2011 Audi Q5 2.0T Review – The Benchmark Among 5-passenger Crossovers

Audi Expert Reviews

By Dan Tsuchiya


  • Attractive styling that appeals to both genders
  • Direct injection turbocharged engine with power that comes on very early
  • Handling feels closer to a European sport sedan and AWD to boot
  • Ultra-luxurious cabin with intuitive controls


  • Exterior side mirrors are really big
  • Luxury isn’t cheap
  • Can get thirsty if you have heavy feet
  • Some interior squeaks

Many years ago there was a mini-sport utility vehicle called the Jeep – versatile, rugged, and largely uncomfortable. The Jeep’s popularity spawned multiple knock-offs from every carmaker — from the ill-fated Suzuki Samurai to the successful RAV4. All three continents have been trying to get it right for the past 30 years and it wasn’t until automakers tried converting cars into sport utility vehicles that the modern compact SUV was born.

The Japanese have been dominant in this category for the past decade with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-7, and Nissan Rogue. The US also has had some success, with the Ford Escape and the late Saturn Vue, but the Europeans (champs in the wagon category) have largely been lacking in the small-ute category. With the Q5, Audi puts a large dose of performance and luxury into a compact crossover and helps to set the bar in this growing segment.

2011 Audi Q5

Driving Impressions
When we first received the Audi Q5, we thought the exterior appearance looked first rate. Here was a small sport utility that looked stout and smart, had well-proportioned lines, and was attractive to both males and females. Before seeing the inside of the Q5, we feared that the interior would be heavy with VW plastic and misused burlwood trim. Not even close. We were pleasantly surprised by the look and feel of the Q5’s interior and relieved that Audi has gotten past looking like an upscale Volkswagen.

Jumping into the car was a breeze, with high ceilings and fairly large front doors making for easy ingress and egress. The Q5 doesn’t use the old switchblade style key, nor does it have a push button start. You put the key fob remote into a slot and then push the key to start. Not very intuitive and having to remove the key fob from our pockets each time was a bit annoying.

The big surprise is driving the Q5. With responsive acceleration, handling and braking, it sets a new standard for the small sport utility segment. It is amazingly fast for a 2.0 liter motor pulling a 4000 lb car. Audi publishes a 7.1 second 0-60 acceleration on their website. Motor Trend measured 6.8 seconds.

Looking over the competition from Mercedes and BMW, both the GLK and the X3 still don’t compare to the ride quality and handling of the Audi. The Q5 shares the A4/A5 chassis and it shows. Ride is a bit firm, but the braking and handling is almost A4-like.

2011 Audi Q5

Audi gets kudos for a solid fit and finish, both interior and exterior; it’s what you’d expect from a German luxury vehicle. Panels line up well, doors close solidly and wind noise was barely detectable at speed, although there was some road noise coming from the 235/60/18 inch Dunlop Grand Trek tires at freeway speeds. Audi really cleaned up the interior with strategically placed wood trim, a sliding rear seat, special latches that fold down the rear seatbacks from the cargo area, and of course the auto-close rear hatch.

There were some aspects of the Q5 that caused us to raise a few eyebrows. When driving in traffic the first thing you will notice is the large side mirrors, which are about 10 inches tall and placed fairly high in relation to the window sills. Large side view mirrors are desirable when towing your Seadoo to the lake and the Q5’s 4400 pound towing capacity makes this possible. But turning your head to look out at cars running alongside, there is almost 2 feet of other vehicle that is blocked by these mirrors. The large side mirrors clearly get in the way of seeing the other car’s turn signals.

2011 Audi Q5 2.0T

The second observation came from the rear seat backs which are a leather-ette on the sides. When the Q5 goes over some uneven pavement it causes the backs of the rear seat to rub and you get squeaks. We were like, “are you joking?”

The third item we noticed was Audi’s choice of front seat belt receptacles that extend outwards quite a bit. So much so that Audi placed a rectangular piece of felt on the backside of each seat belt receptacle so that it would not rub against the center console. Goofy looking, but at least it didn’t squeak. On the flipside the extended seat belt receptacles offer a very comfortable and easy to reach latch point for the safety belts, as well as not being too snug over jackets or thick clothing.

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  • francois says:

    I got the chance to drive this car and it’s one of the best SUVs I have driven.

    The handling and braking is bar none. This vehicle corners like a sports sedan and it will outperform many out there. The ride is controlled and the grip is impressive.

    The best part of the car though is the 2.0 liter Turbo engine mated to the 8-speed tiptronic transmission. At first glance it does not seem like the 2 liter engine can move this car around but Motor Trend’s 6.8 second 0-60 was validated by my heavy foot. Even better is there was no turbo lag and there seemed to be ample power from any speed.

    A big reason for this is the 8-speed transmission always squeezes the most out of the engine. It’s always on the right gear and shifts are pretty quick. Sometimes, it will downshift once then shift again if you’re still prodding it on.

    The big reward for the small engine and tall gearing is impressive mileage. At 70 mph, the tach is just a hair above 2000 rpm. I measured exactly 32.0 mpg on a twenty mile stretch of Highway 101.

    So there’s my take. It’s an awesome car with the 2.0t and quite a bargain at $35k with auto, leather, 18 inch wheels. It really trumps the much more expensive 3.2l V6 which isn’t really any faster.

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