Audi offered us a week to test the new-ish Q5 for a week, but actually the Audi A4 quattro is one of our ideal-for-Utah vehicles. Now we have to decide which Audi is better-suited for Utah’s intense four-season driving weather.
The A4 is the smaller sport sedan that you see all over the place. It is Audi’s top seller, and sales are up this year. The Q5 is a crossover-SUV type thing, and has become the company’s second-best seller. We’ll evaluate season-by-season:
WINTER: The Q5 is only available with all-wheel drive, and has extra ground clearance. Our testing was done in rain and mud, but we found no traction problems. We pulled a little off-road session, and found some hills the Q5 couldn’t get up (see the video), but we blame the street tires, not lack of power or traction systems. You can also see the Hill Descent Control.
There is also a truly separate climate control system where shotgun not only gets to change temperature, but has different fan settings, too.
SPRING: We tested the Q5 on our slalom course in rain, which has been the standard daily forecast this spring. Traction got iffy only when we pushed the Q5 very hard, but in the photos you can see the body roll created by its 4,090 pounds.
Should a clear day happen in spring, the Q5 has a monster sunroof with separate sliding shade.
SUMMER: Got big toys? Audi claims a class-leading towing capacity of 4,400 pounds. The cargo capacity (57.3 cubic feet with the rear seats down) fits between the A4 (50.5) and A6 (63.83) wagons, or “Avants,” as Audi calls them. See the slideshow for what we call “deceptive” cargo size: The hatch covers more than the opening, though not nearly as bad as a Honda Crosstour or Acura ZDX.
FALL: In our opinion, this is the best time of year to take a drive up Utah’s canyons. The 2.0 liter turbo claims 211 horsepower (the V-6 claims 270), which is about double the power of a little economy car; but it also packs almost double the weight of the same vehicle. Audi’s 0-60 time is 7.1 seconds. Turbo lag (that time you wait for the power to kick in) is better than the old 1.8 turbo, but it’s still quite noticeable. If you take a test drive, stab and hold the throttle to see if the lag is liveable. Salespeople love this. Traffic Cops might accept your “Turbo Test” excuse, too.
The power comes through an eight-speed automatic transmission. Having a glut of gears lets the engine stay at its optimum speed, getting 20 city/ 27 highway mpg with premium fuel.
EXTRAS: Our tester was a mid-level trim model. We did not get the transponder key, which would be great in winter (think: leaving keys in pocket, no messing with gloves).
Our tester did not have GPS navigation, but did have the interactive screen. You don’t have to use it for the climate control, but it slows you down on the satellite radio controls. It still has plenty of buttons (not menus, like its confusing German competitor).
VERDICT: The Q5 is bigger than the A4. The good part of bigger is cargo capacity and ground clearance. We tooled around off-road with the Q5 in areas the A4 wouldn’t dare tread.
The downside of bigger is performance: The Q5 is slower and gets 2 mpg less than the A4.
If you might actually go off-road, tow, or max out the cargo capacity, consider the Q5 for your next car to optimize your Utah experience. If not, stick with the lighter, nimbler, sleeker, and faster A4.
There’s more information and plenty of photos in the slideshow.