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 federal government mileage ratings for the new-for-2014 Q5 TDI with turbocharged and direct-injection V-6 — 24 miles per gallon 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.
Plus, Audi's Q5 is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, where reliability is listed as average.
All models of the 2014 Audi 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 retail price for the 240-horsepower, diesel V-6 of Q5 is $9,200 higher than that for the base, 2014 Q5 with 220-horsepower, turbocharged, four-cylinder gasoline engine.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $47,395 for a 2014 Q5 TDI also is more than the starting retail price of $39,905 for a base, 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec SUV with diesel engine.
But the GLK250 Bluetec has a smaller, 200-horsepower, 2.1-liter, four-cylinder, twin-turbo diesel powerplant generating a maximum 369 foot-pounds of torque. Plus, the base, diesel GLK comes with fewer standard features than the Q5. For example:
—The base Q5 TDI has standard leather-covered seats, while leather seats are part of a $1,850 option package on the base GLK250 diesel.
—The Audi comes with three-zone, automatic climate control, not two-zone.
—It has a standard, large, panoramic sunroof and power rear liftgate. A panorama roof and power tailgate on the GLK diesel model are part of a $3,450 premium package.
—The Q5 diesel with eight-speed transmission comes standard with roof rails, while they are extra on the base GLK250 diesel with seven-speed tranny.
—The Mercedes also doesn't have the impressive, 505-watt, Bang & Olufsen, 14-speaker audio system that comes with the Q5 TDI.
Still, there's no denying that many drivers are more comfortable and familiar with gasoline engines, and this continues to fuel the success of the top-selling compact, luxury, crossover SUV, the Lexus RX. Starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a 2014 RX250 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. And besides the diesel, Audi adds a sporty, 354-horsepower, SQ5 model for 2014.
But the Q5 TDI, while 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 Q5, solid and stable, rushed forward.
Intriguingly, while recognizable diesel engine sounds at idle could be heard by people outside this Audi, passengers inside didn't hear this.
Steering effort was well weighted and felt neither flimsy nor heavy.
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 Q5 body was tightly controlled. Its stick-to-the-pavement posture endured during cornering. The tester did not exhibit 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 Q5's back-seat legroom of 37.4 inches is comfortable for most passengers. Rear doorways are narrowed by intrusion of the rear wheel wells, and the middle person in back has to deal with a sizable hump in the floor.
Red interior lighting highlights most all buttons and knobs at night.
The panorama roof was one of the easiest to control, as 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.