On Wheels: Audi Crossover Carries You Out of the Mist

(Audi Of America)
By Warren Brown
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 26, 2009

CORNWALL, N.Y. -- Heavy fog settled along Mine Hill Road, a treacherous blacktop path made more dangerous by inclement weather.

I loathed the wetness.

Mine Hill, particularly when shrouded in fog, splashed by rain or covered with snow, can break your heart over a car or truck.

A vehicle that dazzled you at speed on a highway bereft of curves and meaningful elevation can bitterly disappoint you on Mine Hill.

A car that seduced you with its ability to take curves on dry mountain roads could prove feckless on Mine Hill in wet or snowy weather.

But a car, wagon or truck that dances uphill in the rain, tiptoes lightly through the fog, that literally feels the road regardless of precipitation, certain of every step taken on an uncertain surface, is one that makes you smile.

I smiled a lot in this week's subject vehicle, the 2009 Audi Q5 Premium Quattro crossover-utility wagon.

It is a compact, luxury all-wheel-drive wagon. It is among the latest entries to a growing segment of vehicles bought by people who want truck-like utility without a truck's thirst for fuel or its relatively clumsy handling.

Such consumers also want the strength of a sport-utility vehicle and the people-hauling ability of a minivan without the social opprobrium of either.

Thus, the Q5 and its peer models, regardless of price range, represent the minivan or station wagon needed by many couples who have children but refuse to buy anything that too clearly resembles a minivan or station wagon.

Instead, in possible rebellion against their parents or their own entry into parenthood, those consumers have bought into a "cool factor" exemplified by upscale models such as the Acura MDX, Audi Q5, BMW X-3, Buick Enclave, Ford Flex and Lexus RX 350. Or, they've signed purchase agreements for one of the more affordable crossovers, such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue and Toyota Rav-4.

For me, the crucial test for those vehicles and all others is their performance on Mine Hill Road.

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