Audi SQ5 (2016-2020) review
The Audi SQ5 may be a large, family-friendly SUV, but it’s quicker than some hot hatches. However, it’s expensive to buy and not particularly cheap to run
What's not so good
Audi SQ5 (2016-2020): what would you like to read next?
The Audi SQ5 is a high-performance family SUV that offers a smart, understated alternative to the likes of the Jaguar F-Pace S and Mercedes-AMG GLC43.
The flagship Audi Q5 looks almost identical to the standard model – which is no bad thing – but a few sporty touches do help it stand out from the more mainstream versions.
The other big difference, of course, is the engine: a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel unit in place of the old car’s petrol. This 347hp V6 is shared with the S6 and S7 and drives all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The combination of excellent levels of grip and near-instant boost from the turbo means this high-riding SUV will sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.1 seconds – faster than some hot hatches.
Thankfully, the Audi SQ5 is a lot more comfortable than most of them. Its standard adaptive suspension will let you choose between sporty or more comfortable settings, but the optional adaptive air suspension irons out bumps better than any other sporty SUV. It’ll also lower the car’s ride height at speed to make it more stable and you can raise it by 45mm if you fancy a spot of light off-roading.
A clever Torque Control feature that brakes individual wheels to help the SQ5 turn more tightly makes this far more fun to drive than the standard Q5. An optional sports rear differential is also available to help it accelerate more quickly out of corners, but unless you’re planning to take to a racing track, you probably won’t notice any difference.
Inside, you’ll find one of the best interiors in the premium SUV market. It’s packed full of high-tech features and everything feels fantastically well built. A set of metal trim pieces, contrasting stitching and highly supportive leather seats make the SQ5 feel significantly more special inside than the standard car.
Rather disappointingly, Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit system – a customisable digital display that replaces conventional analogue dials – doesn’t come as standard. It’s well worth paying a little extra for, however – the crisp 12-inch screen looks fantastic and makes it a breeze to follow sat-nav directions without taking your eyes off the road.
I don’t know who developed the SQ5, but I suspect Messrs Jekyll and Hyde may have had a hand in it. This is a family-friendly five-seat SUV that’s quicker than some sports cars – that’s ludicrous!
Also available is an optional panoramic glass roof in place of the standard – and slightly claustrophobic – black headlining. It fills the SQ5’s cabin with light and makes the already excellent headroom feel nearly endless.
The front seats are incredibly supportive and feature thickly bolstered sides that hold you firmly in place through tight corners. They’re so well padded, in fact, you may find it slightly difficult to jump in and out, if you’re not particularly tall.
In the back, you’ll find generous knee, leg and headroom and there’s enough shoulder room to seat three six-footers. However, the central rear seat is a little smaller, harder and slightly more cramped than the outer two and a huge lump in the floor cuts into foot space considerably.
Meanwhile, the 550-litre boot is easily big enough to carry two large and two small suitcases, while a baby buggy or a set of golf clubs will slide in with plenty of room to spare.
Unfortunately, there’s a slight load lip that makes sliding in heavy or bulky items a bit of a pain. You can’t adjust the height of the boot floor, either, and there’s nowhere to store the load cover.
Fold the rear seats down, using the handy levers in the boot, and its capacity grows to a capacious 1,550-litres – more than enough room to carry a bike without removing its wheels. And, that’s complemented by a number of handy cubby holes dotted around the cabin, a generous glovebox huge door bins.
The standard Q5 received a hugely impressive five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2017. The SQ5 should perform equally well thanks to its identical selection of safety kit, including automatic emergency city braking.
So the SQ5 makes a compelling case for itself. It feels more premium inside than offerings from Mercedes, BMW or Jaguar and easily outclasses these cars in terms of high-tech equipment. It might not be the sportiest SUV on the market, but it offers a near unbeatable balance of comfort, class and excitement.