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Audi's Q5 has become the brand's second-best seller in both Canada and the United States, just behind the A4 sedan on which it is mechanically based.
Audi's Q5 has become the brand's second-best seller in both Canada and the United States, just behind the A4 sedan on which it is mechanically based.

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Compact SUV key to Audi's growth Add to ...

Martin Sander, head of Audi Canada, is in Ingolstadt to plead for more Q5 compact SUVs. Right now, Audi Canada is selling every single Q5 the factory can provide. It's a hit.

In fact, Audi's Q5 has become the brand's second-best seller in both Canada and the United States, just behind the A4 sedan on which it is mechanically based.

Audi has wisely used the Q5 to fill a gaping hole in its Canadian and American lineups. The Q5 starts at $43,500 and ranges up to $48,500. It competes against the BMW X3, Lexus RX 350, Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and Volvo XC60.

For now, Audi Canada only offers the Q5 with a 3.2-litre V-6 engine (270 horsepower) with a crisp-shifting six-speed automatic.

The excellent 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with seven-speed automatic, the one sold in Germany, is coming next year - and for a lower price than the V-6 Q5 with standard (for now) quattro all-wheel-drive. Diesels and gasoline-electric hybrids are, apparently, in the Q5 pipeline, too.

The Q5 is a handsome, sweet-driving vehicle with commendable space for its size and artful lighting throughout the cabin. It is also comfortable, the optional 505-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system is spectacular and the Q5 has earned admirable safety ratings. The quality appears good, too, with tight gaps between body panels and rich, but simple, interior trim.

The downside: While not overwhelming in complexity, the controls remain unnecessarily complicated. The MMI (multi-media information) control system still forces you to search through a menu to tune the radio. It also seems odd that a company so proud of making safe vehicles would ask drivers to pick among four out-of-sight-while-driving buttons to control so many routine functions.

Audi, of course, is not alone here. But we'd applaud any auto maker with the courage and creativity to come up with a viable alternative to the various MMI and iDrive (BMW) and Comand (Mercedes-Benz) controller systems that unnecessarily complicate operating a car. Lexus seems to be the closest.

The Q5, though, does boast attention to detail in other areas. To fine-tune ride and handling, for instance, Audi has something called Driver Select, which allows you to configure 27 selectable settings for handling, steering and engine response. Another example: the giant sunroof that stretches over the front and back seats.

On top of all that, the stability control system changes settings when you load cargo on the roof rack - to compensate for the change in the car's centre of gravity. And Audi uses stainless-steel trim instead of plastic on the door sills and the cargo area. The Q5 even has notched trim to allow feet to easily slip past the door pillar when swiveling out of the back seat.

The Q5 is selling because of all these things and because the standard quattro system is among the best of its type. Here, all-wheel-drive normally sends most power rear-wards to give sporting types a rear-drive feel. That makes for the kind of road feel gearheads like. Others will appreciate quattro for helping them get down a snowy driveway in winter.

The Q5 does many things well and therefore it's selling well for Audi Canada. When the other powertrain choices become available, Sander will likely have even more trouble squeezing adequate supply out of a factory running flat-out to meet demand.

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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