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Q5 - safety and green-ness in a 4x4?

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Look away now if you're of a green disposition: sales of compact 4x4s in western Europe will double in the next seven years, come hell or high fuel prices.

At least, that's the forecast of Audi, a company which ought to have a reasonable idea, as it will soon be contributing to that growth with the Q5, which goes on sale at the end of this year for around 30,000-35,000.

Before 4x4 foes start getting in stocks of rotting fruit, ready to pelt the first Q5 to put a wheel upon these shores, however, there are a couple of things they might want to consider.

First, the Q5 is not a planet-destroyer. Every model betters 33mpg on the official combined cycle. Fuel-saving, CO2-cutting measures go way beyond obvious things such as weight-saving (aluminium bonnet and tailgate) and reducing drag (best-in-class, according to Audi).

The sat-nav allows you to choose the most economical route, for instance, and even the optional LED lights help by using less electrical energy than standard ones.

Opponents of 4x4s will have a hard time arguing the Q5 is unsafe, too. Its stability control is so intelligent it knows if you're travelling with a loaded roof rack that would raise the centre of gravity.

In that case, the stability control system permits less cornering roll before intervening to counter any possibility of the car toppling over.

In answer to critics who say you wouldn't want to be run over by one, you could always point out that the same applies to a bus - and no one has suggested they should be banned from town centres.