2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Introduction
When I test drive crossover SUVs, I take them to this place I know where ruts and trail erosion prevent mere cars from traveling. This spot doesn’t challenge serious off-roaders – I have another location for that – but to access this patch of dirt it is necessary to drive one of the most treacherous two-lane roads with the most amazing vistas in Southern California. The 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T effortlessly ripped up that writhing stretch of patched blacktop, gaining elevation in seconds rather than minutes, before I hooked a right off the pavement to learn whether this improbably capable SUV could tackle more than just multiple sets of S-curves. As it turns out, the answer is yes.
Before diving into specifics, let me set the stage. Four years ago, Audi introduced the Q5, a 5-passenger luxury crossover SUV aimed at people with no intentions of driving into uncharted territory, and who simply would not buy an all-wheel-drive station wagon to serve their requirements for additional cargo space combined with the ability to get through a snowstorm without getting stuck. Station wagons, even ones wearing a name like “Avant,” just aren’t cool. SUVs are cool. So Audi built the Q5 for these cool-SUV people.
For 2013, the Q5 receives a mid-life update, complete with new design details, new powertrains, and new technologies. I borrowed a Moonlight Blue Metallic Q5 3.0T to see if the aging soft-roader remains compelling in a vehicle class rife with competition, which includes the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX, Lexus RX, Lincoln MKX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60. For the answer, read on.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Audi expands the Q5 lineup for 2013, adding a new 3.0T model ($44,795) and a new Q5 Hybrid model ($51,795) to the existing 2.0T model ($36,795). All prices include a destination charge of $895. The Q5 2.0T is offered in Premium and Premium Plus trim, the Q5 3.0T is sold in Premium Plus and Prestige trim, and the Q5 Hybrid is available only in Prestige trim.
The subject of this road test and review is the Q5 3.0T. In addition to a standard supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine equipped with automatic stop-start technology, the Q5 3.0T offers the following upgrades compared to a Q5 2.0T Premium Plus: standard S-line styling, 19-inch aluminum wheels, static cornering lights, headlight washers, and Audi Advanced Key passive entry with push-button ignition.
Choose the Q5 3.0T Prestige model ($52,295), and the standard equipment list grows to include rear door sunshades, an Audi Multi-Media Interface Navigation Package (navigation, voice recognition technology, real-time traffic reports, HD Radio, Audi Connect services, Audi Parking System with reversing camera), an Audi Adaptive Light system, Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring, a thermo-style cupholder, a color driver information system, and a Bang & Olufsen premium audio system.
Option packages for the Q5 3.0T Premium Plus model include the Audi MMI Navigation Package and an Audi S-line Package, the latter equipping the SUV with an electronic damping suspension, Audi Drive Select control, a flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel with shift paddles, a black cloth headliner, brushed aluminum interior trim, and unique 20-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in 255/45 summer performance tires.
Both the Premium Plus and Prestige models are offered with a Sport Interior Package that includes shift paddles, a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel, and 12-way power adjustable front sport seats. Additionally, both can be upgraded with 20-inch aluminum wheels, a rear-seat entertainment system, rear-seat side-impact airbags, revised dashboard inlays, and a full metal roof in place of the standard panoramic sunroof.
Exclusive options to the Q5 3.0T Prestige include a Driver Assist Package (Audi Drive Select, adaptive cruise control, dynamic steering) and a Comfort Package (ventilated front comfort seats with 12-way power adjustment, premium leather upholstery, extended leather for the dashboard and door panel armrests). My test model, which included Prestige trim, the Comfort Package, Layered Oak inlays, and metallic paint, wore a window sticker of $55,570.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Design
- New hood, grille, headlights, taillights, and exhaust outlets
- Restyled front and rear bumpers
- Revised optional LED running lights
- Static cornering lights included with Xenon Plus headlights
- Redesigned aluminum wheel options
- High gloss black inlays added to cabin
- Updated steering wheel designs
- Modified instrumentation
- Simplified interior controls
In official information about the 2013 Audi Q5, the automaker refers to the vehicle as a “sport sedan” and says the Q5 has a “coupe-like” roofline, revealing that perhaps Audi press releases are crafted when the writer is drunk. Obviously, the Q5 isn’t a sedan, and clearly this vehicle has the roofline and configuration of a hatchback, a term verboten even when referencing an $18,000 vehicle, let alone a luxury crossover priced at twice that amount.
Now that we’ve got that settled, the Audi Q5 is an attractive vehicle, something that cannot be said for most of its direct competitors. It is elegant where others are awkward, tasteful where others are garish, yet unmistakably an Audi with plenty of upscale glitter to make sure nobody confuses it with a mainstream model.
Unfortunately, for 2013, Q5 models equipped with the optional Xenon Plus headlights have new LED running lights that frame the lenses using tubular lighting strips. The effect certainly is distinctive, but both my wife and I thought it a feminine touch that made the Q5 appear to be wearing too much eyeliner. All it needed was a pair of those God-awful giant eyelashes that people are increasingly installing on their vehicles.
Inside, the Q5 remains its calm, cool, collected self, constructed of quality materials in complementary tones and textures. Buyers can choose from several different dashboard inlays and stiff, durable leather is standard equipment.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Optional sport seats
With the Q5, finding a proper driving position, especially with the available 12-way power heated and ventilated front seats, is no problem at all. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes to assist, and the center console armrest adjusts to multiple heights to ensure optimum comfort. Once settled in, the driver enjoys an expansive 270-degree view, including through the panoramic glass sunroof that comes standard on Premium Plus and Prestige models. Big side mirrors are a huge help with rear visibility, but a reversing camera is offered only for the Premium Plus and Prestige models.
Rear seat entry and exit is relatively easy, and even when the front seats are positioned for taller drivers the Q5 supplies excellent foot room and decent legroom. Occupants are positioned a bit low, but the bottom seat cushion delivers good thigh support. My Q5 3.0T Prestige model had manual side window shades, items likely to go unused by most passengers because the rear window glass is already tinted dark.
Pop the Q5’s power tailgate to reveal 29.1 cu.-ft. of cargo space behind the rear seat, as long as you’re willing to stack to the roof. Like other Audi models, the cargo area is luxuriously trimmed, and the cargo cover sits high to help maximize covered space. Fold the rear seats down, a one-handed effort, and the Q5 can swallow 57.3 cu.-ft. of cargo. Either way, the Q5 is more commodious than an Audi allroad.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Simplified interior controls
- Audi Connect services included with MMI Navigation Package
Audis require acclimation; quality time spent getting to know where certain controls are located and how they work. With acclimation, they are less frustrating and distracting to use, but never completely intuitive.
Perhaps more than anything, it is the Audi Multi-Media Interface (MMI) that I find daunting, though I will admit that on models with fewer features, like the A4 and the Q5, it is less aggravating to operate than it is on models with additional extras. The reason I find the MMI troublesome is that if the driver cannot find the proper button by touch, he or she must look down at the center console, far away from the road, to find the right button. By definition, this is more distracting, and dangerous, than referencing a control panel or a screen located on the dashboard, which keep traffic ahead within sight.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Audi, the time for MMI has come, and it has gone. Switch to a large touchscreen interface located high on the dashboard, and look to Chrysler’s Uconnect 8.4 technology as a reference. Be sure, however, to incorporate the new Audi Connect technology in whatever you engineer as an MMI replacement, because the Google Earth navigation imagery, real-time traffic and weather reporting, Google Local Search functionality, and mobile Wi-Fi connectivity for up to eight devices is terrific.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Safety
- Optional Adaptive Cruise Control system
Here’s a fun fact: the Audi Q5 has a roof rack detection system that can tell when the roof rail crossbars are installed, and then adjust driving parameters for the stability control system to account for a higher center of gravity. How awesome is that?
Here’s another fun fact: to get safety-related features like parking assist sensors and a reversing camera, it is necessary to purchase a model with Premium Plus trim. Audi Side Assist blind spot monitoring and an adaptive cruise control system with Audi Brake Guard, which detects stationary vehicles ahead and automatically applies full braking power at speeds under 19 mph, are offered only for the most expensive Prestige model. And a Lane Departure Warning system is simply unavailable. How not awesome is that?
2013 Audi Q5 Crash-Test Ratings:
As this road test is written, the NHTSA has not performed crash tests on the 2013 Audi Q5. However, it has assigned the SUV a 4-star rollover resistance rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety calls the Q5 a “Top Safety Pick,” but this model has not been subjected to the Institute’s new small overlap frontal-impact test.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- Turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder now E85-compatible
- Supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 debuts
- Gas-electric hybrid powertrain debuts
- New electric steering
- Optional dynamic steering
Audi offers three different powertrains for the Q5. A turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is installed in the 2.0T model, generating 211 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The Q5 3.0T offers a supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine, rated to generate 272 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque and accelerate the Q5 to 60 mph in six seconds flat.
The new Audi Q5 Hybrid combined the Q5 2.0T model’s engine with an electric assist motor and a 266-volt lithium-ion battery pack to generate a combined 245 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. Audi says 60 mph arrives in about seven seconds with this powertrain.
All three Q5 models are equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission and Quattro all-wheel-drive, which divides power 40% to the front wheels and 60% to the rear wheels under normal driving conditions. The 2.0T and 3.0T models are offered with an optional Sport Interior Package, which includes a 3-spoke steering wheel equipped with paddle shifters.
The EPA says the 2013 Q5 3.0T will get 18 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 21 mpg in combined driving while burning premium unleaded fuel. During my week with the SUV, I averaged 18.6 mpg with the automatic stop/start system disengaged, with a heavy emphasis on around-town driving.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Getting back to the test drive I was describing on the first page of this review, I turned off of a twisty mountain road onto a fire road laced across the top of nearby hills. Without recent rain, the earth was hard and rutted, the Q5 soaking these up without complaint. Compact dimensions made it easy to negotiate a downhill stretch along a wash, and I traversed dry and dusty tributaries without concern. Stopping at the bottom of the trail, the Q5 was easy to get turned around, and then I hammered the gas, the Quattro system instantly springing to action and delivering rapid forward momentum despite the loose surface.
Granted, the area where I went “off-roading” is suitable for evaluating a crossover vehicle, not something like a Jeep Wrangler or a Ford SVT Raptor. Nevertheless, the Q5 shrugged off the worst of it, making it something more substantial than a jacked up station wagon.
Pavement is where the Q5 spends the majority of its time, and it is on pavement where the Q5 shines brightest. Effortlessly quick, the Q5 3.0T literally leaps into action when the driver mashes the accelerator pedal, whether the steering wheel is pointed straight or not. Thanks to Quattro, dry traction is faultless, making the Q5 a traffic-merging hero, and the 8-speed automatic transmission quickly determines what the driver wants, and reacts accordingly. A Sport mode allows for intuitive manual shifting using the gear selector, and under normal circumstances the transmission upshifts as soon as possible to conserve fuel.
The 2013 Q5 is available with an Audi Drive Select system that allows the driver to adjust the powertrain, suspension, and steering calibrations to Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, or Individual settings. My test vehicle did not have this technology, and I didn’t miss it because it never put a wheel wrong. The powertrain is responsive and a quick student of driver requests. The electric steering exhibited none of the artificiality I’ve noticed in Audis equipped with Audi Drive Select, feeling natural and properly weighted at all times. Suspension tuning walked a delicate balance between delivering a comfortable ride quality and keeping the Q5 glued to the road when tossed into a corner.
I will say this, however. The small and tall Q5 does display more body pitch and roll than the Audi Allroad I recently tested, with accompanying head toss on uneven pavement. I also think that brake pedal feel and modulation could be improved at lower speeds and under less strenuous circumstances.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
Though it has reached middle age, the Audi Q5 remains a compelling choice in its class. Styling, interior design and quality, seat comfort, and cargo space are easily competitive. Add a couple of responsive engines, an optional hybrid powertrain, Quattro all-wheel drive, and impressive driving dynamics regardless of road surface, and its clear that Audi remains a leader among luxury crossover SUVs.
2013 Audi Q5 Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Audi Connect technology
- IIHS “Top Safety Pick”
- Powertrain lineup
- Driving dynamics
- Audi MMI controls
- Premium leather feels dry and stiff
- Lacks depth and breadth in terms of safety technology
- Brake pedal feel and modulation in traffic and cities
Audi supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Audi Q5 3.0T photos by Christian Wardlaw