The SQ5 is a fast but refined ride
After all, not every driving moment is spent with the children or the household labrador on-board, so when you’re alone, it means that you can enjoy your driving once again.
Audi’s S and RS models have certainly taken advantage of that market more than most, across all the German firm’s range right up to the flagship SQ7.
So while it’s no real surprise along with the rising sales of crossovers, especially in the premium market, that this go-faster version of the Q5 – the SQ5 – should have proven so popular, it’s perhaps just how popular that might raise a few eyebrows.
With 62,000 SQ5s sold globally since it was first introduced in 2012, in the UK it has accounted for an incredible 20 per cent of all Q5s leaving Audi showrooms. When you consider that figure is normally closer to five per cent for most performance models within a mainstream range, it underlines what a success this SQ5 has been.
Except for this latest SQ5, Audi has jumbled up the recipe somewhat.
In recognition of a growing premium petrol crossover market with the Mercedes GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan, Audi has ditched the previous SQ5’s turbo-diesel engine and instead will initially introduce this new SQ5 in turbo-petrol form only.
A reflection on parent firm Volkswagen’s well-documented diesel-gate issues? Maybe, but the reality is that a petrol version of the SQ5 was previously sold in other markets outside of the UK and this petrol is only the first to arrive, with a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel SQ5 model coming in autumn next year.
On paper, the decision might make sense but when the Q5 has one of the highest loyalty rates for repeat customers in Audi’s range, it seems a slightly odd decision.
Then again, despite continued strong sales of diesels, Audi’s insiders don’t expect SQ5 sales to drop as a result.
Indeed, when both the petrol and diesel versions of the SQ5 are available in showrooms, they’re anticipated to boast an equal sales split. Certainly the SQ5 looks the part with lowered suspension, large 20-inch alloy wheels, new bumpers front and rear and alloy highlights giving it a suitably sporting look.
The SQ5 benefits from lowered suspension
It has the muscle to back up that styling too. With a turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol engine, the SQ5 produces a substantial 354bhp to give it a 0-to-60mph time of 5.4 seconds and a 155mph top speed.
Audi’s quattro four-wheel drive and an eight-speed, twin-clutch, semi-automatic gearbox are both fitted as standard. Average fuel economy and emissions are officially quoted as 34.0mpg and 189g/km, although the former will obviously tumble if much of the SQ5’s performance is used.
The problem is you’ll want to use that performance. The Audi’s refinement belies its inherent pace too, meaning that although it’s clearly very fast, it sometimes doesn’t feel all that quick on the road, until you look down at the speedometer and realise quite how quick you’re actually going.
Despite that lower stance on the road, the optional adaptive air suspension gives a noticeably better ride. Even in Comfort mode, we feel it rides better than the standard Q5 in S Line trim.
In Dynamic mode, the car is lowered further still and it’s considerably firmer with even less body roll (not that there’s much normally anyway). We’d suggest trying out the car with the larger, optional 21-inch alloy wheels before committing to buying them.
The engine has a lovely V6 growl to it when you’re pressing on too and the sharp and direct steering gives you plenty of confidence turning into corners at speed.
It might not quite have the same level of feel as, say, a Porsche Macan but it’s still pretty good for what is meant to be a driver’s car.
Our only major criticisms are that even in its lowest position the driver’s seat could be set a little bit lower and also we’d like the brakes to have more bite to them in the initial travel of the pedal. As it is, the first initial press of your right foot when approaching a bend, just to scrub a few mph off your speed, doesn’t always have the desired effect, requiring a firmer and longer push than you might have first thought. In such a quick car, that isn’t ideal.
That said, the rest of the SQ5’s on-road manners are pretty faultless. The aforementioned refinement aside, it also features a predictive efficiency assistant, which uses the sat-nav and the forward radar to encourage you to lift off the throttle pedal and allow the car to coast in order to save fuel.
From our brief drive, the system isn’t entirely faultless but it works reasonably well and certainly has you rethinking your driving style – especially when you’re cruising on a very light throttle.
Virtual cockpit dials are an optional extra
In terms of the cabin itself, given that the SQ5’s price tag sits the wrong side of 51 grand, we would have liked to see Audi’s virtual cockpit dials fitted as standard (it’s either a £250 option or part of the Light and Vision package which includes Matrix LED headlights) as well as a panoramic sunroof.
We do like the standard electric tailgate though and the fact that if you fit the optional air suspension, you also get a space saver spare tyre as standard instead of the usual useless can of filler.
Despite the fact that diesels are not enjoying the most favourable publicity at the moment, they still account for the majority of cars leaving showrooms, especially in the crossover market.
Initially introducing the new SQ5 as a petrol-only model might not seem the most logical move but at least it will give buyers the choice between the two fuels when both become available next year.
Those family drivers after a performance car now have more choice than ever and this new SQ5 has to be a contender.
Model: Audi SQ5
Engine: Petrol – 3.0 litre, turbo
Power: 0 to 60mph in 5.4 seconds, 155mph top speed
Average fuel economy: 34.0mpg
CO2 emissions: 189g/km
Rivals: Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes GLC, Porsche Macan