Audi’s SQ5 luxury crossover delivers sports-car performance with enough utility for the whole family. But has the company struck an appropriate balance between fun and function?
|Engine: 3.0L supercharged V6 makes 354 hp and 346 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic only.
Fuel Economy: 16 MPG city, 23 MPG highway or 19 MPG overall.
Pricing: Starts at about $52,000 or $61,420 as tested.
The four-ring brand is breaking new ground with this vehicle; it’s the first-ever S-variant of a Q model. Appropriately, it benefits from myriad enhancements.
Outside the SQ5 looks like it’s ready for a night on the town, dressed in a form-fitting suit with an expensive watch and jeweled cufflinks. The styling is tasteful and elegant in every way.
Compared to a regular Q5, exterior enhancements include things like aluminum-hued trimmings, special high-performance brakes, quad exhaust pipes and standard 20-inch wheels, though for an extra $800 you can opt for 21-inch rims.
Of course this is an Audi and that means it comes with a few surefire things including a top-notch interior. Additionally things like a flat-bottom steering wheel, gray-faced instruments, aluminum pedal caps and a unique shifter really jazz things up and, of course, help set it apart from the rest of the crowd.
Taking a break from luxury accoutrements for a moment, the SQ5 offers more than 57 cubic feet of maximum cargo space with the rear seats folded flat. If the back bench is locked in passenger-carrying mode it still serves up in excess of 29 cubes, so it’s nearly as practical as it is pretty.
Nominally the Q5 family is designed to seat five, though in the real world where people have appendages it’s pretty much a four-passenger vehicle. Like other Audis, the middle rear perch is of dubious value since there’s a gigantic hump in the floor right where your feet are supposed to go. Given this compromised position the roof might actually be a more comfortable place for a fifth rider.
The SQ5 is powered by a muscular supercharged engine. With a lung capacity of 3.0-liters this atmospherically enhanced V6 delivers 354 hp with 347 lb-ft of torque, ample figures for a compact crossover. Not surprisingly, its acceleration is brisk in every situation. For example, it sprints to 60 MPH in 5.1 seconds.
An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission is the only gearbox available in the SQ5, or any other version of this crossover for that matter. Fortunately it’s both smooth and responsive no matter how you drive it or what mode it’s in.
Like practically every other Audi this utility comes with the brand’s legendary quattro all-wheel-drive system. This traction-enhancing technology is totally seamless and adds immensely to driving pleasure, especially during inclement weather.
The burly V6 is just as smooth and effective as it is in the sporty S4 sedan, though a proper manual transmission would make the SQ5’s driving experience even more enjoyable. But like peace in the Middle East we realize that’s never going to happen. Fortunately the provided eight-speed auto-box is superb. It reacts quickly to the driver’s inputs. Upshifts, especially in sport mode, happen almost instantaneously. Its performance rivals that of a really good dual-clutch gearbox.
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The SQ5’s steering is well suited to a sporty utility vehicle. Like other Audis it feels light at low speeds, a tuning choice that makes parking lot maneuvers a one-finger affair. Fortunately as the vehicle’s velocity increases so does the tiller’s heft. At typical driving speeds the SQ5’s steering is nice and firm with a great sense of straight ahead. It’s almost impervious to crosswinds and road crowns.
If there’s one attribute of this vehicle’s on-road performance that’s lacking it’s definitely ride quality. The SQ5 is way over starched; every bump, crack and crevice is transmitted into the passenger compartment seemingly without any attenuation from the suspension. Like a banner-sized slab of peanut brittle it gives you the impression that one wrong move, one misplaced wheel could shatter the entire car into a heap of jagged pieces.
While this arrangement pays handling benefits, it comes at too great a comfort cost. Slightly softer suspenders would be nice, especially over the battle-scarred pavement of America’s Midwest.
Fuel Economy and Pricing
The SQ5 is considerably more expensive than a normal Q5, jingling the cash register’s bell at more than $52,000. Naturally, stripped-down models are NEVER provided to media for evaluation and the vehicle we sampled rolled off the line in Ingolstadt, Germany wearing a price tag of $61,420, including $895 in destination and delivery fees.
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Options that padded the window sticker included stunning Estroil Blue exterior paint ($1,075), the pricey Navigation Plus package ($3, 400), Nappa leather-covered seats ($1,500) and a rockin’ 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system ($850) among a few other extras. Go light on the features and an SQ5 can be yours for less than 60 grand.
Three other numbers worth mentioning pertain to fuel economy. This crossover stickers at 16 MPG in urban driving and 23 on the interstate. Combined it should average 19 MPG, figures that don’t really seem that impressive. To be fair, it’s exceedingly hard to resist dipping into the supercharged V6’s deep well of titillating torque.
Summing things up, the Audi SQ5 is a well-done product and a fine luxury crossover, but it’s not a vehicle we lusted after when they took it away. This contrasts starkly with the S4 sedan we recently drove and fell madly in love with.
The SQ5 is swift and stylish, posh and powerful, but it doesn’t wow like we hoped it would. Its stiff ride detracts from day-to-day livability and that’s a shame.If you live in an area with porcelain-smooth roads it might be a viable option, but if the highways and byways in your hometown are anything less than perfect, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.