2014 Audi Q5 TDI

by Aaron Cole :: posted in Reviews on October 28th, 2013
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he dresses.

There’s a brush of personality behind every stuffed shirt. A handkerchief here. A tie clip there. An air of debonair has a mystique more potent than any cologne, first line or brush of a woman’s neck in a dimly lit room. Thinly cropped beard, fantastique.

Then he hops into a diesel and ruins everything.

I know. Diesel is less sexy than compound derivatives. Diesels accelerate like farm machines and sound like they just got their hand stuck in a combine too. Do you think you could ever feel differently? Would you allow yourself to be seduced by a machine that burns oil? Could 5,000 revs at limit keep you happy for life? All these questions and more could be answered by the 2014 Audi Q5 TDI, only if you let it whisper its soft symphony of high-pressure cylinders into your ear — “glug, glug, glug.”

Of course, I kid. Audi spends millions to assure you, this diesel is unlike any diesel you’ve driven so far. For the most part, they’re right. In America, the only diesels we run across regularly have multiple axles attached to the rear or a thresher baling wheat behind it. To that end, the Q5 TDI is a diesel unlike any other — it comes with seat heaters and navigation.

It’s a 30-minute drive between me and the other end of town, where I have a softball game tonight. Between me and my middle-aged field of dreams tonight is traffic, no fewer than two construction zones and miles of painfully dull interstate that I’d rather commit ritual seppuku than traverse again. If there’s any consolation, it’s this: The Q5 can double as a mobile hotspot so up to eight theoretical passengers could fire up their iPads and watch “Mad Men” without me. I have no passengers so Jon Hamm will have to wait tonight.

The crowded interstate doesn’t know this small SUV doesn’t take regular joe unleaded. Outside of the TDI badges on the neatly swept rear, there are no visual indicators that this thing only stops at the green pumps. Believe it or not, this is not a new idea for Audi. In Europe, Audi sells diesels like bottles of Orangina. In the states, it sells just about the same amount too.

So what makes this diesel any different than the rest? Those unwashed few specimens available for sale in the U.S, including domestics, that believe the road to mileage-requirement salvation lies with technology and fuel that Rudolf Diesel refined more than 120 years ago? Precisely this: There’s absolutely no difference between it and the gasoline model. Naysayers can huff, puff and grumble; the Audi Q5 doesn’t. Shifts come confidently as if you’re grabbing another cog, pulling RPMs and reaching for another. The gas pedal doesn’t complain like a sheet metal worker pressed into unpaid overtime, again. The Audi Q5 is nose heavy like Paris Hilton, which is to say, not at all and constantly pointed in the air. It breaks all the rules and resulting metaphors I can throw at it. Truth be told, I’ve been waiting to drive this car in this traffic for a long time. Diesels have a nasty habit of reminding you what’s under their bonnet at the worst times. Frumpy cold starts. Impossibly long warm-up times. Lagging acceleration. Frumpy front ends. Throw-away cost premiums that are only realized by Warren Buffet and hoarders. I fit in seamlessly among the other cars here, despite the Q5’s relative newness.

It’s been offered here in the U.S. for several years now. The Q5 is a step up from the gasoline-powered models, maximizing economy without sacrificing much. The diesel-powered model only offers 240 horsepower, 32 fewer horses than the optional gasoline model and five fewer than the base four. Torque is predictably higher, at 428 lb.-ft. of twist compared to the 295 torques offered by the same 3.0-liter supercharged optional model. That results in a wash on straight line speed, it’s every bit as fast from 0-60 mph as the gas model at 7 seconds for both.

There’s no indication from the inside that you’re forcing combustion on the outside. In the leather-swaddled cockpit of the Q5 TDI, acceleration happens at a whisper. The Audi is famously bereft of any drama running through the ZF’s eight speeds. The transmission is refined like Puccini, minus the shouting. It sounds cliche, but given the choice between commanding Audi’s MMI navigation system, Memorex or live, I’d choose stop-and-go traffic every time. Seating for four adults is comfortable, and five is possible, although tonight is theater for one. I don’t mind one bit.

For $51,495 as priced in our test model, the Q5 TDI can be stuffed to the gills with technology including sport front seats, paddle shifters, navigation and rear-view backup camera. The base diesel model runs $46,500, which is $9,300 more than the 2.0-liter four and $2,200 more than the 3.0-liter six. For that type of money, you’d expect no less than near-perfection. Thankfully the Audi delivers it, plus 5 mpg above the standard model.

Dynamically, there is no difference between it and the gasoline model, which makes the diesel here so unique. Once upon a time, driving a diesel meant sacrificing quiet or speed or acceleration to return mileage for your cold lump of steel in the front.

The 2014 Audi Q5 does it all without taking the starch out of your shirt.  

Aaron Cole is a syndicated auto columnist. He prefers to hear from readers. Reach him at aaron.m.cole@gmail.com. 
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