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.