Truth be told, most SUVs are homely. Squint your eyes and you'll see a boxcar. The Audi Q5, on the other hand, takes those same basic, SUV lines and creates a body with panache. The Q5, to our eye, is the most handsome of the new luxury compact SUVs - with the possible exception of the curvaceous Volvo XC60. John Adams, sales manager at Audi Chattanooga, said the Q5 appeals both to customers downsizing from full-size SUVs and to others who want a vehicle with sedan-like driving manners and crossover convenience.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: All Q5s are equipped with Audi's full-time, all-wheel-drive Quattro system. Our tester, which included an $11,500 prestige package, rode atop 19-inch alloy wheels. On a test drive on the curves around Chickamauga Lake, the Q5 showed tenacious grip. Steering is taunt, not twitchy. It would be fun to test the Q5's limits on some of our twisting mountain roads. A strong V-6 engine pours out 270 horsepower through a slick, six-speed automatic transmission.
STYLING AND COMFORT: Although technically a small SUV, the Q5 feels spacious inside. A Panorama sun-roof adds to this airy ambiance. The interior colors of our tester - beige leather seats with black and gray plastics - give the Q5 a tastefully masculine appearance. A standard three-zone climate control adds to passenger comfort. The Prestige package includes such niceties as a Zenon lights, a power-lift tailgate and heated front seats.
BOTTOM LINE: The Q5 is an attractive and secure family hauler that can turn heads standing still. The all-wheel-drive system and five-star crash ratings make the Q5 an attractive option for those who see safety as the ultimate family value. Many of the Q5's mechanicals are borrowed from the classy Audi A4. Q5 pricing starts at $37,350 for the well-equipped base model but heads north rapidly when you layer on options. Still, the Q5 will appeal to those who need practicality but still crave driving romance.
TESTED MODEL: 2010 Audi Q5 Quattro.
COLOR: Brilliant Black.
ENGINE: six-cylinder, 270 hp.
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic.
FUEL ECONOMY: 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.
BASE PRICE: $37,350.
PRICE AS TESTED: $50,035.