The upside to MMI is its functions: The real-time weather and traffic data were helpful. The voice-command system understood "next coffee shop" and displayed several in my area. I selected my favorite one and got turn-by-turn directions.
All the caffeine in the world couldn't improve the navigation's functionality, however. Inputting an address requires twisting the console-mounted knob to find and select each number and letter. A touch-screen would really help. Getting lost and wandering into my destination would probably take less time.
To be fair, BMW's iDrive system in the X3 is similarly complicated. The EX35's touch-screen and simplified menu structure, however, are much more intuitive.
Features & pricing
A base price of $35,600 gets you standard all-wheel drive, brake assist, hill-descent control, dual-zone automatic climate control in front with separate rear controls, a tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, leather seats and surfaces, 12-way power front bucket seats and a cooled glove box.
The Premium Plus Convenience Package adds $4,300 to the sticker and features LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming and power-folding mirrors, heated front seats with driver memory function, stainless-steel exterior trim, a panoramic moonroof and a power liftgate. The $3,000 MMI Navigation Plus Package includes the multimedia system, HD radio and navigation with voice control, and a backup camera with parking sensors.
Audi's Advanced Key keyless entry system added $550, which brought my test Q5's final price to $44,800 after the $875 destination fee. Despite its hefty price tag, it stacks up well against similarly priced competition in this expensive class.
The 2012 Q5 received the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's highest score, Good, in frontal offset, side-impact, rear-impact, and roof-strength crash tests, making it a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last rated the Q5 for the 2010 model year, before NHTSA's more stringent tests took effect for 2011.
Standard safety features include frontal and side-impact airbags for the front seats, plus side curtain airbags for head protection in the front and rear seats. Side-impact airbags for torso protection are optional for the backseat. As is required of all 2012 models, antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. For a full list of standard safety features, check out the Standard Equipment & Specs page.
The Q5 offers several active-safety options, but they're not available across the entire lineup: A helpful backup camera comes only in an expensive package. (It's a stand-alone option on the X3, standard on the EX35 and standard on uplevel versions of the SRX.) Similarly, a blind spot warning system isn't available on 2.0T versions of the Q5.
The Q5 has a refreshingly easy Latch system for installing child-safety seats. Plastic, removable covers make finding the anchors a breeze (though I'd lose the plastic covers within a day). Click here to read our full Car Seat Check.
Q5 in the market
With a base price of $35,600, the Audi Q5 may sound pricey, but if you're shopping in this segment you're not looking for a budget vehicle. The Q5's bottom line can escalate quickly, though, especially considering many features are available only in expensive option packages. Still, the Q5 2.0T is a relative bargain, given that the V-6-powered Q5 3.2 Premium Plus starts at $43,000.
All-wheel-drive versions of the Infiniti EX35 and BMW X3 start at $37,200 and $37,100, respectively. The Cadillac SRX starts at $35,485, but all-wheel drive isn't available on the base model. Aside from the V-6 engines they offer, equipment levels at this price are similar, which really puts the Q5's base price into perspective. What sets the Q5 apart is its balance of sport and comfort. It stands out as a stylish, fun-to-drive compact crossover with the luxury trappings buyers expect. Bonus: It also offers a little more passenger and cargo room than its competitors.