2014 Audi Q5 TDI has both power and thrift

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Audi’s best-selling sport utility vehicle, the Q5, gets even better in 2014 with the addition of a six-cylinder diesel engine that is fuel-thrifty, yet muscular.

The 2014 Audi Q5 TDI gets diesel economy but also low-end torque that makes it very competitive.  AUDI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
AUDI/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The 2014 Audi Q5 TDI gets diesel economy but also low-end torque that makes it very competitive.

The federal mileage ratings for the Q5 TDI with turbocharged and direct-injection V-6 – 24 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on highways – rival those of many SUVs with smaller, four-cylinder gasoline engines.

It’s even rated 1 mpg more in highway driving than the gasoline-electric hybrid Audi Q5.

At the same time, Audi’s powerplant generates loads more torque and at low engine speeds – an astounding 428 foot-pounds starting at just 1,750 rpm – so the Q5 can accelerate quickly in traffic-merging situations and zip efficiently past slower vehicles.

In addition, Audi’s Q5 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, where reliability is listed as average.

All models of the Q5 retain the features that have been attracting increasing numbers of buyers: handsome and distinctive exterior, compact size, well-crafted interior, luxury appointments and sport sedan ride and handling.

To be sure, the starting price for the 240-horsepower, diesel V-6 of the Q5 is $9,200 higher than that for the base Q5 with 220-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder gasoline engine.

The starting price, including destination charge, of $47,395 for a TDI also is more than the starting retail price of $39,905 for a base 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec SUV with diesel engine.

Still, there’s no denying that many drivers are more comfortable and familiar with gasoline engines, and this continues to account for the success of the top-selling compact, luxury, crossover SUV, the Lexus RX. The starting price, including destination charge, for a 2014 RX 250 with 270-horsepower, gasoline V-6 is $40,670 with front-wheel drive and $42,070 with all-wheel drive.

The Q5 TDI and GLK250 Bluetec come standard with all-wheel drive.

Audi continues to offer the Q5’s other power choices in 2014: The base turbocharged, gasoline four-cylinder; an uplevel, supercharged, 272-horsepower, gasoline V-6; and the 245-horsepower hybrid. Besides the diesel, Audi adds a sporty, 354-horsepower, SQ5 model for 2014.

But the Q5 TDI, though having peak 240 horses, beats the SQ5 in torque, which is that accelerative power that’s demanded in pedal-to-the-metal driving. In the test Q5 TDI, the force pushed passengers’ backs into the seats, and the SUV, solid and stable, rushed forward.

Intriguingly, though recognizable diesel engine sounds at idle could be heard by people outside this Audi, passengers inside didn’t hear it.

Inserts of black plastic at the inside door handles were a smooth and nice contrast to the textured armrests, and the textured fabric ceiling material was upscale. Fit and finish – from gaps between sheet metal pieces on the outside of the Q5 to the stitched seams on the seats inside – were excellent.

The body was tightly controlled. Its stick-to-the-pavement posture endured during cornering. The tester did not exhibit the tippiness that might be expected in long sweeping curves. Indeed, despite its tallish, SUV stance and nearly 8 inches of ground clearance, the Q5’s drove a lot like a sport sedan.

Fuel economy averaged 25.7 mpg, which compares with the federal government rating of 27 mpg in combined city/highway travel. This translated into a travel range of more than 500 miles on a single tank and is nearly on par with the 28 mpg combined mileage rating for the four-cylinder GLK diesel.

The back-seat legroom of 37.4 inches is comfortable for most people. Rear doorways are narrowed by intrusion of the wheel wells, and the middle person has to deal with a sizable hump in the floor.

The panorama roof was one of the easiest to control, because it opens to preset stopping points via a dial on the ceiling. With the sunroof, headroom of at least 39 inches in front and back seats is commendable.

SPECS

THE VEHICLE: 2014 Audi Q5 TDI quattro Tiptronic, an all-wheel-drive, five-passenger, compact, luxury, crossover utility vehicle

BASE PRICE: $37,300 for base, 2.0T Tiptronic; $41,200 for 2.0T Tiptronic Premium Plus; $44,400 for 3.0T Tiptronic Premium Plus; $46,500 for TDI Tiptronic

DESTINATION FEE: $895

PRICE AS TESTED: $51,445

ENGINE: 3-liter, double overhead cam, turbocharged, TDI V-6 with FSI direct injection producing 240 horsepower

TRANSMISSION: Eight-speed automatic

EPA MILEAGE: 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway

TOP SPEED: 130 mph

LENGTH: 182.6 inches

WHEELBASE: 110.5 inches

BUILT IN: Germany

OPTIONS: Audi MM navigation plus package (includes navigation system, voice control, color driver information display, parking system with rearview camera) $3,550; Glacier White metallic exterior paint $500

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