If sales numbers are anything to go by, it is impossible to ignore the popularity of the compact SUV. In fact, nearly every carmaker in the world has something to offer in this growing vehicle segment: Acura RDX, BMW X3, Cadillac SRX, Infiniti FX, Land Rover LR4, Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60, just to name a few. A relatively new addition to the aforementioned list is the 2009 Audi Q5 ($37,350). And while the German automaker is a little late to the crossover game, the Q5 is arguably the best of the bunch. The vehicle’s brilliance begins with the chassis, which shares its platform with Audi’s impressive A5 coupe and redesigned A4 sedan. A torque-happy 3.2-liter V-6 engine and smooth seven-speed automated manual transmission complete the drivetrain by delivering 270 hp to all four wheels. The Q5 also features a surprisingly spacious interior—even for backseat passengers—thanks to a longer wheelbase than most of its competitors.
A recent cycling trip up to Santa Barbara, CA, revealed one of the vehicle’s most innovative technological achievements: the roof rack. With two bikes strapped to the top of the car (or any other weight-bearing cargo for that matter), the Q5 automatically adjusts the suspension—taking into account the car’s new center of gravity—for optimum handling. The roof is designed with load sensors that detect when the rack is being used and then sends that information to the car’s electronic control unit (ECU) to calculate the appropriate stability system settings. The Audi Q5 proves that sport and utility no longer have to be mutually exclusive expectations. (www.audiusa.com)