Friday, November 19, 2010

Key to happiness found in Audi's turbo blast

Sacramento, California – Can a turbo buy happiness?
As far as I’m concerned, yes, I can be bought that cheaply.

Evidence is supplied by my recent week in the 2011 Audi Q5 2.0T quattro Tiptronic – a lot of words to describe a five-passenger luxury sport-utility vehicle.

But with a standard turbo-4 added to the mix for this model year, few words are needed. The tested model sprinted like a scalded cat, much to my delight. Kudos to the Audi engineers, because there is no turbo lag in this power plant, and performance seems to far outdistance the advertised 211 horsepower.

The Q5 has been beating up on some serious competition in acceleration tests, and I didn’t even have the rip-roaring 3.2-liter V-6 version with 270 horses. But keep in mind: that particular Q5 trim level with the big V-6 engine starts at $42,500 (compared with $35,200 for the tester), and gas mileage dips to 18/23 compared with my tester’s 20 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the open road.

Life is, as they say, a series of tradeoffs.

My Q5 was good company, even beyond the rush of mashing the accelerator. Interior cabin noise was negated admirably, and despite the car’s somewhat broad-shouldered construction, steering it in tight traffic and crowded parking lots was easily done.

Maybe traffic was getting out of my way purposely upon seeing the large, shark-devouring grille on the Q5’s front end. Who am I to argue with a little visual intimidation?

Standard comfort, convenience and safety features were just what you’d expect from the Audi brand. I particularly liked the understated, elegant layout of leather and wood trim amongst the goodies. It might take you some time to master the controls, so figure on diving deeply into the large owner’s manual if you get this Audi.

While I was impressed with the three-zone climate control listing, I’m not sure it really was controlling the climate in three specific segments of the vehicle. Then again, that seems to be asking a lot in a small environment.

This is one time I’d actually recommend the lesser of the two trim levels. In simple terms, if you want the 2011 Q5, get the 2.0T instead of the 3.2. I truly believe the less-expensive model will stack up as the best deal for most buyers … except perhaps for those buyers who want everything. And I can’t argue with the latter.

But for my money – and perhaps yours – the Audi Q5 2.0T delivers inside and out, and especially on the roll.

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