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

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Audi Canada

Review and photos by Steven Bochenek

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2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid

Typically I’m not much of a crossover proponent but the Q5 Hybrid isn’t typical. (Interesting: Not long ago ‘hybrid’ and ‘crossover’ would have sounded redundant in one sentence.) There’s a lot to recommend it as a primary family car or a city dweller’s weekend escape pod – starting with the welcome fact that there’s no ‘X’ in its name, declaring its crossover-ness.

It’s pretty by SUV standards, a sleeker riff on its zaftig sister, Q7. On profile it’s reminiscent of the classic Zephyr train or the Rocketeer movie poster. Head-on it’s a male cat, fluffing up for a fight. The look suggests strength and speed and the Q5 has all the power you’d want to back that up.

So let’s start with that power. Plenty of launch is important in the city for seizing opportunities in traffic and escaping sudden snarls.

At the risk of sounding overly technical, hybrids are heavy because they contain more stuff — same goes for all-wheel drive — and extra weight slows acceleration. But this all-wheel-drive hybrid weighs 2,545 kg and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in seven seconds.

From a four-cylinder engine? (The Q5 3.0 TFSI has a supercharged V6 engine that helps it reach 100-km/h in a neck-snapping 6.2 seconds!) How?

It’s direct injected and turbocharged. The high gear ratios in first and second gears aid sudden acceleration. You achieve maximum engine hp of 211 from just 4,300 rpm to 6,000 and max torque of 258 lb-ft from just 1,500 rpm to 4,200. Furthermore the automatic transmission integrates a 54-hp electric motor to supplement the 2.0T’s prodigious torque. With tiptronic shifting the transmission can be controlled manually, but it also has a Sport mode that revs higher in lower gears and increases acceleration sooner.

In short it’s powerful.

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

But for all that strength it’s not bad on fuel, a good thing because the premium engine only sips premium gasoline. Go gently at slow speeds in the city to milk that hybrid system and delay filling that 75-L gas tank.

With eight gears, versus the traditional five or six, you get a wider range of ratios between them, allowing for better acceleration better fuel efficiency at higher speeds. Also note its sloping windshield in the profile photo. Without compromising driver visibility the slope contributes to a favourable drag coefficient of .33, quite good in an SUV.

Its published fuel economy stats are 8.6 L/100 km in the city and 6.9 on the highway. I was trending from half to a full kilometre above those during the week I had it, but it was riding on snow tires, running on winter gas and, like hybrids, my foot contains more stuff. For its size and weight (the car, not my foot), that’s still efficient fuel economy.

Nonetheless you’ll want to get to know the cruise control. I was disappointed that adaptive cruise control is only an option. (It ‘adapts’ to the speed and distance of what you’re tailing and slows accordingly, no matter the speed you’ve programmed cruising at, until there’s no longer an obstacle in front.) For the money, that seemed a touch mean.

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.

Rear seat heaters are standard, which is great if you like your kids zonking out while you drive (or if you’re amorously adventurous). For $300, you can add rear-window sunshades. It will keep the sun out of the kids’ eyes for a better sleep (and nosy passersby out of view for those amorous adventures). Three-zone climate comfort offers similar benefits. In summer, when you’re trying to cool so much space without freezing yourself, it’d be a godsend.

How much space is back there? Well for a ‘compact’ luxury SUV, it feels more luxurious than compacted. A longish wheelbase of 2,807 mm contributes to decently spacious backseat legroom of 950 mm. There’s cargo capacity of 824 L. Those heated seats fold down in a 60/40 split blessedly easily, although they don’t quite flatten. They’re controlled by levers near the tailgate. Simple! Incorporated in the 60 portion is a little skier’s door. Drop the front down between the two backseats to reveal an armrest whose sliding door, with a gentle touch, deploys a pair of cup holders. It’s pretty but looks delicate to be so accessible to curious children.

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

An early issue with hybrid vehicles was where to store that clunky electric system. The first generation Toyota Camry Hybrid had almost no trunk space. Rather than carrying a spare tire onboard, the electrics reside beneath the trunk. Instead, the Q5 hybrid has a small cache above the rear passenger-side wheel, containing a tire mobility system, the contents of which would fit in your daughter’s Dora the Explorer backpack. It temporarily re-inflates and seals a tire long enough to get you to a dealership.

Complaints? Not many more than the few mild criticisms above.

The power tailgate is extra sensitive and slow, a bad combination because you think it hasn’t noticed your first touch on the button. Then it begins opening and stops because it thinks you requested a pause.

Remote start and a heated steering wheel would be nice for that price. Climate change which begat hybrid technology aside, in Canada you can depend on a few months of cold mornings every year.

For all the enjoyment it provides, it’s still a bit big for typical city life. Certainly you don’t need this much car if the majority of your driving is commuting solo to work. But if you can afford to leave the city most weekends with your family and want a safe crossover that’s not vulgarly large but pampers the passengers with comfort and the driver with constant feedback from road, don’t hesitate to put it on the list.

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

Pricing: 2013 Audi Q5 hybrid
Base price (Q5 hybrid): $56,600
Options: Ice Silver Metallic $750; Rear Door Sunshades $300; Fine Grain Ash Natural Brown $500; Bang & Olufsen Sound System $1,000; Comfort Front Seats with Milan Leather $2,500
Freight: $1,995
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $63,745

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Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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