Audi's SQ5 switches to petrol power second time round - and packs quite a punch. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The second generation Audi SQ5 packs a 354PS twin-turbo V6 TFSI petrol powerplant into a mid-sized SUV. Do you really need that much power? Not really. Would you like it though? You bet. It's not cheap but it does bring a welcome shot of sparkle to the Q5 line-up.
Yes, it's an SUV. But it's an SUV unlike any you've ever experienced before. The key reason why lies beneath the bonnet. Tucked under here is a 354PS twin turbo V6 TFSI petrol powerplant endowing this mid-sized 4x4 with phenomenal punch. Before this car was launched early in 2017, SUV buyers in search of that sort of acceleration used to have to stretch up towards the lottery-winning pricetags demanded by top performance versions of much larger models like Porsche's Cayenne, Mercedes' GLE or BMW's X5. In creating this performance flagship for the smaller Q5 range, Audi has made things a little more accessible.
With the SQ5, you have all of the practical aspects of a normal Q5. That means it'll quite happily do the family duties, commute in comfort, put in a performance at IKEA and be low key enough for you to happily park on the street without a worry. Yet somehow, this model still retains the ability to outsprint a Porsche Cayman sportscar. Quite an all-rounder then.
Needless to say, with the lowered ride height and low-profile tyres, this is one 4x4 that you won't want to be pointing at a rutted track. The 3.0 TFSI engine borrowed from Audi's S4 and S5 models feels an absolute brute of a motor fitted to this Q5, developing 354PS and some 500Nm of torque. That's instant go, channelled through an eight-speed tiptronic automatic transmission to the road via quattro all-wheel drive. This translates into a sprint to 62mph from a standstill in just 5.4 seconds. Like most Audis, the top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
During normal driving, the quattro system distributes power with a slight rear-axle bias, but when necessary it can divert the majority to whichever axle has better traction. It is backed up by wheel-selective torque control, which slightly brakes the inside wheels during faster cornering to tuck the SQ5 into the bend, and then helps to prolong handling neutrality and precision once the car is committed. For even greater adjustability and agility, a sport differential is also available on the options list. It actively distributes torque between the rear wheels via two superposition stages, helping to literally push the car into bends and to contain understeer. Its management is integrated into the Audi drive select control system. Also controllable via Audi drive select is the electronically regulated 'S' suspension, using an adaptive CDC damping set-up.
Design and Build
The SQ5 certainly looks the part. The bumpers up front and in the rear are complemented by more strongly contoured, S-specific air inlets and a diffuser with a honeycomb grille. Another S-specific feature is the radiator grille with double aluminium slats and contrasting trim elements in matt twilight grey. Matrix LED headlights are optionally available, featuring a special Q signature and adding dynamic indicators at the front. The rear bumper houses the S-specific twin exhaust tailpipes of the dual-branch exhaust system and an aluminium diffuser clasp.
Inside, contrasting stitching on the leather steering wheel and sport seats create an elegant ambiance. The S sport seats are upholstered in fine Nappa leather with diamond stitching and are electrically adjustable. Matt brushed aluminium inlays are standard and an exclusive carbon inlay is optionally available. Aluminium-look shift paddles enable the driver to quickly shift the tiptronic's gears. The pedals and footrest are finished in stainless steel. The standard 'rear seat bench plus' seating in the SQ5 is split into three segments. Depending on the position of the rear seat bench, the luggage compartment has a standard capacity of 500 to 610-litres. When the rear bench is folded down, this volume grows to 1,550-litres.
Market and Model
You'll pay just over £51,000 for an SQ5, so that's a substantial £10,000 jump from the most powerful variant in the standard Q5 range, the 252PS 2.0 TFSI quattro Sport model. Still, at least for that, you get an awful lot of standard kit, though disappointingly, the tally doesn't include the 'Audi Virtual Cockpit' instrument display; that's an option. You do though, get a top-of-the-line 'MMI navigation plus' infotainment system with 'MMI all-in-touch' and an 8.3-inch display. The system recognises handwritten input as well as touch gestures and includes 'Audi connect' media services which connect the car to the internet via LTE.
Driver assistance systems include Audi's Adaptive cruise control (ACC) system, a set-up that includes a 'traffic jam assist' feature that'll handle some of the steering work in slow-moving traffic. 'Audi active lane assist' makes it easier to stay in lane. And 'distance warning' alerts the driver when the distance to a vehicle drops below safe levels. 'Cross traffic assist rear', an 'exit warning system', 'collision avoidance assist' and 'turn assist' are other features new to SQ5 buyers for safety in everyday traffic. The same is true for the pre-sense systems: 'Audi pre sense city' is standard, the system able to warn the driver about pedestrians and vehicles that may represent accident hazards, before initiating automatic emergency braking within system limits. 'Park assist', the camera-based recognition of traffic signs and hill descent control round out the features.
Cost of Ownership
Somewhat remarkably for an SUV that will get to 60mph in less than five and a half seconds, should you choose to drive it in a less demented fashion, you could see up to 34mpg - only 6mpg behind the figure the old diesel SQ5 managed. The CO2 reading is 189g/km. Of course, it'll be hard to resist prodding those turbochargers into life at any opportunity and in the real world, if you can get anything over 30mpg, you've got some rather saintly restraint, but that's still not a bad return for such a potent and useful vehicle. Helping in this regard is a clever 'predictive efficiency assistant' which provides specific driving tips to helps the driver save fuel.
With prices starting at well over £50,000 without options, it'll be interesting to see the final price tag that these cars are actually carrying out of dealerships. If it's less than £55,000, we'd be very surprised. The very extremity in the image of the SQ5 acts as a buffer in certain respects to depreciation. If you want the 'most everything' any mid-sized SUV, accept no substitute. That alone will guarantee a ready queue of takers.
The Audi SQ5 is a fascinating glimpse into the state of the SUV-building art. Okay, so shoving a hugely powerful V6 perol engine into a mid-range 4x4 doesn't sound like rocket science, but this is no ordinary engine and the Q5 is no ordinary vehicle. The combination of these constituents moves the genre on a good few steps. All too often with premium brands, and especially with Audi, the fast all-wheel drive estate cars already on offer are so good it leaves you wondering why you'd bother with the SUVs. The SQ5 poses just one question to that mindset: why not?
With 354PS on tap, you're never short of power and with 500Nm of torque on tap, you won't even need to buy a caravan. Just screw a towing eye to the side of your house and drag it up the road. But is this car a wee bit over the top? Probably. Will you love it regardless? Most definitely.