2013 Audi Q5 3.0T Road Test

The higher number on the back of the pricier Audi Q5 is no longer just for show. The supercharged 3.0T engine is good for a serious acceleration bump.

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.

2013 Audi Q5 First Drive

We take a drive in the revamped 2013 Audi Q5 to see if its midcycle update boosts its chances of capturing luxury SUV buyers looking for something a little smaller.

Some vehicles hit a sweet spot for no apparent reason. Originally launched in 2008, the Audi Q5 wasn't groundbreaking in any way. It was not only late to its segment, it didn't offer anything particularly new or innovative either. Yet despite its unheralded entrance, it quickly became one of Audi's best-selling models.

Compact yet versatile, it appealed both to social climbers and image-conscious downsizers. Four years on from its launch and faced with renewed competition from the BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque, the 2013 Audi Q5 has been given a refresh.

It looks and feels familiar but subtle revisions freshen its appearance, while changes to the engine lineup give it more versatility than ever.

A Minor Nip and Tuck Audi rarely rolls out revolutionary designs anymore. Even its all-new models are instantly familiar, so it's no surprise that the Q5 face-lift amounts to little more than a squirt of Botox.

The original trapezoidal grille has been given a couple of extra corners, while the front fender has been redesigned and incorporates chrome-ringed foglights. At the rear there are revised LED lights and a new diffuser that incorporates a pair of chrome-trimmed exhausts. Audi's design gurus say the changes serve to visually lower the car, which they do in a very subtle, almost indistinguishable way. The Q5 still doesn't have the visual impact of the fashion-focused Evoque, but many Audi customers may see that as a virtue.

Inside, the changes are even more subtle. There are new instrument needles, a revised steering wheel and a new ignition key design. There's also a new range of colors, although we remain intrigued by the difference between Pistachio and Truffle Beige, which can be combined with beige headlining and beige carpet. Never let it be said that Audi's stylists aren't sometimes beige in their outlook.

Dubious color schemes aside, the 2013 Audi Q5 cabin remains the usual mix of good taste and exceptional build quality. There's even a temperature-controlled cupholder capable of chilling or heating your beverage of choice. No doubt the product of hundreds of hours of German engineering, it works well.

The Engines Are the News First, the bad news. In Europe, Audi has comprehensively updated its 2.0 TFSI engine so that it now produces 225 horsepower. But the revisions were significant enough to require recertification with U.S. authorities for approval, a process that Audi says now costs too much to make it cost-effective. As a result, we'll continue to get the current 2.0 TFSI, which delivers a more modest 211 hp.

Now the good news. Audi will be replacing the 3.2-liter V6 with its newer and more powerful supercharged 3.0-liter engine. This 2,995cc V6 develops 268 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque from 2,150-4,780 rpm. These figures represent a 2 hp and a 52 lb-ft improvement over the 3.2-liter it replaces.

Fitted as standard with Audi's excellent eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, the 3.0 TFSI is capable, says Audi, of zero to 62 mph in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 145 mph. From the driver seat, the only real indication that it's supercharged is the confident slug of low-to-midrange torque. In many ways, it behaves more like a modern diesel than a traditional gasoline engine.

Still Sedate Behind the Wheel The big change to the driving experience is the introduction of electromechanical power steering, which alters its level of assistance according to vehicle speed. In contrast to a hydraulic system, which constantly draws energy from the engine, the electromechanical system operates only when necessary. If you're going in a straight line, it effectively disappears.

The efficiency benefits of an electric system are not in dispute but in common with a number of similar systems from rival manufacturers. Unfortunately, the Audi setup is disappointingly devoid of feel. At low speeds in particular it feels horribly artificial. If Audi, like BMW, continues to aspire to be regarded as a sporting alternative, then details like this are critical to improve.

Audi claims to have tweaked the setup of the five-link front and trapezoidal rear suspension, too. From behind the wheel, the changes are subtle at best. The 2013 Audi Q5 remains a capable companion, with well-contained body roll for an SUV. The ride quality is still a little too stiff, though, especially if you opt for the S line sport suspension.

A Diesel Conundrum Audi is currently in the process of certifying the 3.0 TDI engine for launch next year. A mainstay of Audi's larger sedans and SUVs in Europe, its impact could be significant. Over 40 percent of Q7s sold in the U.S. and more than 50 percent of A3s now run on diesel fuel. We wouldn't be too surprised if the Q5 achieves a similar rate of success.

The 2,967cc V6 produces 241 hp and a not-inconsiderable 428 lb-ft of torque between 1,750 and 2,750 rpm. Audi says it will hit 62 mph from rest in 6.5 seconds and top out at 140 mph. In the real world, the additional midrange thrust makes it feel even quicker than the 3.0 gas engine and it's exceptionally quiet in all conditions.

Sadly, there are two more diesel engines Audi won't be offering in the U.S. Its 2.0-liter TDI is the biggest selling Q5 model in Europe and is offered in both the A3 and Volkswagen Jetta in the U.S. However, the extra weight of the Q5 would require more exhaust-cleansing hardware that would add too much additional cost.

Nor, sadly is Audi willing to take a chance on the new SQ5, which employs a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 diesel with 313 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque. Capable of zero to 62 mph in 5.1 seconds, it's a hoot to drive but Audi reckons it couldn't sell more than a thousand a year. Shame.

Hybrid Solution? Beating the 3.0 TDI to the U.S. market will be the Q5 Hybrid Quattro. It has been on sale in Europe since last summer but this is the first time it will be offered in the U.S. Audi has taken a different approach to archrival BMW with this car. While the Bavarians are concentrating on performance hybrids, offering V8 performance with V6 consumption, Audi is focusing on efficiency, providing V6 thrust with four-cylinder efficiency.

The Q5 employs the same system as the A8 hybrid. It combines a 2.0-liter gas engine and a 54-hp electric motor. Their joint output of 245 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque is enough to propel the hybrid from zero to 62 mph in 7.1 seconds and on to 140 mph, according to Audi.

In other words, it's slower than the 3.0 TDI and also likely to be cheaper. The four-cylinder diesel isn't as refined as its six-cylinder sibling either. So what's the point? Well, it can run for up to 1.8 miles in pure electric mode, so if you happen to live 2 miles from your office it will be a most efficient option.

Clearly the hybrid's appeal lies more in the allure of its badge than any significant real-world benefits. Even Audi accepts that it's a toe in the water and is unlikely to account for more than 1-2 percent of Q5 sales in the U.S.

Not Much Has Changed Given the Q5's popularity across the world, it's no surprise that the update is modest in both its intent and effect. The new gas engine is a welcome addition to the range and marks a useful improvement over the outgoing 3.2. The 3.0 TDI is a gem and should also help broaden its appeal when it arrives in a little over a year. The case for the hybrid, though, is harder to make and we don't suspect it will make much of an impact.

Where the 2013 Audi Q5 will make an impact is the compact luxury SUV segment. Just as it did when it was first introduced, this revamped Q5 is apt to attract buyers who like its usable size, sharply tailored interior and clean, if forgettable, design. They're not likely to notice the lifeless steering or worry that it's not as flashy as a Range Rover. It's comfortably in between and that's what most of the customers in the segment seem to prefer.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid Review

Edmunds.com reviews the 2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid, providing authoritative buying advice, pricing, available options, photos, specs and safety information.

2013 Audi Q5 Review

From exciting performance to excellent comfort and convenience, the 2013 Audi Q5's qualities give it broad appeal. Read our full review.

Compromise is usually a sad reality. Oftentimes we have to trade away some of one thing to get more of another. In an SUV those opposing forces are typically performance and practicality. Or more to the point -- spirited acceleration and good fuel economy. But the 2013 Audi Q5 manages to defy that convention, providing both attributes with its trio of muscular yet miserly engine options. Whether you opt for the base turbocharged four-cylinder, the new supercharged V6 or the new hybrid, there's plenty of pickup along with frugal fuel mileage -- up to 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway with the hybrid.

The Q5 benefits from its A4 sport sedan-based platform by providing relatively athletic handling and an enjoyable drive. That quality, along with the aforementioned energetic engines, makes the Audi Q5 one of the most engaging SUVs on the market. Another key attribute for the sensibly sized 2013 Audi Q5 is its ample cabin and cargo space that optimize both comfort and utility. Throw in one of the nicest interiors in its class and it's easy to see why the Q5 has such a broad appeal, being a favorite pick for active singletons and small families alike.

Naturally, there are other choices for a small luxury crossover SUV. Among the competition, the 2013 Volvo XC60 provides an even roomier interior and a few more family-friendly features. If performance is paramount, the 2013 BMW X3 largely matches the Q5 in terms of performance and handling. And if style is your thing, Land Rover's Range Rover Evoque is the most dynamic-looking of the bunch. But for an all-around small luxury crossover that does everything well, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than the 2013 Q5.