Audi’s SQ5 has something of a split personality. On the one hand perfectly able to pick up the kids from school in safety and comfort, yet on the other capable of outgunning a Porsche Cayman from the traffic lights.
The credit for this sports car slaying performance has quite a bit to do with its 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 diesel, pumping out a huge 313PS and a colossal 650Nm of torque between 1,450 and 2,800rpm. Even more impressive is that it manages 41.5 mpg (official figure), so it’s not a gas guzzler either.
Visual cues separating it from ordinary Q5s include aluminum look mirrors, xenon headlights and daytime LED running lights… and of course the quad exhausts.
Off the peg the SQ5 rolls out at £43,725, and for that you get automatic xenon headlights, three-zone climate control, cruise control and Bluetooth – but disappointingly not sat-nav – that will set you back an extra £1695.
Of course, like all other German brands, delving into the options list can be an expensive business. Our test car has been loaded with £8,500 of extra goodies, including the super-sounding Bang & Olufsen audio system – which amazes at its level of detail and fidelity – open panoramic roof, adaptive lights, power – operated tailgate, electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support, and the £2,320 Technology package, comprising: MMI Satellite Navigation Plus, Audi Music Interface, Parking System Plus and a raft of electronic driver safety assist systems (Adaptive cruise control with braking guard, Active-lane assist).[portfolio_slideshow exclude=”33593, 34006″]
On the road:
There’s effortless performance on offer from the 309bhp 3.0-litre bi-turbo-diesel motor, although on the road it perhaps doesn’t feel as rapid as the on-paper figures (0-62mph in 5.1 seconds/155 mph) would suggest.
The Audi Drive Select – a £220 option – allows adjustment of the car’s suspension, and response of the steering, throttle and gearbox.
In Comfort and Normal modes there’s a definite bias towards comfort, refinement and smoothness, whereas Dynamic mode livens up the ca’s responses. The throttle sharpens and steering increases in weight, while the (already firm) ride tightens up to further improve body control. Dynamic mode also significantly changes the car’s soundtrack, as it takes on a more interesting petrol V8-emulating roar.
In all driving modes, the SQ5 feels very secure composed and accomplished – its storming performance reined in by equally strong, yet progressive brakes. But don’t expect the same amount of driver reward that you might get from a Porsche Macan, Cayenne, or BMW X3 or X5. This is largely down to the steering, which although accurate and quick to react, lacks the depth of feel and texture found in its German rivals.
However, for many buyers content with having easily accessible high performance, driveability and grip, this won’t be a concern. Additionally, the beauty of the SQ5 is that when you’re not in the mood for embarrassing sports cars, a quick press of the ‘Drive Select’ button sees you at the helm of a relaxed cross country GT car that would happily munch up 1000 miles a day with ease.
In the cabin:
The SQ5’s interior is separated from the rest of the Q5 range by more heavily bolstered fine Nappa leather sports seats, Alcantara headlining, a leather multifunction sports steering wheel with white stitching and S badging adorning the instrument gauges and steering wheel base. Otherwise its usual Q5 fare, utilising quality soft-touch plastics, although some of the switchgear doesn’t feel as slick to operate as that found in the A6.
The dashboard is quite minimalist in design – and certainly not the button-heavy affair found in the Porsche Macan. Ergonomically it’s generally a good layout, with the infotainment screen set high in the console, although the ventilation controls are a bit fiddly and set low on the dashboard.
As you climb behind the helm, you quickly realise that the SQ5 has got a perfect driving position, with plenty of adjustment of both the seat and steering wheel.
Rear comfort isn’t quite as good – the seats being rather short, but they do have the bonus of having fore/aft adjustment, ensuring that even very tall passengers have sufficient legroom. No complaints about the headroom either, despite the tapering roofline. Boot space is huge, with 540 litres on offer and this substantially increases to 1560 litres with seats lowered.
Niggles include a fair amount of wind noise from the mirrors at motorway speeds and road rumble from the chunky tyres is also noticeable, if not overwhelming.
There’s no ignoring Audi’s SQ5 – especially with its exhilarating, sports car bashing performance, coupled with relatively affordable running costs. However, if you’re looking for the best ‘fun-to-drive’ medium sized SUV, other (slower) rivals from Porsche and BMW may offer more interest. Of course the SQ5 is far from a one-trick pony: being a capable family car with a spacious and adaptable interior. We’d like to see some more standard equipment included though.
Audi SQ5 3.0 TDI Quattro
Price (On the road): £43,723
Price as tested: £52,285
Engine: 2967 cc, V6 Bi-Turbo
Max Power: 313 PS @ 3900 – 4500 rpm
Max Torque: 650 Nm @ 1450 – 2800 rpm
Max Speed: 155 mph
0-62 mph: 5.1 seconds
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
CO2 emissions: 179 g/km
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