can fit). My wife loved that Infiniti. She was not a fan of the Audi, to put it politely.

Keeping the price under forty means the standard audio system (pretty good, but no 505-watt 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen, that’s another $850) and no nav. The latter omission isn’t a problem for me personally, except it also means that the primary “MMI” (climate, audio, etc.) control knob and its surrounding buttons are on the center stack, where they’re not nearly as comfortable to reach or as easy to operate. With the nav these controls are much more ergonomically located aft of the shifter on the console. My wife’s comment on the controls: “Every time I had to do something new I had to sit there and think about it.” Even starting the Q5 poses a challenge for the unfamiliar. I was baffled for a number of minutes (I don’t want to admit how many) until I noticed a slot tucked up next to the center stack’s air vents. Stick the entire fob into it, push till it goes click, and—what do you know—the car starts. Want to keep the fob in your pocket? Then spring for the V6.

In general, automotive infotainment systems won’t let you do various things while driving. Click over to the Q5’s phone dialer, and you’re informed: “Distraction causes accidents. Never enter data while driving.” Click to accept this…and the next page lets you enter a phone number. Better than not being able to do this at all, but making habitual liars out of drivers one click at a time.

You get the same firm but supportive seats regardless of how the Q5 is optioned. If you want to feel like you’re sitting on a sofa, an Audi is not the car for you. The high, unobstructed view forward from the driver’s seat is a key reason people buy this sort of vehicle instead of the wagon (“avant” for those who speak Audi) most driving enthusiasts would favor. Huge mirrors do the same for the rearward view. The Q5 is only 182 inches long, about the same as a BMW X3 or Infiniti EX35 but much less lengthy than a Cadillac SRX or Lexus RX 350, which really compete with the others in terms of price rather than size. Still, unlike in the Infiniti there’s plenty of room in back for the average adult. A high-mounted cushion provides good thigh support and the seatback reclines. The compact exterior has a larger impact on cargo space, but there’s still more of it than in the Infiniti. More of a bother: the artfully shaped tailgate affords no good grips and opens so high that women of below-average height will need a step ladder to reach it. Or get one of the upper-level trims, which include a power tailgate.

The stopwatch will tell you that the 2.0T’s 211-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine is nearly as quick as the 3.2’s 270-horsepower V6, thanks to a plumper midrange (peak torque of 258 foot-pounds at 1,500 rpm vs. 243 at 3,000) and two extra cogs in the autobox (for a total of eight). But the six feels smoother and sounds far sweeter. The turbo four is more than capable of moving the Q5, but the six is much more likely to move the driver. With eight speeds, manually downshifting to second or third for a turn requires a lot of taps. The solution: shunt the shifter into S and the transmission will find a suitably low gear (or an even lower one) on its own.

The advantage of the turbo four + eight-speed combo: fuel economy. The EPA ratings of 20 city, 27 highway are tops for the premium compact crossover class, though BMW’s mighty turbocharged six is close behind. In casual suburban driving the (possibly optimistic) trip computer reported high twenties and low thirties.

Last winter I attended a comparison drive for the new BMW X3…and came away impressed with the Q5. The BMW had a steadier, more composed ride and more balanced handling, and when fitted with a (conservatively rated) 300-horsepower turbocharged six is much quicker. By any objective measure it’s the best performer in the segment. But the Audi’s chassis felt livelier and somehow more natural, and on curvy roads I enjoyed driving it more. The biggest difference: steering that clearly communicated what was going on at the front contact patches. This was the standard steering and suspension: a $2,950 “Audi Drive Select Page” offered only on the top trim substitutes active steering and adaptive shocks, but unlike on some other Audis doesn’t include an active rear differential. With the moderately rear-biased all-wheel-drive system and conventional rear differential a heavy right foot can coax the rear end to step out, but this is a more practical possibility with the BMW.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with the Q5’s steering this time around. Part of the reason could be that I didn’t have the other vehicles (X3, RX, SRX) on hand for a direct comparison. But the Q5’s steering also isn’t as exemplary during daily driving as it is when hustling along a curvy road. When driven casually, steering effort varies dramatically and somewhat unpredictably, and the feel is more artificial. The positive spin: when you most need the steering to talk, it talks. The Audi wants to be driven hard. Ignore its needs, and (like the high-strung, high-maintenance mistress I don’t have) it misbehaves while refusing to talk to you.

One mystery: the tested vehicle was fitted with W-rated Goodyear Excellence tires. Such “grand touring summer” tires, though commonly fitted as standard equipment in Europe, rarely appear in the all-season-loving U.S. On the Q5, we get performance-oriented rubber only with the “S Line” package, which is only offered with the V6. By accident or otherwise, the press fleet Q5 2.0T was wearing relatively sticky Euro-market treads.

So, to get to a $38,400 sticker (up $400 from the tested 2011 model), you’ve given up the wheels the designers intended, leather that feels like leather, ergonomic controls, a broad array of conveniences, the sweet sounding six, the trick shocks, and sticky tires. But do other cars offer more at this price point?

Not the related A4 Avant wagon, which lists for $800 more while including fewer features as standard equipment. You get a standard panoramic sunroof with the wagon—one’s an option on the Q5—but no power lumbar on the passenger seat, no wood trim, no three-zone automatic climate control, no automatic lights, no rain-sensing wipers, no trip computer. Tally up the differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the Q5’s price advantage widens to about $1,500. Detroit’s product strategy favored SUVs because they found car buyers were willing to pay more for them than for a wagon. The Germans didn’t get the memo. By this yardstick, the Q5 is a bargain: 380 pounds more car (4,090 total), less money.

The Infiniti EX35 that seduced my wife lists for $1,800 more, but includes a standard 3.5-liter V6. So is the Q5 3.2 a more appropriate comparison? Load up both the Infiniti and a Q5 3.2, and the Japanese crossover ends up about $5,500 less. The Germans charge top dollar for options, who knew?

A similarly-equipped BMW X3 xDrive2.8i lists for about $4,000 more, partly because you must specify the “Premium Package” to get the leather, wood trim, and dual four-way power lumbar adjustments standard on the Audi. This brings along some features not on the tested Audi, most notably a panoramic sunroof. Adjust for these, and the Audi retains a roughly $2,200 advantage. Enough to sway some buyers? Maybe. At a minimum the Audi is competitively priced.

So, with the Audi Q5 car buyers face a quandary. It’s fun to drive compared to any other compact crossover save the BMW, but anyone who makes this a top priority will (or at least should) go with the A4 Avant or BMW 3-Series wagon instead. So the Q5 is more likely to sell to those seeking the perceived superior comfort and convenience of a crossover. But a sub-forty Q5 lacks many comforts and conveniences. Check off the boxes to get these, and the price tag rapidly ascends into the mid-forties and beyond, at which point the Q5 isn’t as good a value.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Review: 2011 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI Wed, 20 Apr 2011 19:26:09 +0000 The crossover is the new minivan, and in an age of $4-per-gallon gasoline, the fuel-efficient crossover is all the rage. While minivan-mommies may disagree for the sake of image, ask yourself: how is your crossover different than your parent’s minivan? The minivan sprang out of the station wagon revolt and the CUV is the result […]

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The crossover is the new minivan, and in an age of $4-per-gallon gasoline, the fuel-efficient crossover is all the rage. While minivan-mommies may disagree for the sake of image, ask yourself: how is your crossover different than your parent’s minivan? The minivan sprang out of the station wagon revolt and the CUV is the result of minivan denial. As usual, the formula is the same: start with a sedan, add a taller box, toss in some optional AWD to make buyers think they are getting something rugged and you get instant sales success (unless you’re a Chrysler, but that’s a different review). This CUV formula wrought on an A4 creates the Audi Q5, one of Audi’s hottest selling models in the US market. Sales of the cute-ute soared over 70% to just over 23,000 in 2010 and show no signs of cooling with January sales up 50% over 2010. To keep the momentum (and CAFE numbers) going in the right direction, Audi has mated the corporate 2.0T engine to the latest 8-speed auto from ZF creating the 2011 Q5 2.0T Quattro.

Editor’s note: apologies for the press shots, which were made necessary by a technical problem.

Outside, the Q5 plays the same farm girl card as the majority of the Audi lineup. The wholesome sheet metal is attractive, but completely devoid of the dramatic styling cues that grace the new X3, GLK, SRX and even the XC60. Some might even call the Q5 slightly boring. The sterile exterior was accentuated by the rental-car white paint our tester wore. Sales of the old X3 paled in comparison to the Q5, but by early indications, the X3 has the Q5’s sales crown in its sights this year. Will the wholesome farm girl beat the beauty queen with its newly found frugal practicality? Since it will take a while for the market to let us know, give us your take now in the comment section below.

In order to maintain brisk sales, the base Q5 has received an engine down-size for 2011. With the likes of the Ford Explorer sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine option, it was only a matter of time before one of VW/Audi’s turbo engines was found under the Q5’s hood. Audi followers know that the TT, A3, A4 and A5 are now available exclusively with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot in the USA and if the numbers tell the full story, buyers may not miss the 3.2L V6 when the option is finally removed at some point in the future. Forced induction lovers rejoice! The turbo charged fuel sipper is the base engine, not an expensive option (unlike the new the new Explorer).

While the 211HP Audi 2.0-liter TFSI engine is nothing new, the lighter duty version of the 8-speed ZF cog-swapper found under the hoods of certain Rolls Royce and BMW models is. According to ze Germans, the 2 extra cogs alone are worth an 11% improvement in fuel economy over the previous 6-speed. The result of the displacement right-sizing and extra gears means the Q5 in 2.0T guise delivers 20MPG city, 27 highway and 22 combined. On paper this is only a 15% increase, in practice during our 800-mile week-long test of the A5, we averaged an impressive 26.5MPG in mixed driving; a practical real-world 25% increase in mileage over a Q5 3.2 I drove a year ago. 26.5MPG would be good in a FWD CUV, but even better when you note that all US bound 2.0T models are equipped with Quattro.

By offering AWD standard on all Q5s in the USA, Audi succeeds in distancing themselves from the likes of the two-wheel-drive XC60 or GLK chionophobic base models. For MPG comparison, the new BMW X3 xDrive28i delivers 19/25 MPG, the Volvo XC60 3.2 AWD gives buyers 18/24, the Acura RDX spools up 17/22 and the Mercedes GLK rounds out the bottom gulping a lowly 16/22 MPG. No wonder Audi expects 60% of Q5 buyers to stick with the base four.

At the first stab of the accelerator it seems that there is a replacement for displacement after all: while the 3.2L V6 in the Q5 3.2 may deliver 59 more horsepower, it’s actually 15lb-ft down on its two-liter cousin. Torque comes on early, lag is minimal and the twist doesn’t quit until high in the RPM band. It is therefore no surprise that our tester scooted to 60MPH in 6.8 (Audi claims 7.1 officially), down only .2 seconds to the 3.2 equipped Q5 we have tested in the past. It’s worth pointing out that the 2.0T beats acceleration expectations while the 3.2 merely meets them. The numbers are close enough to make little difference to most shoppers.

The only impediment to sporting progress in the 2.0T seems to be the 8-speed transmission. The sheer number of gears seems to leave the transmission software confused about which gear is right for you. The result: acceleration can be a varied experience depending on your speed. Still, overall performance is quite good having a far more linear feel than the 3.2L I6 in the XC60 or even the 2.3L turbo four in the RDX. Buyers paying extra for the Q5 3.2 may be disappointed to find that the 3.2 is still mated to ye olde ZF 6-speed. Towing capacity is the same between engines at a lofty (for a small CUV) 4,400lbs when properly equipped.

Out on the road, the 2.0T’s suspension tuning is similar to the 3.2: stiff for a CUV. Wide tires, a wide track, beefy brakes, fairly svelte curb weight (the 2.0T is 209lbs lighter than the 3.2) and oddly well balanced weight distribution of 50.5/49.5 (TTAC estimate) and quick steering (3.2 to lock) combine to give the Q5 athletic prowess on the track worthy of a BMW badge. If you are used to your Audi plowing like a nose-heavy freighter, the Q5 will surprise you. A quick-shifting DSG gearbox or at the least some shift paddles (available on the 3.2) might even turn the 2.0T into a pleasing corner carver. Compared to the likes of the XC60, RDX and GLK, the Q5 is certainly the road feel champ but it can’t quite match the new X3 for road manners.

First released as a 2009 model, our 2011 tester brought few changes to its largely monochromatic interior. Audi’s limited and tasteful use of wood trim helped break up the large expanses of black in our tester but let you know the price tag is lower than the wood-laden Q7. Unlike some of the competition (and some Audi models) buyers can opt for lighter leather and dashboard shades resulting in a feel that is far more airy than the black-on-black-on-black theme of our tester.

The latest MMI system is the largest change inside the Q5. Along with a large high-resolution LCD in a dedicated dash binnacle, a revised MMI controller knob that now includes a mini-joystick and revised software. The high-resolution 3-D navigation screens are crisp and comparable to BMW’s latest iDrive. BMW’s wise-aspect ratio screen gets the nod for the wow factor, but Audi delivers a close second in both form and function. Bluetooth and iPod integration are both about average in the class with logical controls and fairly good media device browsing ability on the main screen or the small LCD between the speedo and tach via the steering wheel controls.

My only major gripe with the MMI system continues to be the lack of voice commands for media device voice control ala Ford Sync, in truth this is a complaint against everyone but Ford. A less critical niggle is that Audi has done nothing to address the ergonomic flaw in the button and knob layout. While you can change the volume on the steering wheel (and voice command is available for some functions) I found myself spending a great deal of time looking down at the array of buttons surrounding the MMI dial or hunting for the volume knob. In a CUV with a moderately high beltline, this poses a distraction issue. Some upgrades, including steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a backup camera, and intelligent cruise control are available only on the 3.2 Prestige (the most expensive version of the Q5) so they were not available to test on our loaner.

Great, but how much does it cost? Our Q5 came in Premium Plus trim with a base MSRP of $39,400, the $3,000 navigation and parking sensor package and the $850 Bang & Olufson sound system. Only a $350 rear side-airbag option, 19”” wheels and some sparkly paint remained un-selected on our nearly loaded $44,600 tester. While the navigation system wears a big price tag, even for the luxury market, the functionality of the MMI is worth it. To achieve the lower ticket the 2.0T is “de-contented” to 18-inch wheels, a manual lift gate, and washerless headlamps. In our book these features (or lack thereof) are worth the $7,300 discount and greater fuel economy. A quick drive by my local Audi dealers revealed that all but two examples on the floor had had the MMI, so if you want a stripper, be prepared to order.

In comparison, a similarly equipped Volvo XC60 3.2 (albeit larger and more powerful) is the value leader coming in $2000 less with more interior room. A comparably equipped Mercedes GLK? $46,400. If BMW is more your style, an X3 xDrive28i will set you back an eye bulging $47,825 comparably equipped. Admittedly the Q5’s sporty dimensions (read: small) limit cargo room compared to the GLK and XC60, both which can easily swallow a 10-foot PVC pipe or 6-foot ladder from the home improvement shop of your choice. Practicality lovers note that the XC60’s fold-down front seat actually allows the Swede to sword-swallow a 10-foot ladder if you are careful. As pictures can attest, a two-tank water softener will fit in the Q5 no problem. If a sporty ride with cargo hauling capacity is what you seek, look no further than an Audi A4 Avant. If you really must CUV like the Jones’ then the Q5 2.0T is certainly a well-balanced choice.

Audi provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.5 seconds

0-60: 6.9 seconds

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