Maybe you’re adding a new member to your family, or perhaps you’re tired of cramming your jogging stroller into a trunk already brimming with kid gear, but let’s face it — you’ve reached the crossover tipping point.
The crossover tipping point is the phenomena where your lifestyle no longer fits inside the sleek sedan or sexy sports car you used to drive before you had children, pets, and the unspeakable amount of injection molded plastics to haul around. You know you’ve reached it when the number of carseats you need outnumbers the adults, you’d seriously consider transporting the dog in the trunk if it weren’t full of sports equipment, and other parents give you the cold shoulder because you can never carpool. The prognosis: You need a bigger vehicle.
Purchasing a new vehicle is one of the most important — and expensive — decisions a family will make. To help simplify the buying process, Babble waded through the crowded crossover segment to find the best CUV for any driving need. We examined new and best-selling vehicles on the market, but limited our budget to $35,000. That price ceiling quickly eliminated many vehicles from our shopping list, but the selection of economical crossovers is still considerable. To help narrow the list even further, we focused on fuel economy, safety, and parent-friendly features. When crossovers were fairly evenly matched, we gave preference to vehicles that had better fuel economy, price, or were a previous Babble favorite. — Liane Yvkoff
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Top luxury SUV | Audi Q5
MSRP: $35,900 – $43,900
FUEL ECONOMY: 20/28 mpg
An affordable luxury vehicle is typically an oxymoron, but the Audi Q5 is probably the closest you’ll come to finding a luxury crossover on a budget. Of course, that’s if you select the base model and stop there. At $35,900, the Q5 starts off where most other vehicles stop. But what you get for the money is an attractive, spacious crossover that’s well-powered and fun to drive.
Powering the base model is a 2.0-liter, 211-horsepower turbocharged engine that, when paired with a fuel-efficient 8-speed automatic transmission, achieves 20 mpg in the city and a respectable 28 mpg on the highway. Also available is a new 3.0-liter, 272-horspower V6 engine (its gas mileage is yet to be determined).
But it’s not just a numbers game. Audi vehicles are known for driving dynamics, and this crossover is no exception. The 2013 Audi Q5 offers a nice combination of roominess and sporty handling, and when you factor in the luxurious interior, you end up with a family vehicle that’s a pleasure to ride in and drive.
The 2013 Audi Q5 features the Quattro all-wheel drive system as standard equipment on all models, making for excellent road handling in all weather conditions. If you upgrade to the Prestige model, you can add on the Audi drive select feature, which enables the driver to choose from four driving modes: comfort, auto, dynamic, and individual.
A must-have for any luxury vehicle is leather interior, which comes standard on the Q5. Plus, a range of technology options are available to aid the driver, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection and lane-change assist, a remote-controlled power liftgate, and a rear-view camera. Standard on all models is three-zone climate control, which enables the driver, front seat passenger, and second row to dial up their own temperature preferences. While heated seats are an option for the driver and front seat passenger, it would have been nice to see that feature extended to the second row.
SEATING + STORAGE
Although the Q5 isn’t the roomiest 5-seater on the market, it makes the most of the available space. The seat backs recline 10 percent for more comfort and space, and each seat in the second row independently slides forwards or backwards, maximizing legroom. And because each seat slides independently, families who strap little ones in the center can slide only that seat forward, while the outboard seats maintain ample legroom.
ENTERTAINMENT + NAVIGATION
One of Audi’s biggest selling points is its optional multimedia navigation system. The system features iPhone integration and provides WiFi connectivity for up to eight mobile devices. New for 2013 is navigation using Google Earth which provides detailed directions and real location images to help them get where they’re going. Even better, the driver can search for destinations and points of interest (POIs) using the tools they’re already used to: Google Local Search.
The one limitation drivers will have to get used to is the MMI interface, which hasn’t yet updated to touch screen. And unfortunately, if you don’t opt for the navigation system, you won’t be able to integrate smartphones very well with the standard audio system.
Techie families will especially love the Q5’s new factory-installed rear-seat entertainment system that features dual 9-inch screens installed in the back of the front-seat headrests. DVDs are loaded behind the screen, which is great for older kids because they won’t have to pester Mom or Dad to change the video, but it may make it harder for parents to change disks for smaller tykes strapped in car seats. Then again, with Audi’s hotspot, parents can opt to let their kids entertain themselves with a tablet or computer and stream music, videos, or other content from the Internet to a mobile device.
IIHS Top Safety Pick
Consumer Reports gave the 2013 Audi Q5 a score of 77 points out of 100, and 77 percent of owners said they would buy it again.