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Audi SQ5 TDI 2014 Review

Meet Audi's velvet sledgehammer or, if you like cliches, it’s wolf in sheep's clothing, an undercover road rocket or motoring's Jekyll and Hyde. It's too hard not to describe Audi's SQ5 TDi any other way although Audi describes it as "potent and pious".

It's a luxury monster that the naysayers would pooh-pooh for being an irresponsible motoring irrelevance because you can't have power and performance and also be environmentally friendly. Well you can.

PRICE / FEATURES

The 3.0-litre SQ5 -- think of it as the Q5 wagon on steroids -- packs an impressive set of numbers. The one I have been driving will cost $89,400 but the first models landed in the country have added bling, bringing the bill to $106,000 before on-road costs.

The extra include 21-inch alloy wheels (I know, a bit over the top), dynamic steering, adaptive headlights, a stunning Bang & Olufsen sound system, digital radio (no good in Tassie), heated front and rear seats (bliss in winter), alarm system (should be standard), privacy glass (ditto), flat-bottomed steering wheel, Nappa leather upholstery and a trick luggage restraint system all part of a limited $14,720 launch edition package. The first 60 wagons landed in Australia will offer the package.

But the standard model at $89,400 comes with a good kit, highlighted by a tri-zone airconditioning system, eight airbags, powered tailgate, a navigation system, rear camera, tyre pressure monitoring and an info system that you can operate by talking to it. So you can tick the box for value for money for such a mid-sized high performance SUV. Main rival is BMW's 3.0-litre M50d at $147,500 but the Audi is cheaper and quicker.

ENGINE / TRANSMISSION

The two-tonne diesel can sprint from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 5.1 seconds. Hang on, this is a diesel! That's mind boggling. Audi claims it's the fastest diesel SUV in the world. I cannot argue. What's also impressive is the V6 diesel can, in theory, sip only 6.8l/100km, making it more frugal than the average family car and it qualifies for reduced luxury car tax.

To achieve anywhere near that figure one has to treat the accelerator pedal as if it were made of eggshell. Yes, you can drive the SQ5 sedately. A stop-start system, which switches off the engine when the wagon is stopped at traffic lights, helps to reduce fuel consumption as well.

The 3.0-litre biturbo diesel, matched to an eight-speed triptronic auto/manual gearbox, develops 230kW over a fairly narrow band between 3900 and 4500 revs. The key to its performance, however, is that it has a massive 650Nm of torque available from 1450 to 2800rpm, giving the Audi stunning low to mid-range punch well before peak power is achieved.

The SQ5 uses an old-fashioned torque converter to deliver all that power through the transmission because Audi hasn't found a dual clutch automatic that can walk the torque. Best of all, the SQ5 has a wonderful exhaust note at full song all thanks to some sound trickery which includes a sound actuator in the exhaust system to produce the right guttural note. Sometimes you cannot pick it as a diesel. Clever stuff, that.

The engine's hefty output is not surprising because the engine was developed by the same team of mechanical wizards that build Audi's Le Mans race cars. Audi also uses the same engine in the A6 and A7 flagships.

DRIVING

On the road it quickly shows it has probably the best handling and performance of any SUV. I say probably because I have not driven its BMW rival. While based on the big-selling Q5, the all-wheel-drive SQ5 sits 30mm lower, has a wider footprint, firmer suspension and bigger brakes to match its performance.

Find a lonely twisty road and unleash the beast and you find it is all reasonably civilised apart from a desire to run wide if you are too heavy on the throttle. Conversely, it is easy to drive in the sedate setting of the school run or trips to the supermarket. The ride is overly firm which is the price you pay for cornering grip.

The design is take it or leave it. There's a few hints like the quad exhausts and alloy-look pedals that say here's something special. If you live in the country, have a few bob and drive plenty of gravel roads then I can't think of a better wagon to suit the lifestyle. If you live in the city and want something a little flash to take the children to school in, then it's a bit of a waste of all that magical diesel motor.

Audi SQ5 TDI
Price: $89,400
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited km
Resale: N/A
Fixed service costs: No
Service interval: 12 months/15,000km
Crash rating: 5-star
Engine: 3.0-litre twin turbodiesel, 230kW/650Nm
Transmission: 8-speed auto, AWD
Thirst: 6.8L/100km, 179g/km CO2
Weight: 1995kg
Spare: Tyre-repair kit

Pricing guides

$39,990
Based on 25 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$35,990
Highest Price
$51,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TDI Quattro 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $35,990 – 51,990 2014 Audi SQ5 2014 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs