Never one to shy away from offering diesel alternatives, Audi finally gave its Q5 crossover an oil burner, but don’t think for a second that you’re in for a loud, wheezy powerpant. The Q5 TDI is every bit an Audi. It drives smoothly and has a sporty side.
|1. The 3.0-liter diesel motor makes 240-hp and 428 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-60 sprint of 6.7 seconds.
2. All Q5 models get an eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive.
3. Official fuel consumption estimates suggest 24 MPG city, 31 MPG highway and 27 MPG combined, even better than the Q5 Hybrid.
4. Audi Q5 TDI Models start at $46,500, but our tester rang in at $56,795.
Mercedes also offers turbo diesel version of its entry-level GLK crossover, but in comparison it’s tiny, with two fewer cylinders and displacing just 2.1-liters.
Audi went a different route by saddling the Q5 with a big 3.0-liter six-cylinder that delivers 240 hp 428 lb-ft of torque. The powerful six-cylinder is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s familiar quattro all-wheel drive system. Despite having a heavy engine and all-wheel drive equipment, it returned an impressive 27 mpg during AutoGuide’s weeklong test. That makes it more efficient than any other powertrain available for the Q5 - even the hybrid. Official government ratings suggest the car should get 24 mpg in the city, 31 on the highway and an average 27.
That adds up to make the TDI an intriguing in-between option for anyone who wants a powerful feeling of acceleration like the (also new) SQ5 can offer with efficiency to rival its hybrid sibling.
Yes, it’s down on horsepower compared to the SQ5’s force-fed gasoline V6, but it makes an extra 81 lb-ft of torque. More importantly, it’s enjoyable to drive and the torque is almost always available because of the eight-speed automatic. Turbo lag is noticeable, but once you get past that, it delivers as much twist as a V8 pickup truck and you can really feel it. The one downside to the diesel motor is the harsh rumble at idle. Fortunately, the engine start-stop turns off the engine at stops. Sometimes these systems are frustratingly intrusive, but it’s especially effective at preserving the luxury experience here.
The aforementioned eight-speed transmission is equally commendable in the Q5. It’s responsive and smooth in automatic mode, changing gears with little hesitation. It doesn’t feel like other gear heavy, eco-minded transmissions that jump to the highest gear possible. Instead, the Q5 adjusts seamlessly, accompanying your every push of the throttle with a downshift and more acceleration. This way, the Q5 is usually in boost and always feels powerful and it will be a rare occasion when you don’t feel confident with the crossovers passing capability.
It’s easy to say that the diesel engine doesn’t damage the Q5’s sporty resume. It feels dynamic and is offered with all the bells and whistles.
For example, our “Premium Plus” tester with the $3,500 S line package adds customizable driving modes, adaptive dampers, 20-inch wheels and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Switching between Auto, Comfort and Dynamic is all well and good, but being able to make the Q5 drive with Individual settings related to engine and transmission responsiveness, steering and suspension effort and compliance makes the Q5 feel like a far more personal car.
The Q5 is commendable in Comfort mode but really feels at home in Dynamic mode, where its steering is sharper and the transmission stays in lower gears longer.
While fiddling with the Q5’s drive modes and finding your perfect niche is an excellent touch, you won’t find the same accommodation when it comes to the interior. The best way to describe the cabin is functional. High-quality materials like Nappa leather and aluminum fill Q5’s interior. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it certainly isn’t bad. The $500 “sport interior” package brings well-bolstered front seats with four-way lumbar adjustment and paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.
Rear seat accommodations are sufficient for two adults or three children. The rear seats lose less than half an inch of headroom compared to the front buckets. Trunk space is also among the highlights with just over 29 cubic feet or over 57 with the second seats folded. It’s also easy to set them down thanks to two separate buttons: one in the trunk and one below the rear passenger seat. The biggest highlight of the interior is the Q5’s giant panoramic sunroof, which provides an airy feeling to the otherwise clinical cabin.
Our tester also featured the Bang and Olfusen sound system, which was not up to its usually brilliant standards.
The Audi Q5 is all business, proven by its tight-jawed approach to interior design, dynamic driving style and fuel-efficient powertrain. But if there’s one saving grace of the Q5’s emotional appeal, it’s with its exterior. Sure it’s a little dated, but it still features a clean look. It’s the sleekest looking crossover in the segment. Updated LED headlights and upgraded 20-inch wheels help give it considerable charm on the road.
Audi only offers the diesel in its mid- and upper-range trims. That means the cheapest Q5 TDI costs $46,500, and our well-equipped “Premium Plus” model costs $56,795. All Q5s are prone to the same price inflating options, but it’s almost a bargain beside the Q5 Hybrid and upcoming SQ5.
The driving dynamics are among the best in the class, and the new engine and transmission are a combination of the best elements in the Q5 lineup, but does that mean you should shell out almost $50,000 for the Q5 TDI? The only people saying yes are ones who really lust after the combination of driving dynamics and fuel economy that the Audi Q5 TDI offers. Getting 27 mpg despite driving the car hard and enthusiastically makes it a bargain to some people, but other cars from competing brands put more of an emphasis on fuel economy. So which route should you go? Look for a comparison between the Q5 TDI and the Mercedes GLK soon.