Audi Q5 an added extra in itself
TRADITIONAL alcohol-fuelled bar chats are often centred on familiar subjects, with a popular one being how your everyday life would change if you won the lotto.
You could look down a restaurant menu and pick the most expensive meal, book that presidential suite at a city hotel and certainly never sit in an economy air fare seat again.
I've discovered another one to add to the list. Having spent the best part of a week with an Audi Q5 2.0-litre diesel, I am sure that should my numbers ever come up, I'd tick every conceivable optional extra when ordering a new car.
My Q5 baby SUV was a demonstrator from the Audi Centre Sunshine Coast, and such dealer demos are often showcases for all the desirable goodies available with the car.
We know Audi make stylish, sporty and luxurious machines, so even the base model with no extras ticked will satisfy. But don't we all have the urge to show off sometimes? It's not hard when you've got a climate controlled cup holder or front seats that electronically custom mould to your back's dimensions.
Such things are luxuries rather than necessities: wanted rather than really required. But once you get used to such toys, it's hard to imagine life without them.
Style and substance
Audi's Q5 has been in Australia for more than two years now, but still stands out as one of the best looking small SUVs money can buy. My test Q5 featured Audi's Off-Road Styling Package with 20-inch wheels, including upgrades to the bumpers, side grills, wheel arches, under body and front grille.
Such items do offer a bit more off-road protection while still looking rather flash, but I decided this big-wheeled charmer would look more in place along Hastings Street rather than muddying its flanks on an off-road track. And when you're paying an extra $7300 for such things, you'd be keen not to damage them.
Even in Noosa's privileged surrounds, the Q5 with xenon headlights and LED daytime lights ($2283 extra) turned heads. It's certainly a car to be seen in, which is no hardship considering its beautiful cabin.
Yes, many optional extras costs would be hard to justify when it comes to handing the money over, but there is an undeniable joy to these little luxuries.
A Bang & Olufsen sound system is $1390 extra; tri-zone air conditioning $1260; Advanced Key keyless entry and start $1338, and an electric tailgate $1065. Trust me, life seems ordinary without these things once you're used to them.
If I'm pushed, $285 for a cup holder that will heat or cool your drink at the push of a button does seem an extravagance, but now I've had one, life seems too short not to tick the box.
Even if you don't opt for such add-ons, there is a real sense of luxury in the Q5. Few manufacturers can touch Audi when it comes to a quality interior feel, and at night the dashboard and controls light up in red to give a true sense of occasion.
You can sit five adults in comfort, the centre console controls are simple to use once acquainted with them, and although it will set you back another $4769, the Navigation Package works superbly.
Audi offers its Q5s with two diesel and two petrol engines, with the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel in my test TDI being the economical choice. Its base price before on roads or any options is $62,200, while it returns an impressive 7.0-litres/100km.
It's no rapid mover as a result, with either the 3.2-litre V6 petrol or turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 diesel more of a performance choice. With 125kW it only just breaks the 10-second mark for 0-100kmh, but a healthy low-down torque figure of 350Nm from 1750rpm ensures it's always quick enough in real-world driving situations.
The Q5 handles and rides extremely well. Steering is nicely weighty, and you get a sense of perfect cosseting in the cabin with minimal road or wind noise. It does ride quite harshly, however.
Audi's design team have been producing winners for many years now, and the Q5 would be my choice over the gargantuan Q7 unless I really needed a third row of seats.
Model: 2011 Audi Q5 2.0 TDI S-tronic quattro.
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive premium small sports utility vehicle.
Engine: 2.0-litre in-line four cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 125kW @ 4200rpm and 350Nm @ 1750-2500rpm.
Transmission: Seven-speed S-tronic sequential automatic.
Bottom line: Demonstrator offer in June 2011 for $79,450 drive away from Audi Centre Sunshine Coast, Currimundi, 5493 8000, www.audicentresunshinecoast.com.au