2013 AUDI SQ5 REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Performance luxury SUV
Price: $89,400 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 230kW/650Nm 3.0 litre twin turbo diesel V6 | 8spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km | tested: 10.1 l/100km
The 'performance diesel SUV' category isn’t exactly what you’d call overpopulated.
In fact, outside of the oil-burning version of the Porsche Cayenne and the substanitally more expensive M50d variants of the BMW X5 and X6, there’s only one other diesel SUV with any kind of sporting cred.
Audi calls it the SQ5, and at $89,400 it’s the most affordable diesel performance SUV out there.
Sure, you can get yourself into a Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 for $77k, but the thirst of that monster’s petrol-guzzling 6.4 litre Hemi V8 will quickly swallow the difference.
But is value the only appealing facet of the SQ5?
Not by a long shot. It’s disturbingly good fun to drive, sounds great for a diesel and features a family-friendly cabin that will keep the rest of your brood happy during the day-to-day. Let’s take a closer look.
Quality: As with most Audis, the SQ5’s interior is both meticulous and stylish (if not entirely fault-free).
Materials and construction is top-notch, but if we had to nitpick we’d draw attention to the (optional) carbon trim around the centre console. In places, the clear coat was so thin that the carbon weave texture showed through.
But elsewhere, there’s nothing to complain about. The black Nappa leather upholstery is sumptuous and offset by silver contrast-stitching, and there’s no shortage of soft-touch surfacing.
Comfort: The SQ5’s front seats are have the right mix of support and comfort, and are not so heavily-bolstered that they’re difficult to hop in and out of.
The rear seats are spacious and feature a backrest that’s adjustable for incline, however the squab is a little flat. Legroom and headroom are abundant though, and face-level air vents are a plus.
Equipment: Standard equipment on the SQ5 includes sat nav, keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, rear parking camera, a powered tailgate, bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and a 10-speaker sound system with 20GB of on-board music storage.
Tri-zone climate control keeps passengers comfortable, and cruise control is also standard.
Our test car was one of the 60 “Launch Edition” variants, which bundled a high-end Bang & Olufsen audio system, a digital radio tuner, auto high beam, privacy glass, heated front and outboard rear seats and a retractable luggage rail system for the boot.
Measuring 580 litres with the back seats in place, there’s ample room for cargo - as well as space for small items beneath the boot floor and in a netted enclosure to the side.
Drop the seats by pulling either of the boot-mounted release handles, and that space expands to a healthy 1560 litres.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Audi touts the SQ5 as the fastest-accelerating diesel SUV in the market, and we’ve no reason to doubt its claim of a 5.1 second 0-100km/h sprint time.
With a couple of turbochargers forcing air into its 3.0 litre diesel V6, the SQ5 produces 230kW of power and 650Nm of torque. Those are stout numbers in any language, but what’s more impressive is the way this engine responds.
While many diesels are lethargic and reluctant when outside of their (often narrow) powerbands, the SQ5’s V6 behaves like a different animal. There’s little turbo lag down low, and throttle response is surprisingly crisp.
And there’s torque. Everywhere. Audi says the full 650Nm is only available between 1450rpm and 2800rpm, but the torque band feels much, much wider than that. Stomp the pedal, and it launches forward like a rocket.
Ease the pace, and it’s just as capable of relaxed and smooth motoring.
Its eight-speed conventional automatic doesn’t have the sharpness of Audi’s twin-clutch gearboxes, but it’s fast through the gears and smooth off the line.
Being a torque-laden diesel, you’d expect fuel economy to be rather good. Audi says the SQ5 needs just 6.8 l/100km on the combined cycle (a key reason why the SQ5 dodges luxury car tax and costs well under $100k), but during the week we drove it the best we could do was 10.1 l/100km.
Granted, we did subject it to a bit of 'enthusiastic' driving, but that result is quite a way off the mark. Pilot it more sedately, and the SQ5 should be less thirsty.
Refinement: Diesels clatter and shake, right? Not this one. The SQ5’s engine is wonderfully balanced, and at idle there’s little vibration to speak of.
There’s a gravelly edge to the distant engine note, but put the car into Dynamic mode and that’s replaced with a throaty, throbby sound that is like no other.
Yeah, the sound is synthetic and piped in via the car’s audio system, but so what? The noise it makes is fantastic.
What isn’t so great is the road noise transmitted by the optional 21-inch wheels (20s are standard). It permeates the cabin when travelling at speed over coarse-chip highways, and can make communicating with back seat passengers difficult.
Ride and Handling: An SUV that actually handles? Normally BMW has the monopoly on that niche, but the SQ5 grips the road in a way that beggars belief.
After all, this is a machine that weighs 1850kg without anyone sitting in it. Yet tip it into a corner and the big tyres grip hard.
The downside is a ride that fidgets over small bumps and is too firm for true comfort during the daily commute.
The steering is also lacklustre. Though the wheel responds quickly and the rack ratio is spot-on, there’s little feedback and it just feels dull.
Braking: The big four-wheel disc brakes have no trouble with SQ5’s 1859kg heft, even when hauling down at speed.
Aside from a little dead travel near the top of its travel, pedal feel is good.
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - In Euro NCAP testing the Audi Q5 scored 35.21 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are all standard on the Audi SQ5.
There are eight airbags in total, with dual front, front side, rear side and full-length curtain airbags. ISOFIX child seat anchorages are also standard.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres
Service costs: Servicing costs can vary, consult your local Audi dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
BMW X5 M50d ($147,145) - A lot more expensive than the Audi, but the X5 M50d is an appealing option if you find the fuel consumption of the X5 M a bit frightening.
At 280kW and 740Nm the X5 M50d’s tri-turbo 3.0 litre diesel six absolutely monsters the SQ5’s motor, but its 2150kg kerb mass means the X5 is not only a few tenths slower to 100km/h, but consumes more fuel too. (see X5 reviews)
Porsche Cayenne Diesel ($101,100) - Okay, so a diesel Cayenne may be a Porsche purist’s worst nightmare, but here you get a pretty sweet deal - economy, a sporty chassis, SUV spaciousness AND a Porsche badge on the bonnet.
Alas, it’s outclassed by the SQ5 and the X5 M50d.
Power outputs of 180kW and 550Nm put the Cayenne diesel at the back of the sporty diesel SUV pack, as are its 0-100km/h time of 7.8 seconds and average fuel consumption of 7.4 l/100km. (see Porsche reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s no coincidence that Audi, an automaker that’s achieved great success with diesels in racing, is capable of making even the most sober of vehicle categories - diesel SUVs - exciting.
The SQ5 is genuinely good fun to drive, and can be hammered incredibly hard.
For the driver who needs space, practicality, efficiency AND performance, the SQ5 ticks all of those boxes.
And when you look at it in the context of its peers, the Audi comes out right on top. In fact, this is one of the few occasions where we’ve given a car full-marks for “Value For Money”.
Yes, this long list of positives is balanced out somewhat by the sacrifices made in ride comfort and refinement, but that’s typically the price you pay for real performance. Is it something we’d be able to live with? Definitely.
- Related News & Reviews at TMR ▼
- Audi SQ5 | Audi Q5 | Audi S models | Audi Q models
- Performance | Enthusiast | SUVs | Prestige Cars
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro S tronic - $62,200
- Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI quattro tiptronic - $63,200
- Audi Q5 3.0 TFSI quattro tiptronic - $74,100
- Audi Q5 3.0 TDI quattro S tronic - $75,500
- Audi SQ5 3.0 TDI quattro tiptronic - $89,400