Road Test

2012 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSi Premium Plus

The combination of Audi style, execution and technology makes the Q5 an easy sell

2012 Audi Q5 - front 3/4 motion
AT A GLANCE
PRICE
$45,300 base. $55,945 as tested.
FUEL CONSUMPTION
NR Canada (L/100 km): 10.6 city. 7.7 highway. 10.0 combined.
POWERTRAIN
Turbocharged, 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with direct injection; 211 horsepower, 258-lb-ft of tor
Pros & CONS
  • Extremely solid structure
  • Audi interior – always among the best
  • Quattro all-wheel-drive system
  • Perception of four-cylinder engine in a luxury SUV
  • Rear view camera an option in this price range?
  • Extensive but extpensive option list

The Q5 is the second best-selling vehicle in the Audi lineup after the A4. The big SUV that drives like a CUV was introduced in 2008 and since then more than 430,000 have found a home, the majority of them in North America and China.

The combination of Audi style, execution and technology is an easy sell. The Q5 is clearly a luxury vehicle and in the case of my tester, one with a visual presence enhanced by the S-Line package which includes some body add-ons and big 20-inch rolling stock, giving it a serious stance.

It came as a surprise, therefore, to discover a four-cylinder engine under the stylish hood. Four cylinders in a luxury SUV?

Award-winning engine

Easy to pull off if it is this one – the Volkswagen-developed, turbocharged 2.0-litre TFSI with direct injection, one of the best fours in the world in my opinion – and that of fellow members of the International Engine of the Year jury. We named it the best in class when it first appeared in 2008. Subsequent developments have enhanced what was an impressive package from the outset.  

Now found under the hood of various Audi and Volkswagen vehicles, this four gives up nothing but perception to a six. With 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque (more than from the available V-6) it gives up only two-tenths of a second to the bigger and thirstier engine in accelerating to 100 km/h.

With the torque at its maximum at only 1500 rpm you get your response when wanted, no waiting or downshifting to get the revs up. Bolted to the engine is an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission which is also used in various BMW and Rolls Royce models.

The combination of four-cylinders and the ratio spread offered by eight speeds allows the Q5 to punch well above its weight class. It has the power to stay with the others and if the driver behaves, it provides fuel economy they can only dream about.

Add to this mix Audi’s renowned Quattro all-wheel-drive system and you have a year-round, all-conditions people carrier.

Space with grace

When it comes to people and their packages, Audi has done a good job of combining space with grace. A box may be the most effective use of space, but it is not attractive. The Q5 has most of the space advantages of a box, but in a very stylish package.

2012 Audi Q5 - front interior.jpgFront row occupants sit tall and enjoy great visibility from wide yet supportive buckets. Two big folks can sit comfortably in the second row, three if smaller or more intimate.

Behind that second row you will find 540 litres of cargo space; fold it and you have 1560 litres. Unfortunately the second row does not lie completely flat when down, but it does fold with a single touch and lock in that position. There is added space beneath the cargo floor for smaller objects.

Audi is known for its excellent interiors, especially instrument panels. The Q5 does nothing to harm this well-earned reputation from design and finish to material selection and application.

There was as much technology in the rear view mirrors as in total in some lesser vehicles. They were not only heated and electrically adjustable, they dimmed automatically when hit by lights from a following vehicle, folded 2012 Audi Q5 - temp-controlled drink holders.jpginto the side at the touch of a button, warned of objects in the blind spot on both sides and were included in the memory function so would resume your personal setting after someone else had messed with them.

A shout-out to Audi’s MultiMedia Interface which I find more intuitive than the competition. Everything from screen commands to the buttons, knobs and control stick is more functional than most.

Ride & handling balance

Another reason for the Q5's success may be the excellent combination of ride and handling. German vehicles, designed and developed in a country where unlimited speeds are legal and at least theoretically possible on public roads, generally push the ride/handling ratio toward the latter resulting in a stiff ride. The Q5 has a smooth and somewhat supple ride. That is not to say it is soft, but it doesn't loosen your fillings over rough surfaces.

2012 Audi Q5 - rear 3/4 static.jpgSteering inputs are recognized immediately and transferred with little editing to the front wheels. This is an SUV that becomes a carlike CUV should you choose to tackle the twisties with a bit of verve. There is some understeer as expected from a tall, heavy vehicle, but less than expected. Another plus for the four is 100 kilos less mass over the front wheels than with the available V-6.

My tester had Audi’s Drive Select system allowing me to choose different steering, engine, transmission and suspension settings by twisting a knob on the console. The changes were noticeable at speed, faster than most passengers would put up with, so it will prove useful for only a few Q5 owners, probably lying fallow and in default state after the new wears off, along with the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles.

In that default setting this is still a remarkably composed and capable vehicle with excellent responses.

Four trim levels

The Q5 comes in four trim levels, two with the turbo four and two with a 3.2-litre V-6. Standard equipment includes all the expected stuff like power windows, locks, seats and heated mirrors, heated leather seats and multi-zone climate control. From that point things get a bit pricey.

My Premium Plus tester added bi-xenon headlights with automatic range adjustment, heated front and rear seats and a power tailgate.

It also had $750 worth of "pearl effect" paint, a $2,300 sunroof, $2,600 sport package, $2000 navigation package and $1000 audio upgrade. The Sport package included the aforementioned Audi Drive Select system and the S-Line package with 20-inch alloy wheels, a unique grille, steering wheel and shift paddles.

In addition to a big screen and 40 GB hard drive, the navigation package added a rear-view parking camera (optional at this price!) and front and rear parking assist – useful since the driver cannot see the four corners or close up to the rear bumper.

The 2013 Q5 receives some minor updates to its looks and drivetrain, which will include a new generation of the TSFI four, a supercharged six and a hybrid setup. The good news is they haven't messed with the basics that make this vehicle so desirable.

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