INGLOSTADT replaces the old diesel SQ5 with a slicker turbocharged petrol model. It's lighter, smarter and better to drive. But without the punchy oil burner, the SQ5 could struggle to differentiate itself.
WHAT IS IT
A 260kW/500Nm mid-sized luxury SUV that’s smart looking, impeccably finished and which comes in at under $100k shouldn’t be too tough a sell, but the market is crowded with talent and the Audi SQ5 could even prove a little too subtle for its own good.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Make no mistake, the Audi SQ5 is a painstakingly competent sports SUV. Specify the optional air suspension and it’s a brilliantly composed and rapid coverer of kilometres but in buffing the SQ5 to such a sheen, we can’t help but feel as if Ingolstadt has slightly over-polished its gem, burnishing too much of its assertiveness away in the process.
PLUS: Refinement, cross-country pace, grip, build, smart new cabin
MINUS: Unsettled ride on standard springs, big wheels look inelegant, engine lacks charisma
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT WAS never too hard to pin down the appeal of Audi’s old SQ5. You could easily rattle off a ten-second elevator pitch for the ‘one size fits all’ vehicle, a sports SUV that could do the family thing, entertain on a decent road, scrub up presentably when required and which wouldn’t put an irrevocable dent in the budget at the bowsers.
Mind you, that was a simpler time, when we believed what earnest Germans told us about diesel engine economy and emissions. These days Audi’s playing to a tougher crowd, so it’s entirely understandable that the company has launched the all-new SQ5 with a petrol engine under the bonnet, in this case borrowing the S5’s 3.0-litre 90-degree V6 with a twin-scroll turbocharger neatly ensconced in the vee.
It’s a good engine and it works for the SQ5, but what could have been a genuinely fun steer could do with the mongrel dialled up a bit. An Audi S-car ought to have a bit of swagger about it; a certain confidence in the fact that it’s just about acceptably obnoxious. The SQ5 instead tips into inoffensiveness, arguably a far greater crime for a car with 260kW and 500Nm at its disposal.
At flat chat, the ZF eight-speeder provokes a bassy woofle as it shuffles up through the ratios but that’s about as much attitude as you get, even when plugged into Dynamic mode. Unlike the rest of the Q5 range, which use the part-time quattro ultra chassis, the SQ5 opts for the full-time quattro all-wheel drive architecture with a self-locking centre diff, and predictably undramatic traction off the line helps it to a 5.4 second sprint to 100km/h; identical to the Porsche Macan S and a few tenths slower than the old SQ5 diesel.
The SQ5 also rides on 21-inch wheels, wrapped in 40-series rubber, and the ride quality is decidedly nibbly on most surfaces. There’s a brittle neurosis about the secondary ride that mars the SQ5’s long distance credentials. Fortunately, Audi has a ready-made fix for that in the shape of the optional adaptive air suspension which is agreeably priced at $2150.
The air setup allows the car to breathe more easily along broken bitumen. There’s also the option of a quattro sport differential, which can split drive between the rear wheels, although we’d question whether this is a bit of a punchy choice for a tall SUV that’s slightly too cumbersome to make the most of such a fitment.
Audi has put the latest-gen SQ5 on a diet, utilising a greater proportion of aluminium both in the body structures and the suspension assemblies. Detail items include new aluminium strut tower mounting points and magnesium rear seat frames.
Unsprung weight is further reduced via the fitment of lightweight brake calipers. All up, the current SQ5 pares 130kg from the kerb weight of the old car, although much of that figure comes from replacing the diesel lump with a far lighter petrol engine. As a result fuel consumption is a relatively laudable 8.7L/100km which is virtually lineball with a 178kW Ford Escape.
The interior is predictably beautiful, especially as it has raided the S-division dress-up box. The diamond-pattern Nappa leather seats, flat-bottomed wheel, SQ5-specific virtual cockpit with sport mode, brushed aluminium inlays, stainless steel pedal set and aluminium-look paddle shifters do a superficially good job in persuading you that the SQ5 was a better destination for your money than a $73k Q5 2.0 TFSI Sport, but spend longer with the car and you begin to wonder whether its proposition is a little hazy.
The SQ5 needs to be something other than a Q5 that’s a smidgeon quicker and a bit glitzier inside. It ought to express its own identity with more clarity and confidence. The meek were supposed to inherit something. Whether it’s your hundred grand is a decision you’ll need to make.
Model: Audi SQ5
Engine: 2995cc V6, dohc, 24v, turbo
Max power: 260kW @ 5400rpm
Max torque: 500Nm @ 1370-4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.4sec (claimed)
Top Speed: 250km/h (limited)
Fuel Economy: 8.7L/100km (claimed)
On sale: Now