By KBB.com Editors
We don't just like the idea of the premium compact crossover, we like most of those in the segment. From the agile and boldly styled BMW X3 to the larger, softer, best-selling Lexus RX 350, the category offers something good for everyone. But we never had a clear favorite until we drove the 2011 Audi Q5.You'll Like This Car If...
The stylish and substantial exterior design speaks for itself. The interior oozes with both style and quality. The drive is comfortable and/or exhilarating, depending on your mood. The 2011 Audi Q5 is the category's gold standard, and our current favorite.You May Not Like This Car If...
While the 2011 Audi Q5 strikes the best balance in the segment, you can easily find something roomier, sportier, softer or more affordable in the category.What's New for 2011
For 2011, a new 2.0T model is introduced featuring a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, eight-speed Tiptronic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive. The 3.2 Premium Plus model features a six-speed Tiptronic transmission and now includes the S-Line exterior package as standard equipment. The 3.2 Prestige gains adaptive headlamps, while the 20-inch wheel option and six-disc CD changer are discontinued.Driving It Driving Impressions
A good balance of ride and handling has traditionally required compromises on both sides of the equation, but technology continues to rewrite the rules. While the BMW X3 and Lexus RX 350 hold down the segment's extreme positions on the sport-comfort spectrum, respectively, the Audi Q5 offers a range of proficiency that approaches both ends. And that range is delivered by more than just the powertrain and suspension, but also seats, visibility, ergonomics and the "driving feel" we still highlight so often when talking about European cars. And when outfitted with its category-exclusive "Audi drive select" feature - highlighted in the Favorite Features section of this review - the 2011 Audi Q5 offers an even more dynamic personality.Favorite Features
Audi Drive Select
At the push of a button, drivers can alter engine, transmission, steering and suspension tuning according to mood. Modes include Comfort, Automatic, Dynamic and Individual, which allows a custom response profile on MMI/navigation-equipped versions.
Audi Dynamic Steering
In a tight parking lot, you want a lot of steering assist and response. When bombing down the autobahn, you want little boost and subtle directional changes. With Audi dynamic steering, the Q5 has variable assist and variable ratio, delivering the best of both worlds. The system can even provide minor steering corrections in extreme situations, reducing the need for electronic stability program intervention.
As much as we love the 2011 Audi Q5 from the outside, it's what's on the inside that counts. And for our tastes, the inside of the Audi Q5 is as close to perfect as you'll find in the segment. It's contemporary without being cold, full of high-quality materials and, importantly, comfortable. Goodies include standard three-zone climate control, sliding and reclining rear seats and an available panoramic moonroof. The 2011 Audi Q5 is also among the segment's roomier entries. Audi's new, third-generation control and navigation system boasts 3D building graphics in larger cities, voice-driven destination address input (or just say, "I need money," for instance, to find an ATM) and a music hard drive.Exterior
The beauty of the Audi Q5 lies not in sharp creases or extreme angles, but in masterful proportions and glorious details. So, yeah, we like the looks of this thing. The face of the Q5 features one of our favorite corporate grille designs. The profile is beautiful in its balance, with its long wheelbase, short overhangs and perfectly proportioned wheels and wells. We also like the view from behind, especially the shape and integration of the standard LED taillights and the lack of vertical panel gaps, thanks to a unique, wraparound "clamshell" tailgate. For those interested in taking this beauty off-road, the 2011 Audi Q5 offers 7.9 inches of ground clearance. For those who aren't, there's the 3.2's standard S line appearance package.Notable Standard Equipment
Every 2011 Audi Q5 features leather seats, power front seats, three-zone climate control, multi-function steering wheel and a 10-speaker sound system with SIRIUS Satellite Radio. Standard safety equipment includes six airbags and electronic stability control that adjusts for a higher center of gravity when it detects the roof-rack crossbars are in place.Notable Optional Equipment
From the base price, the 2011 Audi Q5 offers about $17,000 worth of upgrades, highlights of which include Audi drive select, xenon plus headlamps with LED daytime running lights, power tailgate with memory, panorama sunroof, third-generation MMI control and navigation with backup sensors and camera, HD radio, blind spot warning, Bang & Olufsen sound system, heated and cooled single cupholder, keyless entry and start, power folding side mirrors and rear side airbags. Features that are standard on some competitors but not on the Q5 2.0T include Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, heated seats, driver's-seat memory, auto-dimming mirrors and iPod integration.Under the Hood
The base Q5 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine shared with partner Volkswagen. This same engine serves duty in the sporty GTI, so you know it's no lightweight. Paired with a new eight-speed manually selectable Tiptronic transmission, the 2.0T delivers V6 like performance with impressively frugal fuel economy. The Q5 3.2 features a 3.2-liter V6 engine, all-wheel drive and a manually-selectable Tiptronic six-speed automatic transmission. Like the 2.0-liter turbo, we've nothing but good things to say about this engine, which Audi says will power the Q5 to 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds (about a half second faster than the 2.0T) and to an electronically-limited top speed of 130 mph. Like most of Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive systems recently, the Q5's features a 40/60 rear-biased torque split, which improves performance driving feel versus a 50/50 distribution. In case your interests are more specialized, the 2011 Audi Q5 3.2 boasts segment-leading towing capacity of 4,400 pounds and an innovative electronic stability control system that detects the installation of roof-rack crossbars and adjusts accordingly for the presumed higher center of gravity.
2.0-liter in-line 4, turbocharged
211 horsepower @ 4300 rpm
258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 1500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27
270 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
243 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/23
The 2011 Audi Q5 2.0 starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $36,000 and can be optioned up close to $50,000. The V6 powered 3.2 starts just over $43,000 and can surpass the $58,000 mark when fully loaded. Comparing MSRPs strictly from a feature-based value perspective, the 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 BMW X3 and 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 all play in or near the same ballpark, while the 2011 Lexus RX 350, 2011 Acura RDX and 2011 Cadillac SRX offer some buyers more features for their money. From a resale value perspective, the 2011 Audi Q5 promises to be one of the category's strongest entries.