When we first got our hands on the new Audi Q2 in 2016, the sole 1.4 TFSI front-wheel drive left us feeling a little cold. Certainly, its styling stood it apart from anything else in the market but its drivetrain rendered it probably more style than substance.
Then the Q2 2.0 TFSI quattro came along and changed everything. Now the Q2 was a proper red-blooded Audi with the same likeable styling but, this time, matched with all-wheel drive grip and 140kW/320Nm to play with.
A few more months down the line, and there’s a new variant blasting around European roads taking the Q2 another country mile into more driver-focused territory with true Audi Sport credentials.
It’s called the SQ2 and it has the drivetrain of the Audi S3 hot hatchback transplanted into its compact SUV body, complete with 221kW/400Nm, all-wheel drive, tuned suspension and the muscle to get to 100km/h from standstill in less than five seconds.
At about this point you’ll probably be asking where you can get one, but the unfortunate news is that Audi Australia is yet to finalise this very special little SUV for Australian consumption.
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Read on though because there is a glimmer of hope to tell, and after spending a few days with the SQ2 in Germany, we want to see this excitable all-terrain Audi in local showrooms more than ever.
For a start, it’s fast, but not just in the easily quantifiable 0-100km/h benchmark, but when you really wring the SQ2 out far beyond Australia’s national speed limit. Some hot hatches and warm SUVs are built to satisfy the traditional acceleration benchmark and drop off soon after, but not the little Audi.
It has deceptively long legs and if you point it at a stretch of Autobahn, it’ll flash 250km/h at you faster than you though a compact anything could manage.
That’s thanks to a sublime powerplant that delivers torque as if it’s keeping some in reserve for higher speeds for a relentless sensation of progress.
Keep your toe pinned in the automotive playground that is Germany, and the SQ2 will keep pushing on ahead with a beautiful linearity and stoic performance.
It’s accompanied by a wicked soundtrack that is somewhere between lairy four-pot and five-cylinder yowl, enhanced by the wonderfully rapid dual-clutch transmission.
It also feels incredibly stable, particularly given its relative size. On an Australian road, it would feel on the small side but its ability feels anything but.
Off the mark, the transmission and turbocharger conspire for a little lag, but once up and running, the power is almost completely uninterrupted.
Find a quiet road over the border to Austria, as we did, and the SQ2 is truly in its natural habitat. To many other marques, the deluge of alpine rain and accompanying temperatures would be intimidating, but this is quattro country and nothing to be feared.
There’s so much grip during both straight-line accelerating and braking, and laterally through corners of all speeds. Thanks to its shorter wheelbase, however, the little Q is more eager to change direction than some larger quattro models and you can’t help but fall in love with its obedient but mischievous manners.
At all the points of contact, the SQ2 feels right. Steering is light and smooth at low speeds but weights up as the speeds increase. The brakes are positive and progressive and the bespoke chassis tune (complete with 20mm lowering over the standard Q2) is communicative through supportive sports seats.
Perhaps our only bugbear is in the seating position, which is hard to adjust into a suitably reclined position without the steering wheel feeling like it is left up in the rafters. Beyond that, it’s easy to forget that you’re not in an S3.
I’d love to say that the SQ2 isn’t quite as sharp as the hatchback that lends its oily bits, but it’s bloody close, and there’s remarkably little body roll when you really push it. The S3 would certainly cross the chequered flag first on a circuit, but in grotty alpine climes and climbs, the hottest Q2 is arguably better.
And if you needed to add any more value into the bargain then look no further than its lovely interior, where you’ll find space for four adults plus one jockey, typical Audi interior quality, and understated but sharp design.
We are particularly fond of the optional illuminated dash and knee pad trims.
Boot space is under-par for the segment, but you’ll likely forgive it for compact exterior dimensions that are easy to live with – especially when you’re trying to get used to the steering wheel on the opposite side.
Speaking of which, the styling is also a big selling point with the Q2’s unorthodox design highlights enhanced with the addition of a fatter bodykit, strident quad exhausts that look almost RS in their bore and optional 19-inch wheels.
Despite its relatively tall SUV stance, the aerodynamic treatment has limited the SQ2’s drag to just 0.34Cd, which is pretty slippery. Drive more sensibly than it would encourage you to, and the SQ2 will return an average fuel consumption of about 7.0 litres per 100km.
So there you have it. The model that continues the Audi Q2’s evolution from initial novel design study, through realistic driving-enthusiast proposition, into outright Audi Sport graduate. And with that almost perfect scorecard, let’s talk about that glimmer of hope.
Audi is not yet able to confirm this little beauty for the Australian market, but it is currently crunching the numbers to see if it can work. In fact, an Audi Australia spokesperson revealed that the company is “hoping for 2020” to launch and, if given the green light, it will arrive at under $70,000.
That might sound like a lot to pay for a little SUV but think of it like this. Signing on the line for an SQ2 is not a blind leap of faith into an unknown quantity.
Its drivetrain and dynamic credentials have already comprehensively proved themselves in the excellent S3, which kicks off from $63,000, plus the convenience and some added off-road promise of an SUV.
That’s a pretty compelling set of attributes worth keeping your fingers crossed for until next year.
PROS: Speed of an S3 with extra practicality; bold looks; great drivetrain
CONS: Tiny boot; driver's position not perfect; not yet confirmed for Oz