Great choice among fierce competition. In the world of luxury compact crossovers, the Audi Q5 is a perpetual standout. Cleanly styled and elegant to the last word, this is a ride that meters out practicality with an outsized dose of refinement. It's the sort of crossover that's as comfortable to drive across the country as it to take across town.

Of course, the Audi Q5 is not alone in pairing a refined experience with crossover pragmatism. Competitors charge at the Audi from every corner: the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC offer alternative takes on the German ethos; Lexus offers its own compelling NX; even Cadillac and Lincoln are in the game with their XT5 and Corsair, respectively.

Despite such a worthy field of adversaries, the Q5 still manages to stand out. After some time behind the wheel, we found lots to like about this versatile, relatively affordable luxury crossover.

Powertrains: Sweet, spicy, and hot. The Audi Q5 is offered in three primary flavors: the base 45 TSFI, the hybridized 55 TSFI-e, and the high-performance SQ5.

Most buyers will initially gravitate to the 45 TSFI for its appealing price, and we're happy to say that some time behind the wheel won't leave you pining for the optional powertrains. You can expect 261 horsepower from the base 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which mates up to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It's a rather odd transmission choice for something not intended to be sporty, and we did experience some shifts that weren't quite seamless. That's probably the weakest link in this otherwise competent setup.

Moving into the plug-in hybrid, the 55 TFSI-e adds a battery and electric motor to the base setup; the additional hardware boosts power to 362 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. These are pretty impressive numbers that align a so-equipped Q5 with the likes of the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes GLC 43 AMG. Unfortunately, the range of this plug-in hybrid is limited: you'll go just 19 miles before the gas engine kicks in.

And our favorite? The pricey but fast SQ5, which boasts a hot-rodded 3.0-liter V-6 wearing a pair of turbos atop its intake. It actually makes less power than the hybrid – output is 349 horsepower – but it lacks the significant extra weight of the battery pack and electric motor. The lighter package scoots to 60 mph in under five seconds.

Being an Audi, all trims come with Quattro all-wheel drive regardless of price. Hefty controls and unflappable driving experience are also part of the deal. Handling is best on the SQ5, naturally, and decent on the lower-trim models, though the German competitors are livelier in the corners.

Comfy, roomy digs. The Q5's cabin is classic Audi, a thoughtful melding of subdued style and top-notch materials. The appointments will convince you that any premium commanded by this crossover relative to the mainstream brands is well worth it. Don't believe us? Go sit in a showroom model and flick the signal indicator or toggle the window switch. Audi sweated the small stuff, and it shows.

It's also a comfortable runabout. The front seats are most heavily bolstered on the SQ5, but lower-spec models will still provide that lateral and spinal support for everyday driving. Plenty of cushion is provided by the seat bottoms and the leather upholstery has a supple, premium feel commensurate with the rest of the vehicle.

In the back, passengers can expect 38 inches of legroom, which is about right for this segment. We also noted the rear bench was more supportive than most back seats in this class, something you'll very much appreciate if you find yourself sitting second-class on a longer road trip.

Cargo space outback stands at 27 cubic feet with the seats up and 60 cubes in total. We've seen more room in other crossovers - the Cadillac XT5 and BMW X3 both hold more – but by no means is the Q5 lagging the segment. Our only qualm? The seats don't fold entirely flat. This doesn't impede usability but it can be a little annoying if you like playing Tetris with your cargo.

Tech and safety. Audi's two strong suits are safety and technology, and both are proudly on display here. We'll start with the in-car tech, which kicks things off with a pleasingly large 10.1-inch touchscreen. Most luxury crossovers are still trending in the 8.0-inch realm, so seeing Audi include the larger screen as standard equipment earns it some brownie points. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are among its key features.

If you're looking for more to play with, the Q5 also offers an optional 12.3-inch all-digital instrument cluster. Spoiler: this is one of the best digital dashes out there. Crisp graphics and a seamless interface make it pretty to look at and easy to use. We recommend splurging for it, even though it requires moving up to the mid-tier Premium Plus.

That's our recommended trim, not only because it unlocks that lovely cluster but also because it comes with a surround-view camera, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control. Sticking with the base model limits the active-safety kit to blind-spot monitors and parking sensors – hardly noteworthy stuff in this era.

Final word. Audi has their car-building chops down to a science: subtly stylish exteriors wrapped around finely crafted and tech-forward cabins. Compared to the more sporting BMW X3 and the glossy Mercedes GLC, it comes off as the just-right approach to German luxury.

That enables the Audi to stand out – a tough thing to do in a crowded market with this many options. If you want to quietly enjoy the latest tech in a comfortable, well-built crossover, the Q5 might be just the ticket.

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