Part of the issue is the still limited number of segments that diesels are available in. The Volkswagen Golf/Jetta TDI is finally getting a challenger in the form of the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel, and the BMW 328d is bringing something new to the entry-level sports sedan, but there are still a huge group of segments where diesel-power has no representation.
The small, luxury crossover realm is not one of those. It has the Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec, a stylish crossover with a silky-smooth 2.1-liter, turbodiesel four-cylinder that can return the kind of fuel economy that makes people take notice. And while the GLK250 is quite good, economy will only spread the diesel's appeal so far. People need to experience the seat-flattening torque that these mills can produce, and for that, we most humbly recommend the new 2014 Audi Q5 TDI.
- Rather than the 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine from the Audi A3/VW Golf/Jetta, the Q5 makes excellent use of the Audi Q7's 3.0-liter, TDI V6. The only issue we have with this engine in this car is that it took so long for Audi to pull the trigger on it in the US market. With 240 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque, the ability to hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and a promised highway fuel economy of 31 miles per gallon, you'd be silly to consider the Q5 and not at least test drive the TDI variant.
- The Q5 TDI is officially rated at 31 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in the city. Hogwash. Driving carefully, I saw an average in mixed driving of 29 to 30 mpg, besting the 27-mpg combined rating. A 240-mile highway road trip, meanwhile, saw my average climb up to 34 mpg while doing roughly the 70-mile-per-hour speed limit. What makes the Q5 TDI's driving character special, though, is that so long as I wasn't a total boob with the gas pedal, netting those numbers was a snap.
- Ignore all the polar bears the Q5 TDI's fuel economy can save by diving into the skinny pedal, though, and the 428-pound-feet of torque are quick to rear their head. There's some turbo lag, which we've come to accept from diesel engines, but it's followed up by a huge surge of torque. Power is super accessible, making the Q5 TDI quicker than it really seems on first glance. This is especially evident on the freeway, where passing maneuvers are a snap.
- Joining the 3.0-liter V6 is an eight-speed automatic transmission that feels perfectly suited to this oil-burning application in the Q5. It's smooth, predictable and fast in both upshifts and downshifts, delivering the sort of unobtrusive power that further enhances the waves of torque that the diesel engine generates. The manual mode is snappy, but to our eyes, it's a bit unnecessary in this setting.
- Ignore the graphics you see in the images up top - not every Q5 TDI will be adorned with ridiculous billboard-sized promotions meant to ballyhoo this car's different powertrain. The CUV that will be on dealer lots will be indistinguishable from a model with the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder or the 3.0-liter, supercharged V6, aside from a small TDI badge on the hatch lid.
- Opting for the diesel model doesn't limit you to a few optional goodies, either. Like the supercharged Q5, the TDI is available in the mid-range Premium Plus and top-end Prestige trims (the base Premium trim is for 2.0-liter gas models only), and then has a number of packages and optional extras on top of that, including navigation, adaptive dynamics, 20-inch alloy wheels and a Bang & Olufsen stereo. Really, Audi has gone to some lengths not to penalize Q5 TDI buyers.
- Pricing for the Q5 TDI starts at $46,500 for the Premium Plus model, which makes it pricier than both the similarly equipped 2.0 TFSI ($41,200) and 3.0 TFSI ($44,400), but cheaper than the more complex and less entertaining Q5 Hybrid ($51,300). (All prices subject to a $895 fee for destination and delivery).
- The latter is similar in price to our tester's Prestige trim, which adds additional features like the B&O stereo, navigation, adaptive xenon headlights (the Premium Plus comes with just regular xenons), blind spot monitoring and a power tailgate, among other features, will ding its new owner for $51,900.