As my colleague Rick Newman likes to say, we live in a golden age for cars. From top to bottom, new cars these days are all, for the most part, really good. There are no really crappy ones to think of — well maybe a few, but that’s a story for another day.
That leaves it up to the manufacturers to figure out a way to stand out. Yes, marketing is a huge component, but so is competence. And one area that I like to focus on is execution.
Which brings us to the Audi (VOW.DE) SQ5 . Let’s dispense with the notion that this vehicle is anything like the regular Q5. From unique body-styling elements that lean more aggressive, to bigger wheels and tires, to that turbocharged V6 engine, it screams high performance. And the SQ5 really shines.
Engine and handling
Powering the SQ5 is a 3.0L turbocharged V6 pumping out 354hp and a healthy 369 lb-ft of torque. Nice power for this ‘ute but it’s needed because our SQ5 tipped the scales at nearly 4,400 pounds.
In Dynamic mode the engine is unleashed, and that two-ton curbside weight is quickly forgotten. Power is displaced to all four wheels using Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system. Our tester was equipped with optional air suspension, which lowered the SQ5 in Dynamic mode, but lifts it higher in all-road or off-road configurations.
From a handling point of view, you really don’t feel like you’re driving a crossover. Despite the higher seating position, Audi has done a phenomenal job of making the driver feel like this is a traditional car — one with a sport car like performance at that. The dynamic steering system, combined with the air suspension, gave the SQ5 planted yet sprightly handling characteristics. In dynamic mode you also get a nice, low-key snarl from the engine — nothing too jarring, but enough to remind you there’s something a little different lurking under the hood.
Once inside the cabin you’re again reminded why Audi has been “conquesting” sales from its rivals over the past few years. The flat-bottomed steering wheel with nice heft is what connects you to the car, and the driver’s seat is a joy to be coddled in, with supportive bolstering and the right amount of give. Note that we had the up-rated sport seats with Nappa leather and diamond stitching. This is a $1,250 option, not exactly cheap but if you want this car I believe this option is worth it.
Our tester was awash with leatherette covering the console and carbon fiber inlays. Really, really high quality trim here. You’re paying for it in the SQ5 trim, but Audi at least makes you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
Under the dashboard hood is Audi’s virtual cockpit with MMI center stack. The virtual cockpit is very cool and high-res, although I would have liked more sport settings and gauges to visualize what must be oodles of data that is streaming off the car. The MMI system is perfectly fine and the bluetooth connection with my iPhone was glitch free. I will say that I didn’t care much for the MMI touchpad that comes with the system; it’s not really necessary as far as I’m concerned.
Rear legroom and space could be better, but this is a mid-size, sportier SUV. Likewise, cargo volume was slightly below average at around 27 cubic feet with the rear seats up.
A crossover that stands apart
Audi’s SQ5 is a potent, well-executed, and downright fun car to drive. No, it’s not going to give you bonkers engine performance like a Maserati (FCAU) Levante SQ4, but it will give you just enough fun, superb handling, and a really attractive package that screams quality. The SQ5 is a symbol, and maybe the best of example, of what Audi does well – rigorous execution.
The Audi SQ5 starts at $54,300. Our tester optioned out with the prestige package, S sport package, Nappa leather interior, carbon trim, dynamic steering, 21” wheel package and destination came to $68,175.