A BLAND NEW AUDI!
Obviously, given the new crop of S.U.V.s hitting America’s auto showrooms this spring, the auto industry hasn’t abandoned the big guys, and who can blame them? Oft-maligned for their cruddy gas mileage and a major hazard when navigated by road boobs, the SUV nonetheless has provided some of the most comfortable, safe, stylish, novel and upscale road experiences of the past 20 years. There simply isn’t any other way for Dad to have his kids and eat them, too. He’s not going to spring for a ‘Vette until he’s 50, and SUVs are the closest thing for a Mucho Macho man to express his inner warrior while saving for his offspring’s college. Mom’s no slouch either—according to J.D. Power & Associates 2008 Power Auto Offline Media Report, women buy roughly 49% of all SUVs.
Both Mom and Dad would do well, then, to test-drive the Q5, the kid brother of Audi’s hulking Q7. A recent 4-day weekend charioted by the Q5 introduced a vehicle which, while not a physical star in the manner of the TT or A5, is still everything an Audi ought to be, and more. On highways and deserted Pennsylvania back roads, the vehicle proved itself worthy of its badge, built for style and ease-of-use and every gadget available in this price market from Blue Tooth cell phone sync to a color reverse camera, and much more. The moon roof, spanning the entire front and bacj, is a great touch for an SUV, and the doors feature round king-size cupholders, perfect for your litre of water or similar. Visibility is excellent but acceleration is tepid—I’d like to see some paddle shifters in the future—and the car feels heavy, more like a minivan than something similar to its rivals the BMW X5 or Infiniti EX35.
In its defense, the Q5 handled sharp corners on twisty roads with aplomb, and its LED rear lights are a sharp contrast to its good-looking but basically conservative sides and rear. Only the front, with its ballsy waterfall grille and Audi badge, looks as bad-ass as an Audi needs to look to truly succeed.
Now for the brussel sprouts and spinach:
The sound system is one of the best-sounding and one of the most difficult to use I’ve tested in years. Trying to get the damn thing to simply shut off was fruitless; the best that could be done was to press the steering-wheel mounted MUTE button. The nav system is slow, usually about 7 seconds behind its turns, and also failed a crucial test in locating a Starbucks in upstate New York—we were led us on a series of side streets before our tour guide grandly announced “You have arrived at your destination!” as we stopped near a dead end adjacent to a couple of sad-looking houses needing a paint job. A cruel trick to play on a journalist in need of caffeine.
But aside from those little gripes, the Q5 is pure enjoyment and should be considered for any reasonably sized family.
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