Clean diesel power appeals to drivers on two levels: performance and fuel economy. Audi’s midsize utility vehicle, the Q5, is available with five powertrains, ranging from a 2.0-liter turbo to the supercharged V-6 in the sporty SQ5, but the one that catches my eye is the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6.
Sure, the 354 horsepower in the SQ5 has addictive acceleration, yet the TDI clean diesel engine delivers more torque than any engine in the lineup. Torque is the force that pushes you back when you mash the throttle, and the diesel steps away from a stop with a satisfying lunge. The TDI scoots to 60 miles per hour only 1.4 seconds slower than the hot SQ5, but its value is the fact that it has a highway mileage rating of 31 miles per gallon versus 24 for the SQ5. I submit that most of us would trade mileage for a fractionally slower acceleration.
Diesels used to be loud and smelly, but the current crop of clean diesels is neither. In fact, if you didn’t know this was a diesel you couldn’t tell by listening. The Q5 TDI has a base price of $47,000. That’s at least $4,000 less than the SQ5. The Q5 is an ideal size if you don’t need three-row seating. It slips through urban traffic as easily as a midsize sedan, yet you sit higher and have a better view of the road. The diesel is backed by an eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission that can be shifted manually with steering-wheel paddles. A quick burst of power only takes a flip of the paddle shifter. After a few seconds, the transmission reverts to automatic mode.
Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive system divides power from side to side and front to back as conditions require. That means the wheels with the most grip get the most power. That’s handy on slippery surfaces, of course, but also on dry pavement when driving briskly. The test car’s 20-inch wheels and summer tires would not do well in ice and snow, so winter tires are probably in order. In spite of its taller ride height, the TDI handles more like a sedan than a utility vehicle. The ride is firm, and the brakes are strong and powerful. The blind-spot warning system has yellow lights in the side of the outside mirrors.
The Q5’s interior is well designed and executed. The combination of brushed aluminum, soft-touch surfaces and optional piano black trim is inviting.
The sculpted front sport seats were supportive and comfortable. Wind and road noise was not intrusive at highway speeds, and the optional Bang & Olufsen audio system with 14 speakers has excellent sound.
The base price of the test car was $47,000. Options included the prestige package of blind-spot warning system, Bang & Olufsen sound system, navigation, rear view camera and Audi connect. The exclusive package includes Nappa leather and piano black inlays. Sport front seats, 20-inch wheels and summer tires round out the pricing. The sticker price was $62,025.
Four years or 50,000 miles. The first scheduled maintenance, at 5,000 miles or 12 months, is free.