As a VW TDI owner I have wished for two decades that Audi would expand their TDI offerings in North America. Having experienced in Europe a wide variety of models and engines, it is a prayer answered with the 2014 Audi TDI model lineup—and there are a few more in the pipeline like the new A3.

Driving the new A6, A7, and Q5 back to back over the Virginia and Maryland countryside provided fresh insight as to how effective current Audi TDI technology is to experience. Patrick George from Jalopnik was my co-driver, and shared driving time behind the wheel in these cars.
 
Patrick is a 28 year-old driver who has not had much TDI experience. As such, his favorite thing to do was to stab the throttle and nail the acceleration any chance he got. This means our average mpg would plummet during his time as pilot. When I drove, our mpg average climbed back to a healthy number—quite the battle! He had lots of smiles on his face though, and I think he became a TDI convert over the models we drove.
  
Although our average mpg was some of the lowest in the group of journalists tasked with driving these vehicles, we turned in almost a 30mpg average, and that was with his aggressive driving.
 
All the TDI models mentioned here have a 3.0 V6 Clean Diesel, with  240 hp and 428 lb-ft torque.  Repeat, 428 lb-ft torque. Folks, this is more torque than a Ferrari 458 (398 lb-ft), and Lamborghini Gallardo (398 lb-ft as well)! In the A8L TDI driven earlier this year, the torque rating is 406 lb-ft.

 

A6 and A7
Like my review of the S6 and S7, these two cars are built on the same platform and components, and share almost everything except the styling and body from the B Pillar back. However, they each have their own dynamic character and feel.

The A6 is nimble and the sharper of the two. With the prodigious torque available, 0-60 comes up in just 5.5 seconds. This is faster than a stock Urq-S4, B5-S4, C5-S6, and almost as fast as a previous generation S8 (5.3 seconds)—in other words, not slow.
 
The huge reserve of torque coupled with an incredible eight-speed ZF sourced automatic creates a driveline that is relaxed and immensely powerful. Maximum torque arrives at a mere 1750 rpm, meaning there is plenty of power available through all the gears. Like the A8 TDI, 75 mph is at an idle-like 1500 rpm in 8th gear, with at least three gears to down shift into if the moment arises for more passing power.
 
Driving on the back roads of the scenic Virginia and Maryland country side is quite a bucolic backdrop to the rapid pace we achieved—while being vigilant for constabulary and their speed traps. Apparently radar detectors are illegal in VA and many other states as they would cut into the revenue generated by the gendarmes.
 
The A7 is the beauty queen of the pair and the most practical. You can use the folding seats and hatchback loading ease to move your Persian carpet, treasured Degas, or in my case swallow a bunch of musical equipment or German Shepherds. What makes this car handle so much heavier though? Is it the upper body mass and change in the center of gravity and resultant polar movement shift? The A6 is truly the canyon carver and the sporting drivers pick. But the practicality of the A7 and its gorgeous looks make it the choice for me.

Both vehicles are almost as luxurious as the flagship A8. Audi interiors are well constructed and use high-quality materials. When you are driving these vehicles, the superb build and engineering is readily apparent.
 
During our drive we were utilizing the Wi-Fi Audi-Connect in both of the cars, enabling our smart phones and iPads to remain connected to the outside world. The real-time Google Earth navigation is so competent, I can understand why folks will get spoiled and forget how to read a paper map. As a side note, I rented a Ford Taurus recently with their Microsoft based system “Sync”. A far cry from the Audi system in many ways, it showed just how up to date and easy to use the Audi-Connect system was.
 
Will TDI owners drive as sporting as the 3.0T or S6 owners? Missing from the option list is the adaptive suspension and the sport differential. That said, the 19” optional sport package may be acceptable for most of us. If you were after sheer performance as a priority, you would be purchasing the S6, S7, or the RS7 anyway. Handling on all these cars is just great and I am nitpicking the fine points.
 
For fun, I optioned an A6 Premium Plus with Metallic Paint, 19” Sport package, Cold Weather package, and the Bose Sound System, and it came to $62,245. Pretty high value for a vehicle that seats a family comfortably and safely-ensconced in a luxury interior, and can return real-world fuel economy approaching 40 mpg highway, It’s competent in all weather with engine longevity of many hundreds of thousands of miles, and the added bonus of superb resale. An A7 will cost you about $9K more.
 

Q5
Like my co-pilot Patrick, I am not an SUV guy, but I have always liked the Q5. It is based the A4 and about the same length. The instruments and interior are from the B8 cars, which means that compared to the new C7-A6 and A7, they are several years behind. But that is nothing to really criticize. This is a comfortable and practical vehicle that also works well when the going gets tough. I recently tested the 3.0T version and found it to be a well dialed-in and balanced vehicle, so it was good to have this as a reference for testing the TDI version.
 
With a 0-60 of about 6.5 seconds, and fuel economy of 24-31 mpg, this is a brisk and relatively economical vehicle. The acceleration and fuel economy come close to the current B8-allroad I drove last year. However, it is easy to beat the EPA numbers, and I think that 34 mpg on the open road is more like it. With the torque thrust that is at least 170 lb-ft more than the 2.0T version (258 lb-ft), this car feels faster than the numbers reveal. Again, the superb eight-speed automatic is perfectly suited for this engine and chassis.
 
Driving on twisty roads and with many stretches of open road, it is easy to forget you are driving an SUV and not just a competent Audi sedan. While the A4 and A6 are sport sedans, the Q5 holds its own.
 
The aerodynamics of this vehicle seem to be the factor in the difference in the fuel economy with the A6/A7. The Q5 is more brick-like in opposing the wind.
 
If you have reasonable towing needs, you could not ask for a better engine. With a towing capacity of 4,400 lbs, most small trailers, boats, jet skis, etc. can be easily hauled at any legal speed or up any grade.
 
Sporting drivers should take note of the option list on the Audi website. You can add to the alacrity of this vehicle by ordering it with the Sport Interior as well as the S-Line package as it comes with adaptive suspension, and it will help the handling on that favorite mountain road of yours. The Sport Interior also looks great and holds your backside better in those 1g drifts.
 
Optioning a Prestige Q5 TDI with the S-line package, Sport Package, Scuba Blue Metallic Paint, Black Leather, and Layered Oak Inlays comes in at $58,895. Dialing back to a Premium Plus with the above options and MMI Navigation comes to $55,445.
 
The TDI arguments I made for the A6/A7 TDI versions apply here. Add the beefy towing capacity, and years and years of saving fuel over the time of ownership weigh heavily in favor of the TDI engine choice for the Q5.
  
Conclusion
You should consider the 3.0TDI versions of any of the Audi models as a long term investment that will pay back in reduced fuel consumption, reduced maintenance, reduced refueling stops, increased resale value, and a satisfying driving experience.