£44,784 - £47,756 Price range
The Audi SQ5 is the fast version of the Q5 SUV and is one of the fastest accelerating diesels on sale. Its closest rivals, the Porsche Macan, BMW X4 and Range Rover Evoque, also have fast diesel versions, but none can match the Audi’s turn of speed.
Probably the SQ5’s main selling point is its engine – a bi-turbo diesel with 313hp and mountains of torque. The huge pulling power, coupled with the eight-speed automatic gearbox, makes for an impressive surge of acceleration that barely tapers as speed builds up.
The interior is another strong point. The quality, style and robustness we have come to expect from the German carmaker is there along with passenger space and practicality that put rivals to shame.
Carrying the S badge doesn’t magically endow the SQ5 with sports car handling and, despite the huge power, it’s better at covering long distances quickly than being fun on a twisty B-road, something the Porsche Macan is better suited to.
Because it sits at the top of the Q5 range, the SQ5 gets plenty of kit – cruise control, climate control with three temperature zones, a 10-speaker stereo, an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch screen and electrically adjustable leather sport seats are all standard.
The fact that the interior has remained mostly unchanged since the Q5 was launched in 2008 tells you just how good it is. The build quality is superb and the doors close with a satisfying thump.
There is very little to differentiate the regular Q5 from the S version. Apart from a flat-bottomed steering wheel, grey dial faces and some red stitching there’s little more to hint that this is a performance model. The sporty Recaro seats are probably the most useful upgrade the SQ5 gets because reviewers praise their comfort and support.
Audi SQ5 passenger space
Space for passengers in the SQ5 is generous. Two six-footers can sit in the rear (three if they’re good friends) while the driver gets a good view of the road ahead thanks to the elevated driving position. However, rear visibility is not so good, although standard-fit parking sensors help with that.
Audi SQ5 boot space
A crossover with a 0-62mph time of around five seconds and a maximum boot capacity of 1,560 litres seems a bit far-fetched, but that is exactly how much the SQ5 can pack with its rear seats folded down. That makes it the most practical fast car this side of a Mercedes E63 AMG Estate. With the seats up there are 540 litres of space which is more than what you get in the BMW X4 (500 litres), but a bit less than in the Range Rover Evoque (575 litres).
All that power makes the SQ5 very capable at crossing huge distances quickly, but in every other department the ‘sporty’ SQ5 is lacking. For starters, the chassis hasn’t been tweaked by the team of engineers that work on all S and RS models. The suspension has been lowered and stiffened, but this results in a nervous ride over most UK roads and some reviewers describe it as jiggly. The SQ5 Plus aims to improve the driving dynamics by adding an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, but reviewers weren’t impressed.
As a motorway cruiser, the SQ5 is hard to fault. The engine is quiet at speed and there is little road or tyre noise in the cabin. The ride is also a bit more forgiving, but still not perfect. A bonus of having so much torque is that the SQ5 is capable of astonishingly rapid overtakes.
Putting a 326hp twin-turbocharged engine in a four-wheel-drive crossover will inevitably equal blisteringly quick acceleration. Couple that to 480 lb ft of torque and the results are a 5.2 second 0-62mph time and a limited top speed of 155mph.
Being a diesel means engine sounds aren’t as good as in a petrol powered Q5, but there is an artificial noise generator that isn’t as gimmicky as it sounds, and it makes the SQ5 sound like a growling petrol-engined car from the outside. A more powerful Plus version is available which bumps the SQ5 up to 340hp and torque to 516 lb ft, but doesn’t change the 0-62mph time or the fuel consumption.
Being a diesel also means impressive running costs when you take into consideration the performance and the 2000kg weight of the SQ5. Fuel consumption of 41mpg is possible if you are careful, but even if you drive it like a maniac it will rarely dip below 20mpg. Its CO2 emissions of 179g/km are average for the size and power of the car and will set you back £225 a year on road tax.
The regular Q5 is a very safe car. It’s a premium luxury crossover, so a five-star score from Euro NCAP was not surprising. It scored well at protecting the driver and passengers, but getting ran over one is not advisable.
The SQ5 hasn’t been crash-tested, but with its beefier brakes that reduce stopping distances it should be even safer than the standard car.
Entry-level SQ5s get all the equipment you need (and some you don’t) as standard. Every SQ5 also comes with unique 20-inch alloy wheels, a chrome-tipped sports exhaust, a more aggressive body kit and a firmer suspension that is lowered by 30mm.
Audi SQ5 Plus
The Plus version does exactly what it says on the tin – it adds more equipment such as huge 21-inch alloy wheels, a sports differential for the quattro 4×4 system, sat-nav with 3D maps and diamond quilted leather seats similar to those in the Audi A8. Outside, there’s the Black Styling pack which paints the grille and other smaller trim pieces in gloss black and makes the SQ5 look more sinister.
If you are an enthusiasts driver looking for a fun-driving premium SUV, then the Porsche Macan or the Range Rover Evoque are more suited to your needs, but if you’re someone who needs practicality for the family, a class-leading interior and one of the fastest overtakers currently on sale, then the SQ5 ticks all those boxes. Just don’t think of it as a sports car.