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2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige: a roomy SUV with the spirit of a sports car

I recently had the pleasure of spending 8 days behind the wheel of the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Quattro and I cannot emphasize more what a pleasure it truly was – with an aggressive exterior, a luxurious interior and a drivetrain that provides a driving experience that is hard to find in a sport utility vehicle.


The 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is the top of the line package for the smaller of the Audi luxury sport utility vehicles and while the Q7 is often the vehicle looked at for its performance capabilities – the Q5 fitted with the 3.2L V6 and the Audi Drive Select system is one of the most entertaining SUVs that I have ever had the pleasure of driving.

The Exterior
My 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige test vehicle was fitted with the optional S Line exterior package which adds unique Titanium finish 20” wheels with a sporty split 5-spoke design wrapped in summer performance tires. The big, bold front fascia that shares an overall design scheme with the rest of the current Audi lineup sports a large central grille opening flanked by smaller openings that contain the circular fog lights. The headlights have a naturally darkened design with LED trim along the inside of the large, bright projection assembly. Along the lower edge of the front fascia, the central section directly below the grille angles upward with a black splitter-style trim piece running along the opening to enhance the sporty nature of the Q5 with the S Line package. The grille and fog light areas are all finished in black thanks to the S Line package and in my opinion…this package is a must-have. The only chrome along the front end after the application of the S Line package is found in the Audi ‘four rings’ logo and in the trim pieces within the headlights. The protruding grille lines run up through the long, sloping hood and meet the windshield in a wide angle that makes for a very slippery top line.

Along the side, 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige has a long greenhouse with a roofline that begins sloping back just past the B pillar and is only lightly broken up by the notch that separates the roof and the rear hatch glass with a subtle spoiler located at that junction. This design bolsters the sporty look of the Q5, providing a very “fast look” from the side while the low, aggressive stance provided by the S Line 20” wheels help depart from the station wagon look often offered by smaller SUVs. The trim around the windows and along the bottom of the mirrors are all matte black rather than chrome (thanks again to the S Line package) and when combined with the darkened side windows, the Q5 has a very sinister look. The wheel openings are fully filled by the S Line 20” dark wheels and the hardened edge of the front and rear wheel openings flow down into the hard lower body line that runs between the wheels. There is also a light body line that runs along the shoulder line of the Q5 that helps to give this small SUV a very fluid design. Finally, the upwards direction of the body lines combined with the stance of the Q5 gives this small SUV the look of a vehicle that is built to perform.

Across the back, the aggressive design of the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige continues with sharp angled tail lights packed with bright LEDs and along the lower rear fascia there is a darkened area that wraps around the dual polished exhaust tips. Like the side windows, the rear glass is tinted very dark to add to the menacing look of the Q5. One of the most interesting features of the exterior has nothing to do with how great it looks but it is actually a functionality feature as the design of the rear liftgate allows for a massive opening. Unlike many SUVs that have a center section that opens, the entire rear face of the Q5 opens – tail lights and – to allow for plenty of loading space into the rear cargo area.

In a segment that is filled with vehicles that are hard to differentiate between a AWD station wagon and a truly sport utility vehicle, the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige with the S Line package looks the part of a performance minded SUV. More importantly, the basic design cues of the Q5 allow this roomy compact SUV a far more aggressive look in a class packed full of ultra vanilla vehicles. The Q5 has an exterior attitude that most SUV owners hope that their vehicle has once they are done modifying it and I think that it looks great.

The Interior
MY 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige test vehicle was fully loaded, including the S Line package, the Luxury package and all of the goodies that come as part of the Q5’s Prestige trimline. As soon as you open the door and climb into the 2012 Q5, you are greeted by just about every amenity that you could want. The sporty leather seats feature heating and cooling modes with power control for both the driver and the front passenger. These great looking seats provide grip during stints of spirited driving but more importantly, they are super comfortable for a long drive. There is tons of leg room, elbow room and head room for the driver and front passenger with soft padded armrests on the doors and on the center console. There is enough front seat adjustment to accommodate a driver under 5’ tall or a driver that is well over 6’ tall – all the while offering the driver easy access to the controls that are conveniently mounted on the center console. The passenger seat allows just as much adjustment but unlike some other smaller SUVs, the Q5 has tons of leg room for rear passengers when the front seats are adjusted for a taller driver and front passenger. If you only need rear seating for two, the center seating area folds down into an arm rest with cupholders and if you don’t need any rear seating space – the entire rear seat folds down to make for one massive cargo area. The front seats get cupholders of their own with both heating and cooling options that will keep an icy drink cool and a hot drink toasty.

The 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is a high tech luxury SUV and when sitting in the driver’s seat – that is clearly evident. The 3-spoke S Line steering wheel is wrapped in leather and fitted with a few scroll knobs and buttons to control the stereo system without taking your hands off of the wheel. The Q5 features a large screen mounted high on the dash that displays the stereo system information, the navigation system, the rear camera system picture, and the various vehicle settings including the Audi Drive Select system. For those features not controlled by the few buttons on the steering wheel, the traditional button and knob controls are mounted on the center console, just past the end of the center armrest. This essentially puts the driver’s right hand directly over the controls when resting your arm so as you are driving along, you can scroll through all of the features that appear on the infotainment screen without taking your elbow off of the armrest or your eyes off of the road. The Q5 Prestige features multizone climate control that is handled via an easy to use panel mounted low on the center stack with the display screen also showing the various bits of HVAC info as you make adjustments. I have been impressed by this control system on other modern Audi products as it is among the best I have used and the Q5 was no different.

If you are someone who likes to have lots of storage spaces, both large and small, the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige will make you very, very happy. There are roomy front and rear door pockets, a massive glove box, a center console storage cubby, nets in the back of the front seats and a other little nooks that provide quick storage. There also a multiple-compartment underfloor storage bin in the rear cargo area that helps keep groceries where you want them. It might be a sporty SUV but it still needs to be functional – and it is in pretty much every way.

One great feature of the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is the massive panoramic sunroof that stretches across the front and rear seats. The Q5 comes with a see-through sunshade that blocks out the sun when you don’t want it but, unlike many other models that have a sunshade over a massive sunroof – you can open the glass without opening the shade. This allows the air flow that you would get with your sunroof open but it cuts down on the amount of sun beating down on your head and face while driving.

The 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is a vehicle that I loved just being in – whether running errands around town or making a long drive across the state. The interior looks great, feels great and is packed full of user friendly systems that combine to offer as much luxury as any small SUV available in the US. Add to all of this technology the Bang and Olufsen that booms as stock stereos go and you have an SUV that has an interior that is as impressive as any SUV on the market – in any class.

The Drive
The 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is equipped with a naturally aspirated 3.2L V6 that sends 270 horsepower and 243lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six speed Tiptronic automatic transmission and Audi’s advanced four wheel drive system. This system likely offers great grip in the icy winter months but I drove it in the middle of summer – meaning that I tested the performance capabilities of the Q5…and it responded very well.

A key feature of the Audi Q5’s handling properties and ability to adapt to different environments and driver demands is the Audi Drive Select system. This is controlled by either through a screen in the system setup or by using the button mounted on the center stack. The driver can choose between Comfort, Dynamic, Auto or Individual and this system controls the characteristics of the engine, the transmission, the steering system and the suspension. When set to Comfort, the 2012 Q5 provides a smooth ride that you would expect from a luxury SUV. While it still offers solid handling, the steering is calmer, the suspension is softer and the transmission shifts more gently and at lower RPMs. Should you want more performance, you can select Dynamic mode which stiffens the suspension and sharpens the steering response while also offering harder shifts and higher RPMs before the transmission shifts. When set to Dynamic mode, the true handling properties of the Audi Q5 really shine through with cornering ability in tight turns that are shocking from a small SUV. This is a vehicle that allows the driver to confidently attack the twisties with no noticeable body roll – even when hammering tight turns at higher speeds. If you don’t have a specific need for Comfort or Dynamic mode, you can set the Q5 to Auto mode and the system reacts to how the driver is handling the vehicle. Also, there is the Individual setting that allows the driver to pick the level of Engine, Transmission, Chassis and Steering performance based on their individual preferences. For me, it was Dynamic almost all of the time…except when making long drives on the highway.

In addition to the adjustable driving characteristics, the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige offers incredible shift control via the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. When hammering through the turns of a desolate country road, the paddle shifters allowed me to keep the 3.2L V6 right in the powerband for the best possible acceleration coming out of turns. The 270 horsepower doesn’t make the Q5 a straight line missile but it provides more than enough power to get the roomy little Q5 up to the speed limit quicker than the average SUV driver will ever really need. With reported 0-60mph times in the 6 second range, the Q5 is surprisingly quick but the gearing really allows the 3.2L V6 to shine when roaring along an open road or when accelerating quickly out of a hard set of turns.

When out on the highway, the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige very effortlessly cruises along at 70mph but with a click of the shift paddle, the transmission drops – the engine revs – and away you go. The Q5 will accelerate in a hurry up over the 100mph mark and it will do so as smooth as glass. Even in Comfort mode, the Q5 glides along the highway, cutting through traffic as easily as a sports car with almost none of the road noise or wind noise transferred into the cabin. In my experiences, Dynamic mode has its advantages on the highway as well but they are not as significant as they are on twisty back roads and the one downfall to Dynamic mode is that it does stiffen the suspension – thus sending some of the road roughness through the suspension.

I can safely say that the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is the first SUV sine the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 that has truly gotten my blood pumping with the ability to hurdle this compact – yet surprisingly roomy- SUV through turns that some sports cars might not handle. The Q5 is a very clear illustration that Audi has applied generations of high performance engineering to their entire lineup…right down to their compact SUV.

The Final Word
I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige provides as much “fun to drive” factor as some sports cars available on the US market. Of all of the SUVs that I have driven, none of the smaller models have handled as well as the Q5 and only the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 comes to mind as an SUV that offers as much driving excitement as the Q5. This is an SUV for a driver who loves to drive but you still get all of the luxury that you would expect from a modern Audi SUV. This small SUV has all of the interior goodies from air conditioned seats to a state of the art sound system wrapped in an aggressive exterior design package. Best of all, unlike most small SUVs that sentence the driver to years of uninspiring driving plagued with body roll, sluggish shifts and drab acceleration – the 2012 Audi Q5 offers the roominess and comforts of a luxury SUV with the spirit of a sports car.

The 2012 Audi Q5 3.2 Prestige is a small sport utility vehicle that puts an exclamation point after “Sport” where most of the competition should put quotes because they are anything but sporty. If you want a roomy luxury SUV without having to compromise driving excitement – the Audi Q5 with the S Line package is the vehicle for you. The interior will wow your passengers and the performance capabilities will keep everyone holding on as you show them that an SUV really can handle like a sports car.