Adding to Audi’s increasingly well-stocked stable of U.S. diesel variants is its new-for-2014 Q5 TDI quattro.
The midsized crossover SUV benefits from big-V8-like torque and a scooch better mpg than the Q5 Hybrid while costing almost $5,000 less and selling much better.
In fact, the oil-burning Q5 for March was the sixth best-selling diesel passenger vehicle among 20 now available in the U.S. and ranked just below the Porsche Cayenne diesel, and above Volkswagen’s well-established Golf TDI.
Audi’s Q5 lineup benefitted also from a very mild refresh in 2013, and the vehicles strike a balance between go-anywhere, all-wheel-drive midsize truck/family hauler, and rather stylish fashion statement.
Americans love their SUVs, and this one with the family resemblance to sporty and desirable cars in Audi’s lineup is part of its concerted foray into the yet-small diesel car market.
In Europe, where diesel passenger vehicles are immensely more popular, the Volkswagen Group has a well-stocked TDI parts bin ready to selectively add models to the U.S. from which it may begin to profit.
Under the hood is found the main difference between the Q5 TDI quattro, and four other gasoline-powered Q5 variants, the 2.0T, 3.0T, 2.0-liter Hybrid, and SQ5.
Audi’s TDI shares also its 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbocharged engine with several TDI siblings, namely the A6 TDI, A7 TDI, Q7 TDI, and A8 L TDI.
The tried and true engine in the Q5 is rated at a modest 240 horsepower and a stump-pulling 428 pounds-feet of torque. This is a lot of torque, and motivates the 4,475 pound SUV through an 8-speed tiptronic transmission to 60 mph in an estimated 6.5 seconds.
This neatly splits the difference between the 2.0 liter turbo estimated at 7.0 seconds, and the 3.0-liter supercharged version estimated at 6.0 seconds, and is quicker than the 6.8 seconds rated for the Hybrid. All are rated at 130 mph top speed.
If you want a Q5 weighted more toward performance, there’s the SQ5 good for 5.1 seconds to 60, 155 mph, and in Europe, incidentally, they do offer a SQ5 TDI.
The Q5 TDI’s government fuel efficiency rating is also respectable at 24 mpg city, 31 highway, and 27 combined. The hybrid closely follows at 24 city, 30 highway, 26 combined. The diesel is rated at 385 grams CO2 per mile, and the hybrid is rated at 337.
Audi’s interior is clean and functional with a measure of luxury that’s anything but ostentatious.
Our car carried a sticker price of $51,445 including $895 destination charge, $3,500 MMI Navigation plus package, and $500 glacier white metallic paint.
As delivered, even without some of the other options that could push the sticker closer to $60,000, it’s a nice ride.
The Q5 TDI includes up-line features such as leather seating surfaces (heated front seats), auto dimming power folding mirrors, power tailgate, and a spectacular front-to-back panoramic glass sunroof with power sunshade.
Front and rear accommodations are roomy and comfortable, and the high-up seating position puts you at a more commanding height while allowing easy enough ingress and egress.
Audi’s MMI infotainment package is fairly intuitive with redundant controls on the wheel to help keep eyes on the road, as well as alternate controls, and works well. This vehicle also included Audi’s parking system with rearview camera, and WiFi online services. The first six months are complimentary, then subscription options starting at $15 per month take over from there.
Cargo room is good at 29 cubic feet with seats up, or more than 57 cubic feet with rear seats folded down.
Outside, the sleek vehicle has a coefficient of drag of just 0.33, and is led off by the “Singleframe” grille that has become an Audi hallmark.
Xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights also add to the merging of smooth design that blends elements of a sleek sedan with those of a quasi truck.
Behind The Wheel
As a crossover/SUV with plenty of styling reminiscent of Audi’s sedans, the Q5 is a mixture of worlds, and its flexible performance matches the image.
Not lacking is its turbocharged power which hits its high-torque peak at 1,750 rpm – mitigated by the all-wheel-drive system and traction control as 428 pounds-feet could have you peeling rubber.
With eight gear ratios – same ratios as for the ZF tiptronic automatic as in the Q5 Hybrid – you are always in the right gear, though the cruising rpm for the vehicle redlined at 4,500 can seem low if you’re not accustomed to diesel engines.
Its seat-of-the-pants feel is of an SUV that’s quicker than it needs to be, which for the demographic who’ll go for this, that may be just enough.
The vehicle shares platforms with the A4 and A5, but is taller so center of gravity is affected making it less toss-able than one of the sedans, but Audi does all it can to mitigate this.
Beyond conventional chassis/suspension tuning, the Q5’s roof rack detection system actually senses when the crossbars are in place, and adjusts to compensate for higher center of gravity via the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) unit.
The aim is to keep the fun-to-drive factor high, even if you do maximize its utilitarian aspects by loading things on top.
Our “Premium Plus” car did not have the optional adaptive damping suspension, but compliant control was provided by the standard five-link front suspension and trapezoidal rear suspension combined with 235/55-19 tires – (20-inch tires are optional).
Body roll, while there, is not excessive, and the vehicle can do a passing resemblance of a sporty car zipping with control through S-bends, or merely traversing on-and off-ramps.
Reported lateral acceleration for the Q5 TDI has been in the neighborhood of .86, so this is a decent handling sport-ute.
All-wheel-drive, as true for all quattros, only aids the surefootedness, and really pays dividends in rain and snow.
Steering effort is easy due to the electromechanical speed-sensitive steering system. This has been criticized for lack of feel, and there is something to that critique, but you learn to work with the vehicle, and it’s not a real deterrent to brisk driving.
Fuel economy we found to be more often as advertised. Driving around sedately mixing about 50/50 between highway and secondary roads will yield in the neighborhood of 26-28 mpg. Of course, if you play sports car driver, it will use more fuel, and averages can drop to low 20s, and below if you regularly stomp on it. Conversely, steady driving on the highway can see about 29-33, depending on speed limits.
Speaking of highway, as true for many diesels, the Q5 is a long-legged machine rated at 696 miles range per tank. Filling up less often can be a benefit either for high-mileage drivers, or just for convenience’ sake
As for the noise level, that was no problem. Audi has added enough sound deadening, and the vehicle is muffled sufficiently so the fact this is a diesel is barely perceptible, if at all.
Open the windows, or pop the hood, and you’ll plainly hear the diesel engine, but frankly, this is a subjective thing. It is not excessively loud, so it’s mainly the tone that’s in question, and to us, it is not bothersome.
Would you rather hear near-silence or not burn fuel? Order an all-electric Tesla Model X, but that’s another kind of car and lifestyle at that.
More closely matched, but also not apple-for-apple is Mercedes-Benz’s 2.1-liter four-cylinder GLK SUV diesel which costs about $6,500 less before options start adding costs, and delivers improved fuel economy.
Other possibilities could be loosely comparable Lexus RX 450 h Hybrid, or the Porsche Cayenne Diesel or Hybrid, or VW Touareg TDI.
For someone in the market for a sleek, efficient, powerful SUV, the Q5 TDI is a rather unique contender.
Its price variation, at $2,100 more than the 3.0T gas-powered sibling, and $4,800 less than the Hybrid make this a well-sorted SUV worth checking out.