If you're having trouble deciphering the meaning for "carlike," take a spin in the Audi Q5.
It gives some color to the grey area between utility vehicles and wagons, and comes as close as any crossover to actually being a car--albeit one with extra ground clearance, a taller roofline, and standard quattro all-wheel drive.
One of the wave of luxury compact crossovers to hit the U.S. market over the past decade, the Q5 has handling, acceleration, and passenger space that are only a short stretch from Audi's own A4 sedan and Allroad wagon.
It's much closer to those roots than some of its competition--the BMW X3, the Cadillac SRX, the Range Rover Evoque, the Mercedes-Benz GLK--and it shows plainly, right off the bat in styling.
The Q5 isn't so much a downsized Q7 as it is a grown-up A4 Avant. The proportions are just about perfect, and the look is cohesive and clean, inside and out. The changes made to the A4 this year have merged onto the Q5's front end, in the reshaped grille and in headlamps ringed in LED tubes.
The cabin's sprouted a few more buttons and a richer LCD display, but still sets a benchmark for visual simplicity--and for the synergy of styling and materials that elevates the cabin to a higher plane, especially in the layered-oak treatment we've seen in a few recent test cars.
For the 2013 model year, the Audi Q5 carries over its turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but offers as a high-output option its 272-horsepower supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 coupled to an eight-speed automatic--and introduces a new Q5 Hybrid to the mix.
The hybrid blends the turbo four powertrain and eight-speed automatic with lithium-ion batteries and a 54-hp electric motor for a net of 245 hp, a 0-60 mph time of 7.1 seconds, and combined gas mileage of 26 mpg. Quattro all-wheel drive is standard with the hybrid, as it is with the other powertrains.
The 2.0-liter TFSI four-cylinder remains our pick in the lineup, for its lively acceleration and good fuel economy; the added weight from standard all-wheel drive is offset in the fuel-economy numbers by a responsive eight-speed automatic.
The V-6 is quieter and about second quicker to 60 mph, but adds thousands to the Q5's already stiff sticker price and extracts a significant gas-mileage penalty.
With either gas-only powertrain, the Q5 excels at in passing maneuvers, and out of corners, and it truly handles like a car, with the lean, responsive feel of a lower-riding wagon--though we'll pass on the user-adjustable driving inputs of Drive Select, and stick with the stock suspension and steering setups.
Passengers sit relatively high in the Q5, with more than enough headroom and legroom in front, and the seats themselves are firm and adjustable to a wide range of sizes. Even in back, there's a enough legroom for most adults, thanks to a rather long wheelbase.
Cabin materials are about the best they come in this class, with a rich, unified feel throughout and nice detailing. The Q5 has excellent build quality and a tight, refined feel overall--although road noise can be an issue.
The Audi Q5 remains an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2013, and it has one of the most complete sets of safety features in this class; rear thorax airbags, which aren't broadly offered, are optional here. A rearview camera is available, but only in an expensive bundle of features.
The Q5 can be equipped with a wide range of features, but its base price of around $37,000 can be driven up very rapidly by checking a few option boxes. Standard equipment includes a ten-speaker sound system, heated mirrors, leather upholstery, power front seats, tri-zone climate control, Sirius satellite radio, and an SD card slot that can manage up to 32 gigabytes of music--but you'll pay extra for Bluetooth and iPod connectivity.
Premium Plus and Prestige models load on the luxuries, and a Q5 3.0T can easily top $55,000. The Q5 also now offers as optional equipment Audi Connect 3G wireless Internet service, Google Earth mapping, adaptive cruise control with full braking at speeds of up to 19 mph, and a rear-seat entertainment system.