Open gallery Close by Matt Saunders 31 July 2013 Follow @TheDarkStormy1 Share
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The Audi SQ5, if we’re honest, wasn’t the obvious place to start one Audi S-brand performance revolution, let alone two.
Because, while it’s a classy, practical and desirable family 4×4, which has comfortably been dominating rivals such as the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 on both European and global sales, the Audi Q5 has also always been a slightly soulless car to drive. Competent, refined and secure, but just a bit dynamically ordinary.
The SQ5 is certainly fast, but it fails to exciteMatt SaundersRoad test editor
Nevertheless, the SQ5 was not only the firm’s first S-badged SUV, but also its first S-brand diesel, and its success bred the more hardcore RS Q3 and the brutally quick Audi SQ7.
It is powered by the 335bhp, 516lb ft twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 diesel from the Audi A6 and A6 Allroad and that mighty multi-cylinder diesel certainly makes the Q5 quick. Audi’s claim is for 0-62mph in a smidge over five seconds, in a class where the fastest BMW X3 only just squeezes in under six seconds, and most other rivals struggle to beat seven.
But in reality, the SQ5’s performance doesn’t feel quite that outstanding. This is a brisk drive, but the car’s short-shifting, occasionally slipping eight-speed automatic gearbox and very linear power delivery do kill the performance drama a little.
Audi’s chassis modifications are just as important as the contents of the engine bay. And what’s notable in this department is that Quattro GmbH — Audi’s usual go-faster department — hasn’t been involved. Although with the emergence of the Audi Sport division, you can’t help feeling this won’t be the case when the second generation SQ5 rolls around.
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Audi AG’s own chassis development team has taken 30mm out of the regular Q5’s ride height, stiffened its springs and anti-roll bars and specified new, stiffer fixed-rate dampers. The kinematics of the suspension — camber, castor and toe angles, in other words — haven’t been altered.
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Our test car, equipped with Audi’s optional variable-ratio Dynamic Steering system, had plenty of purpose and grip about it but lacked a little simple coherence and progressiveness in its handling responses, and both feedback and consistency from its controls.
Although fast and stable, it was barely any more involving than its lesser range-mates on a really testing road. It bamboozled the driver, instead, in a never-ending search for the best Drive Select settings, and confused slightly with unpredictable steering weight and directness.
The SQ5’s ride, too, leaves a little to be desired. The car’s chassis isolates you from noise well enough and reins in roll quite well. The ride quickly becomes restless as the road’s surface begins to rise and fall, though, as those new dampers attempt — and often fail — to keep vertical body movements in check with any subtlety.
While a BMW X3 xDrive35d is a less mechanically refined machine than this, it’s also a much more compelling one through a fast bend. And a Range Rover Evoque SD4 may not be able to compete on sheer urge, but its blend of compliance, responsiveness and control is also much more impressive. While Alpina’s Alpina XD3 has the oomph and driveability to make it a compelling option – albeit an exclusive and expensive one.
Audi SQ5 news
Updated Audi SQ5 TDI arrives with performance boost, new tech Updated Audi SQ5 TDI arrives with performance boost, new tech New Audi SQ5 TDI diesel arrives with 516lb ft of torque New Audi SQ5 TDI diesel arrives with 516lb ft of torque Audi SQ5 sales suspended amid WLTP changes Audi SQ5 sales suspended amid WLTP changes 2017 Audi SQ5 revealed in Detroit with 349bhp V6 2017 Audi SQ5 revealed in Detroit with 349bhp V6
As for the interior, well its typical Audi – which means it is simple, ergonomical and stunningly well put together. As for the standard equipment, expect the SQ5 to be very well equipped as it is the range-topper and as the Q5 is nearing the end of its lifecycle, with the second generation SUV having already made its media appearance.
There are two trims to choose from – SQ5 Plus and SQ5 Plus Special Edition. The ‘entry-level’ as much as you can describe it that, comes with a wealth of equipment, with the outside being adorned with 21in alloy wheels, a sports-tuned suspension, active sounding twin exhaust, parking sensors and xenon headlights as standard. Inside there is tri-zone climate control, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, a Nappa leather upholstery and Audi’s MMI infotainment system complete with a 7.0in display, DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, sat nav and a 40GB hard drive.