2011 Audi Q5

October 21, 2011

My children are in elementary school now, but not so long ago I thought I’d never see the day where my kids were getting in and out of a car and bucking their seat belts on their own. That day has come, and what better reward for myself than a test-drive of the 2011 Audi Q5?

The Q5 is a small, zippy SUV that’s not your typical family hauler and will deftly handle any task thrown at it in your daily life. However, it’s not a good fit for families that need a large cargo area. With older kids, I don’t need to have a cargo area the size of Texas.

The Q5’s 211-horsepower four-cylinder engine was turbocharged for fun and power, reminding me I’m allowed to have fun now. The Tiptronic automatic transmission comes with not six, not seven, but eight speeds.

The five-seater handled various suburban workloads with vigor. It nimbly cornered parking lot medians and accelerated respectfully when I zipped around to grab a much-coveted parking spot. If I’d wanted to valet the Q5, I would have done so with my head held high.

I think my biggest surprise with the Q5 was the price. The base model starts at $35,200. My base test car, the Q5 2.0T Premium, had a panoramic moonroof and some other niceties like an iPod/USB port that bumped the price up to $39,450.

EXTERIOR

The Q5 will get you noticed in the school drop-off lane, mostly because it’s so small. Its luxurious looks help, too. If you get the A5 with the optional xenon headlights with LED daytime running lights, which are part of the $4,200 Premium Plus Package, it definitely stands out in a crowd and says “I’m an Audi!” That’s not a bad thing. I also loved the standard LED taillights, which add an aggressive look to the back end of the Q5.

Younger kids might require extra help getting in and out of the Q5 because the door handles are placed a little higher than on a sedan and the step-up height is higher, too. It’s not atypical of any vehicle you’d be looking at in the SUV category, though. Despite its sloping rear roofline, there won’t be head-bonking when putting kids in their child-safety seats.

The base model has a 211-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine that gets 20/27 mpg city/highway and uses premium gas. I have a lead foot when a fun car is present, so I visited the gas station frequently in this car.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove-On): Groove-On

INTERIOR

The Q5’s interior is a classic example of having everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s neat and tidy, with a black interior and aluminum and wood accents.

Here again, the Q5 makes me happy with its size. The seats are comfortable, and everything is within easy reach. The Q5 has Audi’s MMI multimedia system, which handles everything from seat heat to stereo settings. These systems all have their quirks, and Audi’s is no exception. My main complaint — it’s a small one, but persistent since my first experience with Audi’s system — is when you turn MMI’s knob controller to scroll up and down, turning the knob to the right scrolls up and turning to the left scrolls down. It’s counterintuitive to me.

While there are cupholders in the Q5, there are just four of them. There’s a purse hook on the front passenger’s side and a little cargo net for a gadget or two. The center console is deep and can handle a bunch of CDs (are you still carrying those around?). There’s also an MP3 jack and iPod/USB input in the glove box.

There was good legroom in the backseat, and the kids loved the panoramic moonroof. Cupholders come out of the end of the armrest. It pops out with the push of a plastic button and then tucks back in when you’re finished using it. I love the stowable part of it, but I would probably worry how well it would hold up if you have aggressive toddlers using it. Yes, I just said “aggressive toddlers.” You get my point.

The cargo area is a decent size, so a load of groceries fits fine in it. However, a trip to a warehouse store that involved a mega pack of toilet paper and a few more bulky items bested the Q5’s rear space. Fortunately the second-row seats are simple to fold down, and they even lock into place.

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

SAFETY

The 2011 Q5 has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. To earn this safety nod, a car must receive the top score of Good in frontal-offset, side-impact, rear and roof-strength crash tests. A car also must have electronic stability system, which is standard on the Q5.

The Q5 also has standard Quattro all-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, traction control and six airbags, including side curtain airbags for both rows. Optional safety features include rear side airbags ($350), front and rear parking sensors and a backup camera.

The Q5 proves itself to be a family-friendly vehicle with its two sets of easily accessible Latch anchors. All my child-safety seats — rear-facing infant-safety seat, convertible seat and booster seat — fit well in the Q5.

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