Full 2011 Audi Q5 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Audi Q5 gets a new base engine, the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder found in many other Audi models. Also new is the eight-speed automatic transmission that is also standard equipment. Meanwhile, the 3.2 model gains standard S Line exterior trim and 19-inch wheels, while adaptive headlights are now included on the Prestige trim. The six-disc CD changer has been discontinued.
Luxury cars have seldom been known for their high fuel economy, and SUVs have also never been known for being frugal with gas. Put the two together and you have a recipe for fuel consumption that would make an oil executive put a down payment on a second yacht. Bucking this trend, though, is the 2011 Audi Q5. Notable this year for the Q5 is a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine that delivers only a couple mpg less on the EPA driving cycles than the Audi A4 Avant wagon. Even the Q5 with its available, more powerful V6 is pretty good on gas.
Yet fuel economy is only one of the Q5's many virtues. Thanks to its underpinnings from the Audi A4 sedan, the Q5 is one of the most entertaining vehicles to drive in the segment of luxury crossovers. It has the confident handling and alert responses of the A4, yet the Q5's decent cargo hold and generous passenger space mean it's pretty comfortable and practical, too. Indeed, its family-friendly sliding rear seat is the only one of its kind among luxury crossovers of this size.
The Q5's biggest downside is its price, which can end up thousands of dollars more than what you'd pay for some other competitors once you order all the familiar options. The Volvo XC60 is a bit bigger than the Audi and offers a few extra features that are useful for families. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is a bit smaller, but has a cheaper base price and a more solid feel to it. The 2011 BMW X3 has been redesigned and will likely be the athlete of the class, while the new, surprisingly luxurious 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee should appeal to those who plan on venturing off the beaten path every now and then.
Certainly you're not going to go wrong with any of these choices. But considering the 2011 Audi Q5's well-rounded virtues as well as above-average fuel economy, we think this vehicle will suit luxury crossover shoppers quite nicely indeed.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Audi Q5 is a compact luxury crossover available in four trim levels: 2.0T Premium, 2.0T Premium Plus, 3.2 Premium Plus and 3.2 Prestige.
Standard equipment on the 2.0T Premium includes 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, roof rails, eight-way power front seats with adjustable lumbar, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather upholstery, tri-zone climate control, a sliding and reclining 40/20/40 rear seat, a dash-mounted Multi Media Interface (MMI) and a 10-speaker sound system with CD/MP3 player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. Options on the Premium include a panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and Bluetooth. These items are included on the 2.0T Premium Plus, which also gets xenon headlights, LED running lights, a power tailgate, auto-dimming and power-folding exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror and an iPod interface. Nineteen-inch wheels are optional.
Step up to the 3.2 Premium Plus for a V6 engine, 19-inch wheels, headlight washers and S Line exterior trim. The top-shelf 3.2 Prestige adds adaptive headlights, a blind-spot warning system, keyless ignition/entry, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and the Audi MMI Navigation Plus package (navigation system, digital music storage, voice controls, rearview camera, HD radio, CD/DVD player and center-console-mounted MMI system).
The 3.2 Prestige can also be equipped with Audi Drive Select (four settings alter throttle response, transmission shift points and steering assist), adaptive cruise control and the Luxury package (ventilated front seats and upgraded leather). Both 3.2 models can be equipped with 20-inch wheels and the S Line package, which adds different 20-inch wheels, performance tires, a sport steering wheel, shift paddles and brushed aluminum trim.
All but the 2.0T Premium can be equipped with the MMI Navigation Plus package and the Bang & Olufsen stereo.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Audi Q5 2.0T comes standard with all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 engine good for 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The Audi Q5 3.2 gets a 3.2-liter V6 that produces 270 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds performance testing, a Q5 3.2 accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, a performance on par with the Audi's peers. Estimated fuel economy stands at 18/23/20, which is tops among similarly powered all-wheel-drive crossovers. Towing capacity with the 3.2 is above average, with a 4,400-pound rating when properly equipped.
The 2011 Audi Q5 comes standard with stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Rear side airbags are optional on all models, while a blind-spot warning system is standard on the 3.2 Prestige.
In government crash tests, the Q5 achieved perfect five-star ratings for frontal and side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the Q5 was likewise awarded the highest rating of "Good" in frontal-offset and side crash tests. In Edmunds braking testing, the Q5 came to a stop in 123 feet, a competitive performance.
Interior Design and Special Features
Like other Audis, the Q5 benefits from classy interior design and top-notch construction.
The center stack controls are canted toward the driver, although the layout depends on whether or not you opt for the navigation system. Without navigation, the knob and buttons for the MMI system reside on the center stack, and the resulting procedure for using the stereo is not intuitive. With navigation, though, the controls migrate aft of the shift lever, where they fall more readily to hand. Navigation-equipped models also get the latest, third-generation MMI system with revised menus and an additional joystick button for enhanced control.
Despite its compact size, the Q5 manages to feel roomy whether you're seated in the front or rear. The rear seats slide fore and aft, which is a rarity in this segment of luxury crossovers, and the seats also recline for greater comfort. Folding the rear seats down creates 57 cubic feet of maximum cargo space, which is a little below average for this segment.
Though we have yet to drive the 2011 Audi Q5 with its new turbocharged inline-4 engine, we've had good experiences with this engine. The Q5's acceleration will likely seem relatively slow, but this torque-rich mill has surprising low-end punch and should return impressive fuel economy as well.
The Q5's 3.2-liter V6 delivers smooth, powerful acceleration, and the six-speed automatic is also refined and responsive. With it, the Q5 matches European rivals like the X3, GLK350 and XC60 in terms of acceleration, though the Japanese Infiniti EX35 has more punch.
Regardless of engine, the Q5's ride quality is firmer than the norm for this class of vehicle, but we've never found it to be harsh. In terms of handling, the 2011 Q5 is one of the sportiest crossovers on the market. One downside, though, is that the electric power steering has both a consistently artificial feel and an odd tendency to weight up suddenly at low speeds.
We would skip the optional Audi Drive Select system as it's pricey and complicated; the car's standard setup is just fine.