I struggle with the new SQ5 because the Q5 is already an amazing mid-size SUV. There’s so much goodness I’d imagine one would struggle with the idea of anything better, right? The correct answer is, wrong. While the differences are subtle for what you can and cannot see, they might be just enough for the right buyer in search of a high performing vehicle that stands out from the rest of the crowd; especially when there are over 1.5-million first generation Q5 roaming the roads today. That’s where Audi’s S-badge comes in.
What’s Audi’s secret sauce? The SQ5 inherits everything that’s great about the second-generation Q5: a new platform using the same steel unibody with stylish exterior, clean and classy interior. With an additional 1.3 inch added to the overall length, provides more legroom to the rear seats. There’s no qualms whether the SQ5 is geared to sell more to the male buyers versus the Q5-variant. Take for instance the more aggressive front end, sleeker rear end with faux exhausts and larger wheels starting at 20 or order up to 21 inches directly from the factory.
During my drive on the open yet twisty roads in British Columbia, the sensation I experience from the SQ5 is more of a high performance vehicle that happens to look like an SUV. Albeit, just like the S4 and S5, the SQ5 is built on Audi’s MLB Evo platform sharing the same 3.0liter turbocharged V6, eight speed automatic transmission. The performance is there when you need it and the updated all-wheel-drive quattro is rear wheel bias, meaning that while it still keeps you out of trouble, you can throw it around and slightly under steer for fun if you want. The S sport package takes the SQ5 to a whole new level of driving experience by actively splitting torque between the wheels of the rear axle, essentially – if needed, give almost all torque to one wheel in order to provide you with the most dynamic driving experience. More specifically, the default settings is 40/60 front and rear split, with up to 70-percent front or 85-percent rear power distribution, taking into account for road and driving condition.
Pushing the SQ5 hard but obviously not crazy, is truly rewarding. This kind of precise steering when you’re on a spirited driving stint isn’t something you’d expect from an SUV, so bravo Audi. In fact, the optional dynamic steering, which I highly recommend ticking off on the buy sheet, has a variable steering ratio adjusting to the speed your driving while taking into account the what drive mode you’re in. What this means for you net in a better straight line stability at higher speed, while slower speeds allow for more direct steering ratio to help increase steering response such as maneuvering in and out of parking sports or quickly sprinting to the coveted number one slot when picking up your kids after school. Parents, you know exactly, what I’m talking about, negotiating a parking lot full of cars at moderate speed gets tricky, so take advantage of these feature.
With 354 hp and 369 lb.-ft of torque at your disposal, power is near instant, even for the size of the the SQ5 which by the way has shed some weight, mainly through the engine. If 0-60 figure is important to your buying decision, it clocks in right around 5.1-seconds. Torque is very early in the power band, starting right at 1,370 and goes through 4,500 rpm. Fuel economy has improved by 2 mpg over the last gen netting at 21 mpg combined.
On or “off-road”, the SQ5 is capable of smoothing out the bumps and imperfections on the road and for the first time on the SQ5, ticking the S sport package includes the sport adaptive air suspension which lowers the height by 30mm when in auto mode, compared to the standard adaptive suspension. Depending on your driving style and habits, it’s possible to adjust both the ride height and the firmness of the dampers via the standard Audi drive select. You get the standard comfort, auto, dynamic, individual but with the sport adaptive air suspension, there’s the addition of the all road and a lift/off-road mode. While the SQ5 isn’t going places that a Jeep Wrangler might venture towards, the higher ground clearance can be a life saver when you might least expect it.
Inside, the SQ5 is just as roomy as the Q5, as you might expect. The exhaust notes are cleverly pipped in to created and capture the emotional experience as you grasp the svelt Alcantara wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel while being hugged in a supportive leather Sport seat. It’s hard to beat this level of fusion between luxury and sportiness while maintaining a clean in-cabin interior.
It’s worth mentioning that Audi Virtual Cockpit is still, after these years is one of the best driver-centric dashboard. It’s one of the most ideal setup when using Google Earth as a guide for spirited driving such as carving through unfamiliar territories. The placement is perfectly placed right below the line of sight which helps your eyes focused on the road ahead. The steering wheel layout is another area where Audi has knocked it out of the park with proper placements in the 3 and 9 positions.
Nearly $14,000 premium over the Q5, with a base price of $55,275 for the 2018 SQ5, it’s not definitely not for every buyer. Audi understands their buyers and don’t expect the SQ5 to fly off the lot but instead, targets the right individual looking to stand out from the crowded mid-size SUV market. You need a stylish with a twist of aggressive design, powered by a more power engine, sportier handling and still have room to haul the entire family around comfortably? Check, check, check and check.