As you may know Audi has been involved in the AWD sector of the automotive market for years however the German company only relatively recently stepped into the SUV scene. SUVs are far more refined and technologically advanced now than they were ten or more years ago so it’s appropriate for a luxury car leader like Audi to have a few models in this niche.

Currently Audi produces a total of two SUVs although it appears there will soon be a third model joining the lineup. In this article we’ll look at the Q5 -the smaller of the two Audi SUVs in production today- and leave the larger Q7 for another time.

The 2012 Audi Q5 SUV

The Q5 is quite a new model and is still in its first generation since the original model was released in the 2009 model year. Initially the Q5 was only offered with a 3.2L V6 engine that produced 270 HP and 243 lb-ft of torque. That engine is still available with the same power output but you can also choose a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine if that appeals to you. The four cylinder powerplant puts out 211 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque in the 2012 model and is paired with an 8 speed transmission.

If you care about performance figures the V6 will beat the 2.0T in acceleration but barely. The 3.2L hits 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds while the four cylinder model reaches 60 in 7 seconds. It’s not a big difference and if you like the characteristics of a turbocharged engine you might be happier with the four cylinder model.

If you really want a high performance Q5 you might be better off waiting for the 2013 model year when Audi is expected to release a high performance variant of the SUV with a supercharged V6 that should put out somewhere in the range of 300-340 HP. If you plan to do any towing with your SUV the Q5 can actually handle a decent load for a small SUV. It’s towing capacity is rated at 4,400 pounds though you probably shouldn’t expect that rating to carry through to the performance oriented version.

It is unfortunate that the Audi Q5 isn’t offered with a diesel engine since Audi and VW use some very impressive TDI power plants in their other vehicles. A diesel powered Q5 would be both a quick and efficient vehicle. For the gasoline powered versions you’ll find the Audi Q5 gas mileage numbers to be acceptable but not that impressive. The 2.0T achieves a rating of 20/27 for city/highway driving and the V6 comes in at 18 MPG for urban and 23 MPG for highway driving.

The German Competition: BMW's X3

If you are not a devoted Audi fan then one of the most natural SUVs to compare the Q5 to is the BMW X3. It’s a bit of a tough comparison since the BMW features a naturally aspirated straight six engine that makes 240 HP which is 30 HP short of the Audi 4 cylinder model. The X3 xDrive35i jumps past the V6 Q5 with a power output of 300 HP and 300 lb-ft torque from its turbocharged straight six.

Interestingly enough the more powerful X3 is more efficient with EPA ratings of 19 MPG city and 26 MPG highway. Both numbers beat the top-of-the-line Q5. Probably the best way to decide which of these small SUVs you will be most happy with is to simply go visit a couple dealerships and test drive both models. If you like turbocharged power you might actually want to compare the 2.0T Audi to the xDrive35i despite the power difference.

Audi Q5 2.0T Drive Review