It was a beautiful spring day as we strolled into Audi Cary poised to drive the equally stunning 2014 Audi Q5. A brilliant Carolina blue sky overhead, local flora in bloom and everything green as green can be – it was the perfect day for a test drive. There was a cool breeze blowing, and – with our fingers crossed – it seemed like the worst of the pollen could be over.
With us that day was Len Talarico, one of our Brand Specialists at Audi Cary. Len has been with us in the Leith family for more than three years now, and his passion for these cars is unwavering. He drives an S4 himself, and can often be seen zipping off the lot at the end of the day. We couldn’t think of anyone better suited to show us why the Q5 is one of the best-selling Audis on the road today.
The Dynamic Q5 Trim
We first looked at the Q5 out in front of the dealership, walking around while Len showed us the features that make this car such a looker. While the crossover segment becomes increasingly homogenized, the Q5 resists norms, retaining an aggressive stance. The dynamic lines that run from the trailing edge of the headlamps straight back along the side of the car lend themselves to this posture. Len also led our eyes to the two lines coming down the hood, both of which draw your vision downward, giving a vehicle with good ground clearance a low-to-the-ground feel.
Our Q5 was of the Premium Plus trim level, which incorporates S line elements into the design, both on the inside and out. The S line badges are clearly visible before the front doors, and subtle mud-flaps line the wheel wells to give the car an athletic attitude. From the front, you can see what you should always expect on an Audi, namely the Singleframe grille and signature LED running lights. The S line exterior appearance also adds an air dam, front and rear fog lights, and those in the front are surrounded by black honeycomb grille.
Moving to the back, we admired the polished dual exhaust tips, as well as a continuation of that honeycomb accenting around the rear diffuser. Len demonstrated the Q5’s power tailgate, pressing a button on the smart key fob. Audi’s compact utility vehicle has a spacious trunk, and the second row seats fold down in a 60/40 split. No need to walk around to the side of the car – you can fold the seats down from the back hatch by pulling on a pair of release levers. Each Q5 also comes standard with a detachable roof rack for storage above and an easy-to-remove privacy shade that will cover up anything in the trunk. Lift up the floor panel and you’ll find a deflated spare tire and air compressor. Unique to Audi, the condensed spare allows for both an extra tire, as well as a separate underneath storage compartment.
An Interior That Offers What Other Brands Do Not
We took a seat on the passenger side while Len explained the robust multimedia suite. In this infotainment system you will of course find AM, FM, and a trial for Sirius satellite radio. Those are a given in this industry now, at all levels. What Audi offers that other brands don’t is their MMI port, allowing for full music integration, be it iPod, auxiliary, Bluetooth, or even those old compact disc things. You can also turn the Q5 into a mobile hotspot with WiFi powered by T-Mobile.
As for navigation, Audi MMI also covers you there. Users will have access to Google Earth, as well as Google Local Search complete with live traffic updates, weather, gas prices, travel information, and more.
We’re frequently impressed by how user-friendly the Audi MMI Navigation is. This is a system that does not make use of a touch screen. It’s more akin to a desktop computer, with a scroll wheel and shortcut buttons all positioned right in front of the armrest, so you barely have to move your hand while using the system. The screen is also higher than on some cars, so your vision will remain up and alert to what is happening on the road. If you aren’t able to stop, you can always use voice controls. Through a series of voice tutorials, the system will actually learn what your voice sounds like and how you say specific words, making the whole process even easier.
It’s also worth complimenting the work of Audi’s haptics team. These are the designers and engineers who work to ensure everything you touch on the interior of the Q5 makes you feel good. All of the buttons are satisfying to manipulate, all of the surfaces are soft to the touch, and everything feels great. The seats have extra support, bolstering you through curves, and both driver and passenger seats are heated, power adjustable, and available with lumbar support.
Lastly, the Q5’s panoramic sunroof might be the biggest in the business. It spans nearly the entire ceiling. It’s covered by a fabric headliner that always lets in a little bit of light, but with the push of a button you can retract it and flood the cabin with natural light. Another button press will open the leading edge, perfect for these beautiful spring days.
Audi Is Proactive, Not Reactive
“Do you ever strap in for a test-drive with someone and realize immediately that it’s too much car for them?” we asked Len.
“All the time,” he said. Here’s the rub: Audi’s 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder engine is more than enough for most people. It’s excellent, efficient, and reliable. Len usually only recommends the 3.0-liter TFSI V-6 like the one under the hood of our Q5 to more performance-minded folks. The V-6 is for people who know what 272 horsepower feels like before they step on the gas.
Len had driven us off the lot, but about halfway through the test route, he pulled over and switched seats with us so we could get a feel for how the Q5 drives. It drives nice, we can tell you that.
The most important aspect of all Audis is that they are proactive, not reactive.
The Q5 is equipped with electronically assisted power steering. This is different from power steering because it’s smarter. When you’re going at slow speeds, you can turn the steering wheel with nothing but a finger. When you’re roaring down the highway, the steering wheel stiffens up, giving you a sturdier feel and more control. Proactive, not reactive.
Our test car was equipped with Audi’s Side Assist system, which monitors blind spots. It’s a totally visual system, not auditory at all. LED indicators on the inside edge of the side mirrors will light up when another vehicle enters your blind spot. If you attempt to make a lane change, the indicators will flash at you, warning you against doing so. Side Assist is informative without being annoying, but if you don’t like it, a button on the driver’s door will turn it off. The system also accounts for objects approaching at speed, so even if a car or a motorcycle hasn’t entered your blind spot yet, Side Assist will sense them coming and light up anyway. Proactive, not reactive.
Anyone who reads our blog should know about quattro by now, Audi’s unrivaled all-wheel drive system. It’s not only a safety system, guaranteeing the Q5’s grip in adverse road conditions – it’s a performance system, too. It’s reliable on a slick road, but it excels on dry pavement. The quattro system represents nothing short of traction reified, constantly adjusting power and differential between all four wheels. Proactive, not reactive, and it’s standard on all Q5s. We have quattro to thank for us being able to accelerate all the way through the ramp onto highway 64, never once losing our balance and only just making the wheels sing a bit. It just doesn’t let go. Our only complaint about our test-drive is that there weren’t more turns to take like that one.
Audi Q5: Everything You Want in a Crossover
Back at the dealership, we were jamming out with Len, listening to the 500-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system. A solid set of speakers are hard to turn down, and it’s hard to top B&O. Len was telling us about how they’re one of the best parts of the S4 he drives. We mentioned reading somewhere that by 2020, every third Audi will be an SUV. He thought about it for a bit and then said it wouldn’t surprise him, not when they’ve got a vehicle like the Q5 in their fleet.
Overall, the 2014 Audi Q5 3.0T is everything you want in a crossover. It’s spacious, comfortable, advanced, and fun to drive. The turbo-charged four-cylinder engine is more than enough for most, but for those who want an extra edge, the V-6 is worth it. Anyway you spin it, Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system is every bit as welcome in a CUV as it is in a sedan, if not more so. The Q5 is a five-star vehicle in our book, and we can’t recommend it enough.
We also want to recommend that you get in touch with Len Talarico whenever you fancy a visit to Audi Cary. His love of the brand gives him unmatched expertise, and he is every bit deserving of the title Audi Brand Specialist. We want to thank him and the rest of the staff at Audi Cary for making our test-drive experience possible.