The top Q5 – but is the new V6 petrol-powered SQ5 also now the top performance SUV?
You see quite a few Audi SQ5s about. Hardly surprising really, as it’s both an SUV – the darling motoring genre of the day – and an Audi, which means quality. Plus, in the SQ5’s case, speed and sportiness from a mega-punchy diesel engine.
Now there’s a new Audi Q5 on the roads, and predictably enough a new SQ5 to top the range. There’s a fairly major difference between the old and new SQ5s though. This new one has a 349bhp turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine.
It tells you a lot about the performance potential of large turbodiesels when you hear that the new petrol engine actually makes the SQ5 slower. The limited top speed of 155mph is as before, but the 0-62mph time has increased from 5.1 seconds to 5.4 seconds. Add to that worse fuel economy and higher CO2 emissions with the new petrol lump.
So, what’s the point? And, assuming there is one, can the petrol SQ5 duff up rivals like the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and Porsche Macan?
Before panic sets in, let’s quickly reassure you that a 3.0-litre diesel variant is probably going to join the SQ5 range at some point. Right now though, it’s petrol or nothing. Still, despite the stopwatch-proven loss of sprinting power, this is not a massive hardship because five and a bit seconds level acceleration is pretty impressive, especially when its accompanied by a hair-raising V6 wail. The hesitancy of the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is slightly annoying when stepping away from a standstill, but once you’re rolling it’s positive enough, particularly if you take control of the changes via the wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
You have a selection of driving modes to play with. Sport is probably the most focused: it hones the throttle response, weights up the steering and gives the gearbox a bit of a wake-up poke. Sport will also stiffen up the £1000 adaptive air suspension, if you’ve ticked that box, lessening lean in bends.
Overall it’s a sharp package, with excellent body control and an eagerness to change direction that’s not really present in a Mercedes GLC 43. It doesn’t beat the Macan, though. The Porsche’s less artificially weighted steering gives you a better picture of what’s going on under the front wheels.
Dial the SQ5 back into Comfort mode and the car seems to let out a sigh of relief. In this mode, the optional air suspension does a brilliant job of bump-smothering, despite running 30mm lower than the standard Q5, and on larger 20 inch alloy wheels to boot. Combine such an amenable ride with a library-quiet cabin and you end up with something that would be tough to beat on long trips. We will be sampling the standard adaptive sports suspension on British roads to see how that set-up compares.
What’s the 2017 Audi SQ5 like inside?
Internally, the SQ5 has identical dimensions to the standard Q5. That means four adults will enjoy more comfort than they might in a Macan. The SQ5 tops both the Macan and the GLC 43 on boot size, and its standard 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats fold flat or slide fore and aft to mix up the equation between knee room and additional boot space.
Any motoring writer trying to avoid the ‘Audi interior quality’ cliché is on to a hiding to nothing here, thanks to switchgear plastics that could fool anyone not equipped with a metal detector. To its de luxe nappa leather seats the SQ5 adds sporty contrast stitching, stainless steel pedals and S steering wheel badging.
We very much recommend Audi’s MMI Navigation Plus infotainment system. Standard kit here, it provides control of clear menus via a rotary dial controller and some between-the-seats shortcut buttons. Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. Sadly, even on this top-spec model Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument panel is still a paid-for extra.
In fairness though, that’s about the only thing missing from the standard equipment list. All the rest – including DAB radio, electric leather seats, 20 inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and climate control – are thrown in. Or, to be more precise, screwed carefully into place. The fat roster does compensate for the premium you’ll be paying over the GLC 43 or Macan.
On the driving experience, it’s hard to make a definitive SQ5 choice over its German rivals. Like them, it’s terrifically fast, grips strongly and generates a superb noise, but the Macan matches it on all that and adds a higher level of driver engagement. The Mercedes GLC 43 whips both of them in a straight line drag race, but loses out to them on handling finesse and comfort. The SQ5 scores more points for its commodious cabin and marvellous infotainment.
If you need some help making the decision, have a word with an existing diesel SQ5 owner. They may convince you to wait for a while.