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Friday
Jul152011

2011 Audi Q5 2.0T quattro

Audi's mid-size SUV is crisp, clean, handsome from any angle.

By Christopher A. Sawyer

Sometimes change is good. Certainly that’s the case with Audi’s decision to adds a 211-hp turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder engine to the Q5. It’s even better when you consider that this engine is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It’s a combination made in mileage heaven, but can dropping two cylinders, 1.2 liters of displacement and adding two gears add up to the power and finesse buyers in this segment expect? 

Powertrain 

2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder proves once again why it's the best.The 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected four is the signature engine in the VW Group’s lineup. Best known for its duty under the hood of VW’s GTI, the dual overhead cam inline four-cylinder combines urgency with calm, power with fuel economy. It’s a very flexible engine. Output is 211 horsepower at 4300 rpm, and a stout 258 lb-ft of torque at an almost unbelievably low 1500 rpm. Couple this with an eight-speed automatic transmission [the 3.2-liter V6 has a six-speed automatic transmission] that shuffles through the gears like a CVT, and you have the right gear at the right time with no waiting. Sixth gear is a direct 1:1 ratio, while both seventh and eighth are overdrive ratios. As a result, the Q5 returns an EPA estimated 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. With a light foot during acceleration (Audi estimates the Q5 2.0T will sprint from 0-60 mph in 7.1 seconds), it was easy to get the Q5 to return 29 mpg on the highway. 

The quattro all-wheel-drive system biases 60% of the power to the rear wheels and 40% to the front. This is close to the opposite of the vehicle’s weight distribution, and makes the Q5 more balanced. As a result, the Q5 doesn’t have the ponderous, nose-heavy feel that quattro-equipped Audis once were known for. Plus, the torque split changes dynamically as needed to provide the best traction possible through the use of a self-locking center differential that varies torque front-to-rear automatically.

Chassis 

There’s an old saying that, if there is an easy way of doing something, you can depend on the Germans to complicate it. The Q5’s steering fits this description perfectly. A speed-sensitive power rack and pinion design, the Q5’s steering has an artificial feel with too many boost options. Just about perfect when tooling around at low speeds, the steering suddenly becomes artificially heavy when braking and cornering at the same time. Slowing to turn onto a side road causes the steering to tighten noticeably, and destroys what otherwise is fine dynamic experience. It’s even worse with Audi Drive Select, which lets the driver choose from one of four options: Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual. This is an option whose box is best left unchecked as it adds more unnecessary choices, and robs the Q5 of its dynamic purity.

The odd thing is that the Q5 doesn’t need all this computer assistance as it sits on a pretty sophisticated platform. [The Q5 is derived from the A4 sedan.] Up front, there’s an independent aluminum five-link layout that handles longitudinal and lateral forces separately for precision in both handling and ride. In the rear, the Q5 has a trapezoidal-link independent design. It allows the load floor to be kept low without adversely affecting vehicle dynamics, thus serving both cargo carrying and handling needs. The brakes are ventilated 12.6-in. discs up front and solid 11.8-in. discs in the back. Pretty standard stuff. However, the Q5 has a neat trick up its sleeve: Plug the roof rack’s crossbars in place, and the electronic stability program (ESP) is alerted that the Q5’s center of gravity is higher because there is cargo on the roof. This modifies the ESP cut-in point, reducing any tendency to roll over during extreme maneuvers. A neat use of technology, and an example of how greater ability doesn’t have to lead to greater complexity. 

Outside and In 

Craftsmanship is an Audi hallmark.The Q5 carries many of the design hallmarks found on its Q7 big brother, but is much more handsome. Order the 2.0T, and you won’t get Audi’s trademark LED daytime running lights or heated headlight washers mounted on the front bumper. If you would prefer the superior self-leveling high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps and LED running lights, however, you’ll have to decide if they are worth the $4200 Premium Plus option pack. That package includes a Panorama moonroof, auto-dimming and power folding rearview mirrors, a Homelink garage door opener, memory for the driver’s 12-way power front seat, power tailgate, Bluetooth, stainless steel trim for the trunk edge and door sills, heated front seats and Audi’s music interface with an iPod cable. That’s a lot of stuff to order to get superior headlights. Then again, I’ve never understood the black art of marketing and how its determines which items are available à la carte and which are part of a package. If I did, I might be able to explain why you have to pay extra for Bluetooth and iPod connectivity in a luxury SUV when such items are standard on many mass market vehicles that cost less than the Q5. Unfortunately, I can’t. 

Large, regularly shaped load bay swallows a lot...The front and rear cabins are spacious and luxurious, and give the impression that the Q5 is built by master craftsmen. Both the front and rear seats slide fore and aft, and the rears fold flat to increase the cargo capacity substantially. (The handles for dropping the seatbacks are located in the cargo hold, and are integrated into the upper trim.) And, except for the door panels, which are impossible to shield completely from errant luggage and detritus, Audi has made certain the junk in the trunk won’t wreak havoc on the materials. Of course, smaller or wet items can be stored under the cargo floor in a well located ahead of the space saver spare tire. All in all, the Q5 is logically and neatly laid out, with plenty of room for people and things.

...though wet and dirty things are best kept out of sight.Fit and finish are of the highest level, and the use of brushed nickel trim is fantastic. The dual-zone climate control is less complex than the steering, with each front seat passenger getting his own knob to control the seat heat, air distribution and fan speed, automatic climate control setting, and temperature. The audio system is as multifunctional, and displays audio information in the screen located above the center air vents or, if you click the right steering wheel-mounted scroll wheel, in the gauge cluster.

Less is more, though some things optional should be standard. Oddly, there is no standard reversing camera to go with the center display, so you don’t get to see what’s behind the Q5 unless you opt for the $3,000 MMI Navigation Plus system that includes Audi’s version of BMW’s iDrive. Chalk another item down to marketing’s black arts.

Summary 

The Audi Q5 is now powered by one of the world’s best four-cylinder engines mated to a class-leading eight-speed transmission, making 3.2-liter V6 necessary only for those who believe bigger is better. The steering could be more natural, and can be quite distracting as it loads up under certain conditions, but most drivers will get used to it over time. Also, it would be nice to order some option à la carte (HID headlamps, rearview camera, headlight washers) without having to resort to expensive option packages in order to get the tech you want without other items you might not. Nevertheless, the Q5 is a reasonably well-equipped vehicle with room enough for five people and their luggage, a sporty demeanor, and exceptional craftsmanship. Keep the options to a minimum, and you’ll discover that owning an Audi isn’t as expensive as you might think. 

TVD Rating: 3.5 out of 5… 

High quality, sleek design, and an inviting interior driven by a world-class powertrain. Only the overly complex steering detracts from the experience.

 

2011 Audi 2.0t quattro Tiptronic

Pricing

MSRP: $35,200

Options: $1,925

Destination charge: $875

Price as tested: $38,000

Powertrain

Engine: Transverse-mounted 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injected inline four cylinder. Cast-iron block with double overhead cam aluminum cylinder head and four valves per cylinder.

Horsepower: 211 @ 4300

Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1500

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, quattro all-wheel-drive

EPA mileage rating: 20 city/27 highway

Steering, Suspension and Brakes

Steering: Speed-sensitive power-assisted rack and pinion.

Suspension F/R: Independent five-link, anti-roll bar/Trapezoidal-link independent, anti-roll bar.

Brakes F/R: Vented 320-mm discs/300-mm solid discs. ABS, electronic brake force distribution.

Dimensions (in inches)

Length: 182.2

Width: 74.0

Height: 65.1

Wheelbase: 110.5

Fuel capacity (gallons): 19.8

Cargo capacity seats up/down (cu. ft.): 29.1/57.3

Tires: 235/60 R18 all-season radials on alloy wheels.

Warranty

Anti-corrosion: 12 years/Unlimited mileage

Powertrain: 4 years/50,000 miles

Vehicle: 4 years/50,000 miles

Roadside Assistance: 4 years Audi 24-hour Roadside Assistance

 

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