Beyond power, the Q5 is a craftily sprung machine with a ballerina’s grace hidden in a crossover’s hulk. Launching away from lights it’s a spirited bull, but in the corners it’s a gazelle.

Electromechanical steering with speed-sensitive power assistance is clever. At slower speeds, where sportier steering is hard work, it provides more power assistance and makes turning easier. At greater speeds, where you need sharper accuracy, it’s tighter and sportier. Perfect!

2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid
2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid
2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

The Q5 is plenty safe if you’re considering it as a family car. Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive proved its value. The city suffered its worst snowstorm in four years during the week we had it. The next day there was nearly a foot of snow to climb over through our lane and piles more blocking access to the main street. The Q5 coasted confidently across like a hovercraft. Normally I deride the need for all-wheel drive in the city. This wasn’t normal.

Like most vehicles these days, there’s a standard electronic stability program (ESP, cute). When any wheels slip, it automatically brakes and sends power to whichever wheels need it to restore four points of controlled contact. The spirited driver can turn it off — it’s no coincidence that the button is by the shift knob. I tested how effective it is, using a deserted snowy country cul-de-sac with an S-bend. With ESP on I simply did not need as much of the road in the bends. Off, the Goodyear Ultragrip Ice R19 tires cut like ice skates but there was still a thrilling drift. Magic.

The adaptive headlights come standard with the Q5 hybrid (but not with most other trimlines). Rather than simply illuminating directly in front of the car, the headlights point where the steering and you are going, very useful on a winding country road at night. It’s one of those brilliantly simple ideas you can’t believe it took so long to invent, like lick-less stamps that are actually stickers.

By SUV standards, the Q5 isn’t especially tall at 1,655 mm but you’re plenty high in traffic and the sightlines are clear. A default alert beside the rearview mirrors lights up when another vehicle enters your blind spot area. But if you signal or just move toward that lane, it flashes into the petit mal–inducing range. That gets annoying fast in rush hour but you can switch off using the button beside the driver’s rearview mirror.

At 2,089 mm, neither is it especially wide but in tight parking spots you can electrically fold those exterior mirrors narrowing it to 1,898 mm.

You can also switch off the parking alerts easily. There’s both a reverse live camera and a graphic display of the whole car with sound and light warnings. However, if you live in the city and drive during the day, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want it on. Other than cutting out your music briefly while your attention ought to be on the task at hand, the system’s not overly invasive.

2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid
2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Mind, it is a delicious sounding stereo. Even with that standard panorama sunroof the Q5 is well insulated from outside and engine noise, making it an ideal miniature concert hall. (When the hybrid switched from electric to gasoline you’d feel rather than hear it.) This tester was upgraded with a $1,000 Bang & Olufsen sound system. Amid the ‘Comfort’ leather seats and the exactingly inlaid fine grain brown ash accents, you’re in your own tasteful cocoon and can see value for that price tag. (For an extra $2,500 those front seats are power-cooled in summer – aahh!)

The infotainment system included SIRIUS satellite radio and a music interface that played from the iPhone. Many cars still haven’t been able to evolve beyond the iPod. The system’s utterly comprehensive, allowing you to customize so much of your driving and listening experience – but you don’t need to be a teenager to figure it out. You may want to keep your kids out of the front seat, though. They love playing with it.

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