Luxury can coexist with common sense and practicality. You need technology and engineering to bring them together.
Consider, for example, the 2014 Audi 3.0 Q5 TDI Premium Plus Quattro — an all-wheel-drive, compact, diesel-fueled crossover utility vehicle. It surely has a luxury price, starting at $46,500. That is $9,200 above the base price of the gasoline edition of the Audi Q5.
But what you get in return is priceless — a stupendous 428 pound-feet of torque, the engine twisting power that turns the wheels, the oomph behind the oomph. The Q5 TDI’s turbocharged (forced air), 3-liter, diesel V-6 delivers a maximum 240 horsepower.
That all would mean little if the Q5 TDI was equally powerful at guzzling fuel. It isn’t. In fact, it’s rather economical, in terms of fuel consumption, for a luxury performance vehicle. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the 2014 Q5 TDI gets 24 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.
I did better than that in highway mileage on a winding drive though Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. I admit to a lot of “hyper-mile” driving on the trip, deliberately trying to limit fuel consumption by coasting downhill whenever possible and sticking as close as possible to posted speed limits. And I was running driver-only — no passengers, no cargo. I wanted to get an idea of how many miles I could pull out of the Q5 TDI’s 19.8-gallon tank.
I estimate, driving cautiously, I could run 620 miles on the highway in Audi’s diesel crossover utility vehicle, enough to run roundtrip from my home in Northern Virginia to New York City without running on empty.
But most of us don’t hyper-mile when we drive. We simply drive. And we want a vehicle that drives with us — quickly responding to our inputs at the accelerator pedal and steering wheel. The Q5 TDI does all of that and does it exceptionally well.
It is a wonderfully odd machine, combining the best of several automotive genres — sports car, family hauler and small truck. The interior is a work of premium craftsmanship and materials — superb fit and finish, an ergonomically sensible instrument panel featuring an optional 7-inch color LCD screen, leather-covered seats.
I was driving in the Shenandoah Valley when summer suddenly became the worst of fall days with chilly, cascading rains and wet leaves covering the roads. It was slippery going, but the Q5 TDI handled the mess with aplomb. I was impressed with the vehicle’s on-road performance, but less so with its overall utility.
The problem is cargo capacity, some of which seems to have been sacrificed in the Q5 TDI in homage to style. With rear seats up, you get a rather smallish 29.1 cubic feet of cargo space. Compare that with the compact Honda CR-V crossover utility vehicle, which offers 37.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up; or the compact Chevrolet Equinox family hauler, which offers 31.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Of course, the Audi Q5 TDI comes with more panache and prestige than Honda or Chevrolet. But I have a growing feeling that prestige is increasingly less important in the global automobile industry.
Credit South Korean automobile manufacturers Hyundai and Kia, which have turned the entire concept of “luxury” upside down by offering premium vehicles at affordable prices. Credit the folks at a resurgent Honda and Toyota, and those never-quit souls in a revived U.S. automobile industry, all of whom now are turning out innovative, high-quality products at accessible prices.
“Luxury” defined is changing. It now has to have value beyond the bauble. The new truth is that “prestige” without value is worthless.
Audi knows this — thus, the new Q5 TDI. It is a remarkable piece — powerful yet fuel-efficient and breathtakingly agile on the road . . . and environmentally friendly. Its tailpipe emissions contain 12 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions, the stuff that contributes to fog, than a comparable gasoline engine.