Our review and road test of the Audi SQ5 proves family life needn’t get in the way of high-speed hijinks.
Welcome to a new dawn; one where diesel features at the top of the performance pile. And so it is with Audi’s SQ5 compact SUV, a range-topping off-roader with a 3.0-litre V6 diesel stuffed under its bulging bonnet. With twin turbos, 309bhp and, more importantly, 650Nm of torque on offer performance is certainly scintillating. There’s no disguising mass and no fooling gravity – the SQ5 is still a tall-riding 1,920kg off-roader. But based on the firm’s popular Q5, it should prove a hit with those looking to maintain performance despite the onset of family life – even if it does cost a whopping £44,055.
In typical S model fashion, this souped-up version of the Q5 has been tarted up with extra aluminium trim, larger alloys and lower suspension. It sits on 20-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, is suspended 30mm lower than normal and the signature aluminium mirror caps are present and correct. The Q5 never looked like a serious off-roader, and this car looks even less so. But the twin oval tailpipes, S-line body styling and oversized brakes ensures it’s purposeful and imposing – the large single-frame Audi grille and LED daytime running lights will loom large in the mirrors of slower cars that dare dawdle ahead of it.
Conceived from the start as a practical five-seat family SUV the Q5, and by default the SQ5, should prove perfectly painless to live with – even if you have a growing family and all the paraphernalia that goes with it. There’s plenty of room front and back, and all seats prove comfortable. The front pair are electrically adjustable allowing occupants to alter them for height, forwards and backwards position, backrest angle and lumbar support, while the generous side bolsters keep you in place when exploiting this car’s high-speed ability. Leather covers most surfaces, save for the dashboard which features high-quality soft-touch plastics and brushed aluminium trim inlays. And if you need to carry passengers as well as luggage, the 540-litre boot – expandable to 1,560 litres with the seats folded – will come in handy.
Performance & handling
The SQ5 can’t defy physics – not even with Audi’s enormous brains and budget. Still, it puts up a good fight, and this near two-tonne family SUV boasts an ability to worry some supposed sports cars both in a straight line and through the bends, all while offering around 40mpg.
Grip, provided by the firm’s quattro four-wheel drive system, is evident in abundance and you’ll have to be driving in deranged fashion to unsettle the SQ5 around anything but the tightest of bends. Sure there’s some bodyroll, though not as much as you might expect. The SQ5 simply bites hard and tracks round on your chosen line; you just need to trust in its abilities and push on. Do so and you’ll come away impressed, the strong brakes adding to the already comprehensive performance package.
It’s the bi-turbo 3.0-litre diesel engine that really stands out. You can use all of the available 309bhp whatever the conditions, accelerating from 0-62mph in only 5.1 seconds. In other words, faster than a Porsche Boxster. And though it’s propelled by an oil-burner, this V6 SQ5 even sounds good while doing it, a muted bassy overtone gently filtering through the cabin as you continue your quest to hit the 155mph limiter.
Economy & environment
The Audi SQ5 uses the company’s winning LeMans diesel technology to deliver high performance along with headline economy figures of 41.5mpg and, arguably more impressive, CO2 emissions of 179g/km. And while these figures won’t be commonplace should you regularly exercise your right foot, we’d expect economy to hover around the high thirties in the real world.
Equipment & value
The Audi SQ5 costs over £44,000, which looks expensive, but it does boast a whopper of a bi-turbo diesel engine and plenty of kit. It sports some bespoke design details, such as the 20-inch alloy wheels and S Line-style bodykit. And the standard equipment list is pretty comprehensive too, with electric leather sports seats, climate control, sat-nav and the firm’s drive select system. The latter allows for adjustment to the ride, engine and steering responses – all at the touch of a button. As an Audi there’s a vast array of optional equipment available too, though it can get ruinously expensive if you tick many of the boxes on the order form.
Based on the Q5, a car that was awarded five stars by EuroNCAP, it’s safe to assume the SQ5 is going to be equally as safe. There’s plenty of airbags, Isofix for child seats and the expected ESP and ABS. Plus, it’s got Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive system so there’s a good chance you’ll avoid the accident in the first place.
The Audi SQ5 has a big fight on its hands, with pre-conceptions, physics and of course cost counting against it. But in our eyes it does a great job of winning them all. Sure a diesel-powered S model may not be the expected norm, but for a car whose very design was born out of practicality and versatility the lazy torque and lower running costs of a diesel engine make perfect sense. Certainly we’ve driven plenty of other fast SUVs using petrol power, and in this experience the diesel under the SQ5’s nose actually works better. It’s genuinely quick too, fast enough to keep some sports cars honest, and in some ways it’s the most bonkers Audi currently available. For that the firm needs to be applauded.
Model tested: Audi SQ5
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 diesel
Acceleration: 0-62 in 5.1 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Emissions: 179g/km CO2