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Audi Q5 Is the Enthusiasts' Diesel SUV

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Let's say you want a diesel SUV but you want it to be on the sporty side, and you don't want to pay much over $50,000. If so, let me suggest that your best option in the U.S. market is the Audi Q5 diesel. I drove it for 160 miles over a weekend and came away impressed.

If you have not considered a diesel since that fateful panicked moment in 1979, let me give you at least three reasons you should do so right now in 2014:

1. No reliability problems. A number of really crummy diesels were rushed to market in the early 1980s by General Motors (GM) in particular, that sullied diesel's reputation for a generation. This sad situation is now deep in the rearview mirror and can safely be forgotten.

2. Diesel drives better than gasoline. Thanks to the superior torque, regular city/suburban stop-and-go driving will require fewer downshifts and therefore be less jerky. It's a premium experience, almost like an electric car.

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3. If you haven't noticed, relative diesel prices are down. At least where I looked recently, diesel was selling on par with regular gasoline. Only a couple of years ago, it used to be sold at a premium to premium gasoline.

The Audi Q5 occupies a sweet spot in the SUV marketplace: It is just the right size for many people, fitting five very large people and a decent size of luggage. No third row and no real "off-road" capability beyond the slightly higher ground clearance and four-wheel drive -- but ideal for the larger part of the market.

In fact, it is this that strikes you the most about the Audi Q5: It is not just well-executed but it is also very well-defined to begin with. Not too big, not too small and all the major ingress/egress points are user-friendly. There are no major friction points.

The Audi Q5 diesel comes mostly very well-equipped, unlike so many other German premium cars. Standard equipment includes power-adjustable leather seats, power tailgate and panoramic sunroof. Given all of that, it's surprising to see that a rearview camera is optional, as part of a $3,550 package that also includes various multimedia sound upgrades -- clearly a must-have.

With that, that base car is $46,500, plus the $3,550 multimedia package and $895 mandatory destination charge, for a total of $50,945. Considering the outstanding body and radically strong diesel engine with 428 lb.ft worth of torque, this price is in the zone of what the competition from Mercedes and BMW would lead you to expect.

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