June 12, 2014
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Pritchard
Camera Guy James is the only non car-nut who regularly spends time with me on the road. He can work the hell out of a video camera, make funny jokes, and help make your writer, who has a great face for writing, look half decent on video. But things relating to horsepower, engines and mechanical bits aren’t his forte.
So, interesting that after a 20 minute drive to our video shoot location and another 20 minutes of filming, he hadn’t noticed that the Q5 TDI ran on diesel fuel until I mentioned it after popping the hood for his standard engine shot. Camera Guy James had heard the Q5 run, both from inside and out, and had even filmed a few clips from behind the tester, exposing himself to the exhaust stream.
His surprise reflects the average consumer’s perception of diesel power formed long ago. That is, owning a diesel means putting up with a noisy, unpleasant engine that clatters like a blender full of wrenches, takes 42 seconds to fire up in the cold, and pukes out sooty emissions you could harvest for chemical warfare.
Nowadays, these nasty diesel mills are relegated to the history books, replaced by the world’s automakers with powerplants like the one in the Q5 TDI.
Fire it up, and there’s no audible clacking. No clatter. No puff of putrid haze. The exhaust, if you do catch a whiff, is milder than that of a comparable gas engine. It sort of smells like a clean swimming pool. And I’ve heard gas engines that sound more like a diesel than this one.
The numbers? Three litres, one turbocharger, 240 horsepower and the better part of 430 lb-ft of torque. That last figure is on par with such machinery as a Camaro SS or Challenger SRT8, meaning the performance is a little on the hot-rod side where instant, low-rpm throttle response is concerned.
That torque is part of the reason that diesel power is so often a sound business decision. Diesel engines are built tough as nails to handle the extra heat and compression required for their operation—so they have a reputation for longevity. And, since diesel fuel contains more energy per litre than gasoline, engines that run on it need less. So, with that massive, relatively fuel-efficient torque output, diesel is the ideal fuel source for things that haul heavy stuff – like trains and trucks and industrial equipment.
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Or, a luxury ute full of parents, offspring, pets, gear, and supplies, possibly hauling a trailer. Do that at highway speeds, and the Q5’s eight-speed automatic and low-revving diesel mill chug along in silence with scarcely 1,500 revs on the tachometer. Or, if you like, give it a good stomp off the line and wonder if the engineers had to reinforce the headrests to handle the resulting slam. She rolls coal: cracking off 0-100 clicks in about 6.7 seconds makes this the second-fastest Q5 you can buy—losing to the supercharged gas V6 by mere tenths. Passing and merging power is just as impressive. And to that fuel efficient diesel mill and eight-cog gearbox, engineers added things like Auto Stop to eliminate wasteful idling, too.
Audi’s signature Quattro AWD technology is employed as standard to enhance all-surface grip. No issue with wasted wheel spin or traction-related drama, especially off the line. Hammer it, even on a loose surface, and it just bites in and goes. Drivers can be confident that the Quattro’s computer brain will intelligently work its differentials, and even the brakes if needed, to ensure maximum forward momentum over any surface. Interestingly, if you’re driving with a little fire in your pants, you can feel the Quattro system send a quick surge of power to one single wheel, in sync with your steering inputs, and the resulting twist in the Q5’s attitude on its wheels. Here’s an AWD system that maximizes both confidence and friskiness, depending on what you’re up to.