I've struggled with diesel technology. It's not that I have a problem with it or dislike it, but rather that I don't particularly understand what stops its wider-spread adoption. Sure, memories of rust-prone, smoky, sluggish and uneconomical Oldsmobile diesels aren't exactly easy to erase from the collective memory of the North American motoring public, but I'd think that a few years into the latest crop of clean diesels, there'd be wider adoption – or at least consumer consideration – by now.

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.

Driving Notes
  • 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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 50 Comments
      ferps
      • 1 Year Ago
      I can't help but wonder if a 4 cylinder diesel would have been a better seller in this segment. I also don't understand why Audi doesn't sell a A4 diesel in the US by now.
      Neutral President
      • 1 Year Ago
      Whoa… they went with the V6 TDI. I was not expecting that. I thought for sure they'd put in the 4-cylinder engine. I wonder if that means they'll be moving forward with a Q3, which would be a logical recipient for the 2.0 TDI. Also: ABOUT FRIGGIN' TIME!
      Brian
      • 1 Year Ago
      Lack of choice with diesel is the biggest problem with adoption IMO. I own a TDI Sportwagen and it's incredible. Fun to drive, great mpg, good power, it's not your typical boring econobox. Everyone that rides in it or drives it is impressed. But the problem I see is when people go to purchase it's the lack of choice, not everyone wants a VW. Audi and BMW is too expensive for the average joe. So instead they buy a japanese or american something rather that is less expensive and offers more choice. I love diesel, my dream car is a full sized SUV (I have a family of 6) with a 3.0L diesel that can get 30mpg! For now my Nissan Armada is pretty great....other than the mpg.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nice.
      mitytitywhitey
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is the Q5 based on the A4 or the A6? No flames, just a question.
      Snark
      • 1 Year Ago
      You know what would speed the forgetting of the Oldsmobile diesels from our collective memory? If car-nerd autojournos stopped bringing them up. That was almost 40 years ago. An entire generation of car buyers has been born since then, and the ones who were alive then realize that was 40 years ago. I realize it's a facile explanation for why diesels aren't that popular, but it doesn't hold water. The enthusiastic adoption of premium-class diesel cars and the rapid expansion of choices in that market belies the notion that you can't sell a diesel car here. No, they're not popular in mass-market cars, because the price-conscious balk at spending $2-4000 for a few MPG, but premium buyers are proving themselves very willing to consider diesel. Stop beating the dead horse.
        SloopJohnB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Snark
        I actually don't remember the Olds diesels…but I DO remember and continually see old Mercedes and Volvo diesel stinkers….the trick is they last FOREVER…LOL!!! My impression of diesel cars was forged from Mercedes and Volvo, not Oldsmobile. But the new TDI and BlueTec diesels are simply nice. Not quick, haven't driven a Q5 TDI and I'll believe 6.5 when I drive it…the Mercedes E320 BlueTec was over advertised for 0-60 (2007--6.7sec?..as if) and it turned out to be a slug at around 8.5sec. Now Mercedes is claiming 6.5 for the E350 BlueTec for 2014? I'll drive it, but I don't believe it. And the E350 isn't even 4-Matic.
      Tes
      • 1 Year Ago
      Boring... enough said.
        Tes
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Tes
        I meant design (it's too old now) and efficiency is just not impressive and if I want performance, well I wouldn't buy SUV for that, especially at that price...
      Matt
      • 1 Year Ago
      I love this engine in my wife's 2011 Touareg TDI. I imagine it's a blast in the smaller/lighter Q5. If only VW/Audi/Porsche offered this engine mated with a manual transmission somewhere in its lineup!
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Matt
        [blocked]
          Matt
          • 1 Year Ago
          What vehicle do you drive that makes 400 ft-lb of torque seem boring? A Veyron? Touareg wins multiple magazine comparos between ML, X5, JGC, etc. It's a great vehicle.
          Zcd1
          • 1 Year Ago
          Wow - you've taken ignorant trolling to a new level of repulsiveness - congrats!
      cpmanx
      • 1 Year Ago
      Beautiful. Fabulous performance. But...a $7000 premium over the GLK250 for the extra performance? That's hard to swallow.
        futuramautoblog
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cpmanx
        To equip GLK 250 with similar level of features as Q5 TDI Premium Plus, you will have to add premium pkg, leather pkg, lighting pkg, and appearance pkg, making its MSRP some where north of $47k.
      kingwest
      • 1 Year Ago
      I just bought a Q5, would have snapped up a 4 cylinder TDI in a second... but the V6 TDI cost to much, you'll never recoup the costs and the fuel economy is similar to the four cylinder gas ( which is also an awesome engine).
        atc98092
        • 1 Year Ago
        @kingwest
        While I agree that they needed to keep it priced a little lower, and I too would prefer the 4 cylinder, I seriously doubt the gas engine would be that close to the TDI. My Tiguan has the 2.0 Turbo four, pretty much the same 4 as Audi uses, and the best I have ever reached on a reasonably level freeway cruise has been about 27 MPG. Under the same conditions the Audi Q5 TDI would likely be about 36, and the Q5 is larger than my Tig. As others have said, the diesels retain far better value over the years, so when trade-in time comes, it's value over a gas version is likely equal or better then the initial cost difference.
      PTC DAWG
      • 1 Year Ago
      Diesel pumps that are shared on two islands at a Sams near my house are always stinky, greasy and plain out nasty. That MAYhave something to do with it...ie diesels not being wanted by everyone.
        Joe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @PTC DAWG
        Keep some hand cleaner in the glove box. It works for me for both the pump and for shopping in Wal-Mart.