It’s been 3 years since I last got behind the wheel of an Audi SQ5 and at the time I was greatly impressed with it, having taken 3 dogs and 2 humans on a road trip from San Diego to Sequoia and back. Now 3 years later the all new 2018 Audi SQ5 has arrived, now riding on the The Volkswagen Group MQB platform that is the company’s strategy for shared modular construction. From the outside changes are subtle, the car has been modernized and is slightly bigger with 1.3 inches added to the overall length and aside from the fake plastic exhaust covers in the rear valance (The real pipes point down behind the bumper) it’s a good looking car. Prices for the SQ5 start at $54,300 with our loaded tester coming in at $68,750.
Gone is the supercharged V-6 from last year and it’s been replaced by a turbocharged V-6 that has about the same power as before but with 23 lb ft more torque. This is the same engine used in the S$/S5 combo we tested last year and it’s a good one with little to no turbo lag. Carrying more weight than both of those cars Audi quotes 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds but I didn’t believe that, firstly they are typically conservative with their acceleration quotes and secondly it’s possible that they don’t want to upset Porsche with their Macan.
The SQ5 comes with an eight-speed torque-converter automatic, as opposed to the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Q5 and instead of the Q5’s Ultra feature, which disconnects the rear wheels the SQ5 uses a Quattro Sport rear differential with torque vectoring giving up to 70 percent front or 85 percent rear power distribution available depending on the situation. Our tester had the optional Sport Rear differential, Sport adaptive air suspension and Dynamic steering.
Keen to beat Audi’s claimed 0-60 time of 5.1 seconds, which I thought was a tad conservative and probably quoted so as not upset the Porsche Macan, we strapped on the test gear and with 3 gallons of fuel and a 130 lb driver stormed from standstill to 60 mph in 4.75 seconds after 3 attempts. Job done.
Scalpel-sharp driving dynamics
There are number of Drive modes you can choose from; Offroad/Lift gives you 4 inches more ride height, Allroad, Auto and Comfort are in the middle and Dynamic/Individual make it sporty. Toggle the switch to Dynamic and the exhaust livens up noticeably, creating a deeper idle and a richer sound throughout the rev range. Downshifts are twin clutch fast, the exhaust makes a warp warp on up-shifts. Downshifts are rev matched and the transmission will hold onto gears if it thinks you still need to go faster. Mash your foot back on the throttle and it’s truly grin inducing. Add to that a sweet sounding engine and power delivery that is superbly linear and it’s a very complete car.
Testing is never complete without a trip to the mountains and the Audi doesn’t disappoint. Once on the twisty bits it scythes through the turns with ease, never feeling out of control. You can feel the sport diff as it keeps the car under control and eliminates under steer as it rotates through the bend. The Dynamic steering is a big improvement over the the outgoing model, it doesn’t feel artificial and despite not having a lot of feel, is razor sharp and a joy to helm.
The SQ5 simply grips and powers out of every turn you enter and there’s always a stupid grin on your face while doing so. It’s hard to image that small high riding vehicles are now on a par with some very good sports sedans these days.
My tester was equipped with the optional active air suspension so I ventured off-road since this gives the SQ5 about 9 inches of of ground clearance at up to 20 miles per hour. I didn’t need to get that ambitious really as the truck trail I used was loose gravel and dirt so Allroad mode was sufficient to do the job. The SQ5 remained very composed and the suspension soaks up most of the bumps only getting slightly upset over washboard sections. The SQ5 didn’t lose grip at any time, even after fording a small creek and powering up a hill, all 4 wheels maintaining traction at all times. Seeing as Audi cut it’s AWD teeth in rallying I wouldn’t expect anything less.
Diamond-pattern quilted Nappa leather seats are the first thing you notice when you open the door, and it’s not difficult to get comfortable once seated thanks to multi way power. The driver is presented with Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, an adaptive 12.3-inch display that you can toggle between different modes. My preference is the Sport mode which gives you a central tachometer with a digital speedometer in the middle, flanked by secondary info panels which can be configured in a multitude of ways. It’s very slick.
Our Prestige model had the 755-watt Bang & Olufsen stereo system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with voice control. Safety features include automatic braking with pedestrian and vehicle detection, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go traffic jam assist and lane keep assistance.
The SQ5 base price is $54,300, add Prestige ($,4,200), S Sport Package ($3,000) which includes red brake calipers, Sport Adaptive air suspension and Sport rear differential. Other options included Nappa Leather (1,250), Dynamic Steering ($1,150) and the 21 inch wheel package ($1,000) takes the total to $68, 50
Do I want one?
The options list is endless as you can imagine, our car going $14k above the base price, but check the boxes carefully and the end result is a very good performance car indeed. You’ll surprise drivers of sports sedans as you zip by. I think this is Audi’s most complete car, since it does everything you would ever need in a car, space, grace and pace, room for the dog, off-road ability and best of all it’s grin inducing fun.
2018 Audi SQ5 Numbers
|Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
|AS TESTED PRICE:
|2.0 liter turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6
|354 hp @ 5,400 rpm
|369 lb-ft @ 1,370 rpm
|8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
|ZERO to 60 mph:
|26.8 ft³, 60.4 ft³ with rear seats folded
|Agile and fast, superb interior
|Limited rear space