The Higher Number May Be Fancier, but Is It Better?
James Riswick, New and Used Car Editor
The story of the 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T begins with numbers, or specifically, what they represent to luxury car buyers.
Simply put, people will pay for a bigger number. 50i on a BMW sounds better than 40i, a Mercedes-Benz 350 seems less fancy than a 550, and a trunk badge that reads 3.2 on an Audi is far more likely to impress the guys at the golf course than 2.0T.
Yet, it doesn't really matter that most people don't need the extra power associated with those higher numbers. Nor does it really matter that most people don't have the foggiest idea what those numbers even mean.
The 2013 Audi Q5 and its 3.0T engine is a different story, though. It delivers that bigger number with a fancy, albeit deceiving, letter T for good measure. But more importantly, it actually delivers the performance that people expect from it.
Keep Up With the Joneses
The average entry-level luxury SUV goes from zero to 60 mph in about 7 seconds. The Acura RDX does it in 6.5 seconds and the Range Rover Evoque takes 7.4, but those are outlying bookends. The Q5 2.0T? It does zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds. The base BMW X3 xDrive28i? Ditto. These represent the base, volume engine choices in the segment and really, it's hard to say that any of them tips the scales in favor of their respective crossovers.
However, one of the rare exceptions is the BMW X3 and its available 300-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 in the xDrive35i model. With its ability to hit 60 in 5.8 seconds, nothing has come remotely close to it in the compact luxury crossover segment. And it's also been your only choice if you want that bigger number to actually mean something.
Well, you can see where this is going. In testing, the 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T also went from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds (or 5.5 seconds using 1 foot of rollout as on a drag strip). It also cleared the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 95.8 mph. The BMW is still 0.1 second quicker and has a slightly quicker trap speed, so there's at least something the Bavarians can still hang their lederhosen on.
To keep up with the Joneses, this Q5 Audi packs a detuned version of the company's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It's the same engine that's already used in several other models in the lineup like the A6 and even the A8. Despite its strong acceleration showing, the Q5's 272-hp rating is actually 38 less than that of the A6 with same engine. Its 295 pound-feet torque rating is lower, too. And with 4,359 pounds crushing down upon our scales, the Q5 clearly needs to make the most of its power.
Big Girl, Light on Her Feet
You certainly feel those pounds as the Q5 moves down the road on the 19-inch wheels included with the Prestige trim. Its feeling of German heft imparts a certain degree of confidence, composure and solid construction. True to form, the ride is firm but well-damped, and still comfortable even on less-than-ideal pavement.
Its weight also makes the Q5's braking performance even more stunning. It stopped from 60 mph in 109 feet, which is a good 14 feet fewer than average for a compact luxury SUV with all-season tires. Those distances were consistent, with no fade detected.
Those same Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sports paid dividends on our skid pad as well, helping the Quattro-equipped Q5 pull 0.83g. That's better than the X3, though a fair bit of body roll and a rather intrusive stability control system resulted in a slightly lower speed through our slalom at 63.1 mph.
The 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T felt similarly agile out on the mountain roads surrounding Malibu, California. You notice the weight and body roll, but the overall dimensions seem manageable and the Quattro all-wheel-drive system does a good job of shunting torque around to maximize traction when powering out of corners. The steering is quick and precise, but as in most Audis, feels artificial. We never lamented the absence of the optional Drive Select system, which alters steering effort, throttle response and shift response of the standard eight-speed automatic transmission.
So What Else Is New?
Besides the new engine for 2013, the Q5 gets a mild exterior freshening that includes revised LED running lights and some other tweaks only Audi-ophiles will be able to spot.
Inside, the MMI control interface has been slightly altered as well. It doesn't get the touchpad featured in the A6 and A8, but the button layout has been altered and there's some snazzier metal trim. The rest of the cabin maintains the elegant aesthetic we've come to expect from Audi, with top-notch materials and meticulous construction. Nevertheless, it was hard to decide whether the Layered Oak wood trim found in the test car looked more like the teak deck of a sailboat or a bowling alley.
Also new is an automatic stop-start system. We tend to turn such systems off, since the engine restart often sends obtrusive shudders through the car or causes a delay when we want to get back under way. The Q5 doesn't really suffer from that delay and the restart is actually one of the more refined examples we've experienced.
It can still be irritating, though, since the engine only remains off for between 45 seconds and a minute. That's shorter than most red lights, meaning the engine will randomly refire long before traffic starts moving again. The shudder may be more refined than others, but it's still present and if you've eased pressure on the brake, the car can jerk forward a bit. Not dangerous, just irritating. Of course, you are saving fuel.
Speaking of which, the 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T promises an EPA estimated 18 city/26 highway and 21 mpg combined. That's 2 mpg lower than the 2.0T and basically equal to the X3 xDrive35i.
The Ultimate Number Question
The new Q5 3.0T is even with its primary competitor in almost every way, including price. The entry MSRP for the 3.0T is only $300 more than the BMW xDrive35i. Our Prestige trim level tester with the Comfort package hit the register at $55,570 and features some items unavailable on the X3 like heated/cooled cupholders, Google Earth navigation imaging and a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system.
Those extra toys should certainly add some wow factor for those passengers not yet sufficiently impressed by that higher number glued to the power-operated liftgate. The extra grunt will hopefully add some further wow as well.
But putting vanity and fashion aside, is the 2013 Audi Q5 a better vehicle with the supercharged V6? Absolutely. Is it more impressive to others? Well, that's for you and those gents at the golf course to decide.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
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