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Audi SQ5 Plus 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Craig Duff road tests and reviews the Audi SQ5 TDI Plus with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Australia's fastest diesel SUV gets more glamour and urge.

Australia's fastest diesel SUV has gone Plus-sized with an ability to handle more curves with more verve.

The Audi SQ5 has led the performance diesel SUV pack since it launched in 2013 and now, 12 months out from a new model, the Plus variant has landed with enhanced outputs and safety software, a sports differential and plenty of bling.

The extra performance (mid-range acceleration; the official 0-100k/h sprint is unchanged at 5.1 seconds due to the extra weight) and upgraded kit come at a price — $108,900 before on-road costs.

That's $13,000 more than a normal SQ5 but includes unique 20-inch wheels, red brake calipers, adaptive cruise control with autonomous emergency braking, gloss black exterior highlights, leather-trimmed seats and instrument binnacle and carbon-fibre interior inlays.

The interior is notable for not being notable. Beyond the diamond-patterned leather seats, the seven-inch touchscreen looks small against newer arrivals in the mid-sized SUV class and the driver's instrumentation hasn't graduated to Audi's superb "virtual cockpit" digitised display. It still looks and feels refined, just not very special.

One thing special about the SQ5 Plus is its ability to get up and go. There's no shortage of acceleration on tap at any revs and the eight-speed auto is quick to respond to demands for more urge. The auto needs to be good, though, given the Plus's performance edge is restricted to a small rev range.

Enthusiastic drivers may appreciate the Plus's torque-vectoring sports differential.

Peak torque — all 700Nm of it — is on tap from 1500rpm-2550rpm. The SQ5's 650Nm kicks in from 1450-2800rpm.

Maximum power of 250kW is extracted from 4100rpm-4300rpm in the Plus whereas the SQ5 taps its 240kW from 3900rpm-4500rpm.

On the road

Enthusiastic drivers may appreciate the Plus's torque-vectoring sports differential. The vast majority will buy it because it is better appointed.

Short of a back-to-back test with a regular SQ5 it is hard to determine (on public roads) just how effective the tricky diff is at helping the car corner by pushing torque to the outside rear wheel.

Put that down to the SQ5's all-wheel drive grip and firm suspension that keep it hustling at an insane clip in the first place. Seat-of-the-pants impression is that Audi's performance SUV flagship feels faster on corner exit and when overtaking.

It is effortless and brutally effective, backed by decent brakes and direct steering.

The ride is too rigid to be called comfortable at 80km/h on back roads.

The eight-speed hangs on to gears in dynamic mode. Sound-enhanced feedback into the cabin makes the engine sound gruff and purposeful at low revs and for a diesel it does a reasonable impersonation of sportiness as it spins harder.

Full loads are barely felt and it will haul 2000kg if required, though in either case you won't get remotely near the claimed 6.8L/100km.

The ride is the only let-down. The suspension, tuned to cope with more than two tonnes, does an admirable job when that much metal is moving quickly.

At less than warp speeds, the ride is too rigid to be called comfortable at 80km/h on back roads. Highways are acceptable and the SQ5 Plus is even OK around town.

Four adults can travel in comfort, providing they aren't overly tall. There's not too much legroom front or rear and rear headroom can also be an issue.

The 540L cargo area can ferry the weekly groceries and there's a powered tailgate.

Verdict

The Plus has few minuses beyond the price. As an add-on to the SQ5 line-up, it brings even better real-world performance with extra interior glamour. That has to be a positive.

At a glance

Price - The Plus version is $16,300 more than an SQ5. Audi says it has added $13,000 of extra kit on top of the drivetrain upgrades and expects about 20 per cent of SQ5 buyers will go for the Plus.

Technology - A sports diff is standard on the SQ5 Plus, shunting torque to the appropriate rear wheel when cornering to help get around the bend. The adaptive cruise control is also integrated with autonomous emergency braking.

Performance - This is a serious SUV by any petrol or diesel standards with a 10kW/50Nm boost over the SQ5. Only the BMW X4 35d comes close on the diesel list but at $89,900 it is a rival for a regular SQ5. Porsche's Macan GTS is the nearest petrol performance competitor at $109,500.

Driving - The ride is firm-to-jiggly and there's no adaptive damping to soften the blows … as you'd probably expect from Audi's sportiest SUV to date. The upside is it sits flat and can be hustled around most turns faster than is legally allowed.

Design - A relatively small multimedia screen and the absence of Audi's latest "virtual cockpit" show the SQ5's age but the cabin, especially in Plus guise, still smells of quality.

How does the SQ5 stack up against its rivals, the Macan S and X4 35d? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Audi SQ5 pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$61,645
Based on 46 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$50,999
Highest Price
$68,880

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TDI Quattro 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $50,999 – 68,880 2016 Audi SQ5 2016 3.0 TDI Quattro Pricing and Specs
PLUS 3.0 TDI QUATTRO 3.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $64,800 – 64,868 2016 Audi SQ5 2016 PLUS 3.0 TDI QUATTRO Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7