THE AUDI SQ5 HAS BEEN A SUCCESS FOR THE GERMAN BRAND IN AUSTRALIA. DESPITE BEING THE COSTLY FLAGSHIP OF THE Q5 RANGE, AT $91,700 (PLUS ON-ROAD COSTS), IT SNARES A QUARTER OF ALL Q5 SALES.
With standard 20-inch rims and a potent 230kW/650Nm diesel engine that claims a 5.2-second 0-100km/h, its combination of sporty styling and swift performance clearly resonates with sub-$100K shoppers.
The question is whether the three-year-old performance SUV is still worth a look, or is now bettered by later arrivals.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $91,700 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 230kW/650Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel | eight-speed automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.6 l/100km | tested: 9.0 l/100km
Audi found early success with the SQ5, but competitors are now flooding in. First, it has now got its distant cousin, the Porsche Macan, stealing sales.
“Distant” because it shares only 30 percent of parts with the Q5. But also a little apart because Porsche won’t do deals on a model that officially starts at $88,000 (plus orc) but in reality can’t be purchased for under $100K.
On sale since November is the BMW X4 xDrive 35d that packs the same engine configuration as the SQ5 (3.0-litre turbo-diesel six-cylinder, but inline rather than V6), with near-identical outputs (only 20Nm less) and a duplicate 0-100km/h claim for a similar $89,900 (plus orc)
Also coming soon is the Jaguar F-Pace with the same-sized V6 diesel engine configuration as SQ5, but with 221kW and 700Nm.
As with the BMW and Audi, it gets an eight-speed automatic only, though its 6.2sec 0-100km/h claim is slower than both. The Jaguar starts from $84,590 (plus orc).
- Standard equipment: cruise control, power windows and mirrors, keyless auto-entry, multi-function trip computer, leather seat trim, electrically adjustable driver’s and passenger seat, tri-zone climate control air conditioning, electric tailgate, automatic dimming rear-view mirror, automatic on/off headlights and wipers
- Infotainment: 7.0in colour touchscreen with SD card input, 20Gb music storage, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and satellite navigation
- Options fitted: $3100 Technology Package (digital radio, internet, Bang and Olufsen sound system, adaptive headlights with auto high-beam), $2700 Assistance Package (adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert, autonomous auto braking, blind-sport warning, lane-departure warning), $1950 20-inch alloy wheels, $1050 red brake callipers, $850 carbon trim inlay
- Cargo volume: 540 litres (1560 litres, rear-backrest folded)
Audi’s interiors are among the best in the business, remaining modern years down the track and then continuing to age gracefully.
A premium feel still pervades in the SQ5. Leather quality is high and seat comfort superb. Nicely textured soft-touch plastics cover the dashboard and there’s real tactility to the audio/climate control switchgear.
The small 7.0-inch colour screen most clearly betrays the SQ5’s age. Even less impressive is the optional USB connectivity, while modern infotainment features such as internet services and digital radio (both standard on X4 xDrive35d) also ask extra.
Further down the options list are lane-departure warning and autonomous emergency braking (both standard on F-Pace).
Upgrading the standard 180-watt, 10-speaker audio system to a 505W, 14-speaker Bang and Olufsen unit asks $1650 extra. By comparison, a 600W 16-speaker Harman Kardon system is standard on X4 xDrive35d, and a 380W 11-speaker Meridian unit is included on every F-Pace.
It’s worth bargaining hard at your local Audi dealer for these features that arguably should be standard for the price. Thankfully, Audi dealers are known to be among the most aggressive discounters.
Meanwhile, rear legroom is generous for a medium SUV and there will likely be more headroom compared with the swoopy, coupe-like F-Pace and X4.
Three-zone climate control and rear air-vents make for an especially comfortable, individual area for rear riders.
The 540-litre boot is about average for the class, but the opening (via a standard power tailgate) is practical and the load space is square and usable.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 230kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
- Transmission: 8-spd automatic AWD
- Suspension: multi-link independent front and rear
- Brakes: ventilated front and solid rear discs
- Steering: electric assisted mechanical steering; turning circle 11.6m
- Towing capacity: 750kg (unbraked), 2000kg (braked)
The 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 SQ5 is wonderfully refined yet filled with character, though the contrivance of the ‘imitation V8’ acoustics – when the Drive Select system is switched from Comfort, through Auto, to Dynamic – is a bit naff.
Similarly, the otherwise light and quick steering turns heavy and dull in the ‘sportiest’ mode.
Perhaps the performance doesn’t quite feel as strong as the 5.2sec 0-100km/h claim, but the mid-range is certainly compelling and the smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic keeps the SQ5’s ample power and torque funnelled to the tarmac.
Touring the countryside, and using those willing 550Nm when the occasion arose, the SQ5 returned an impressive 9.0 l/100km.
The SQ5 singularly gets fixed sports suspension, which is now off-the-pace of both the X4 xDrive35d and F-Pace S which include multi-mode suspension as standard (designed to deliver comfort in one setting and attenuate bodyroll in the other).
On low-profile 20s, the Audi does an admirable, but not outstanding, job of quelling urban road imperfections. It generally rounds off big bumps well, though can feel unsettled on secondary roads and allows minor irregularities to filter through.
When pushed through tight corners, the SQ5’s hefty 1995kg can be felt in both a tendency to pushy understeer and noticeable weight transfer.
The Q5 platform is old, and Audi has since discovered lighter components applied to newer models. Indeed, the SQ5 is only 65kg lighter than the new-generation Q7 that packs a similar engine yet is a size larger.
The SQ5 can be entertaining, however, thanks to that very potent drivetrain.
It demands a ‘point-and-shoot’ approach to cornering – wipe off lots of speed, settle the car after turning in, then right foot flat. The all-wheel drive system can even be felt transferring power to the rear wheels to assist with a slingshot exit.
Get it right and this Audi can be fun, even if lacking the finesse of newer competitors.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - the Audi Q5 scored 35.21 out of 37 possible points in ANCAP testing.
Safety features: Eight airbags including dual-front, front-side, rear-side and full-length curtain, ABS, ESC, reverse-view camera and front and rear parking sensors
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The soon-to-arrive X4 xDrive 35d will likely be more the driver’s car than it is a family package (thanks to that compromised roofline). If the F-Pace drives like the XE on which it’s based, then it should be excellent.
The Macan is the one to have, though ensure your wallet is full. The SQ5 can be purchased for much less in the real world than its current asking.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Audi SQ5 remains a great-looking performance SUV, particularly in Volcano Red and sitting on those alluring RS-spec 20-inch rims.
It is roomy, practical and comfortable, and brilliantly balances speed with economy.
Ultimately, however, the SQ5 now lacks the suave, contemporary feel of newer-generation Audi models, almost all of which offer improved connectivity and a more delicate ride and handling balance.
Bargain hard for equipment that should be standard for $90K, however, and the SQ5 could easily add another half-star to its overall score.