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Audi SQ5 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.6
The diesel-powered SQ5 was the stuff of petrolhead legend, but Audi has ditched the oil-burner in favour of a slower (and more expensive) petrol-powered version.

Audi's SQ5 is one of those marvellous cars that kind of came out of nowhere and instantly defined a genre. Technically, it probably shouldn't have existed. And for a company that is pretty much straight down the line, the decision to launch it as a diesel seemed extra odd. Not that we minded, of course.

The diesel engine was a masterstroke; André the Giant brawny, and with some clever engineering to make it sound like it actually wasn't an oil-burner. But it wasn't just a straight-line screamer - the SQ5 could corner, and it was tremendous fun while doing so.

So this second-generation car had a lot to live up to. But then - heresy of heresies - we found out that, for the moment at least, the SQ5 would be coming with a petrol engine. Without that Herculean torque figure, it's also slightly slower to the 100km/h benchmark.

So has Audi ended our love affair (by that I mean the one between the SQ5 and me)?

Audi SQ5 2018: 3.0 TFSI QUATTRO
Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.7L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$84,800

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

One factoid I really like telling people is that the SQ5 was, for quite some time, the biggest-selling single Q5 model in the country, despite costing upwards of $90,000 on the road.

This new car weighs in at $99,611. Standard are 21-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, a 10-speaker stereo, ambient interior lighting, a comprehensive safety package, reversing camera, around-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, auto park, keyless entry and start, nappa leather interior, active cruise control, electric heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, an electric (foot-wavey) tailgate, a wireless hotspot, Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash and a space-saver spare.

The 21-inch wheels look brilliant. (image: Peter Anderson) The 21-inch wheels look brilliant. (image: Peter Anderson)

The media system is Audi's MMI system, which is displayed on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dash. Controlled by a rotary dial or a touchpad just in front of the dial, it's also got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The sound is good and it's even better if you go for the $5600 'Technik package', which adds a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen system, head-up display and the brilliant Matrix LED headlights, all of which we had on our test car. While $5600 isn't messing about, it's a fair bit of stuff, especially when you consider the Matrix LEDs alone cost half of that on some Audis.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The new Q5 is the usual studied restraint from Ingolstadt. No, it's not a striking piece of design, and some find it hard to tell the new car apart from the old one. Move up to the SQ5 and again it's a bit of a sleeper. The 21-inch wheels look brilliant, and the deeper bumpers and skirts, along with the lower ride height, add a bit of aggression, too.

The deeper bumpers and skirts, along with the lower ride height, add a bit of aggression. (image: Peter Anderson) The deeper bumpers and skirts, along with the lower ride height, add a bit of aggression. (image: Peter Anderson)

Inside, the Nappa leather is very nice, especially with the detailed stitching and diamond quilting. There's more space in here than there was before, so while still cosy it doesn't feel tight. As with the rest of the Audi range, the new interior lifts the best bits of the A4, which thankfully did not include the weird pin-stripe detail on the console trim. It has gone the only way it should - out.

It's fast, stylish and plenty enough fun to be considered the ultimate family all-rounder. (image: Peter Anderson) It's fast, stylish and plenty enough fun to be considered the ultimate family all-rounder. (image: Peter Anderson)

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

As before, the SQ5 is comfortable but cosy. Front-seat passengers are, of course, perfectly fine,  and rear-seat dwellers have reasonable head and leg room - our six-foot-two teenager was happy enough back there. Rear-seat passengers can also choose their own climate-control temperature.

As before, the SQ5 is comfortable but cosy. (image: Peter Anderson) As before, the SQ5 is comfortable but cosy. (image: Peter Anderson)

Two cupholders are provided front and rear, for a total of four, and the doors each have pockets with bottle holders.

Based as it is on the Q5, boot space is up over the old model by 10 litres, meaning between 550 and 610 litres when the rear seats are in place, and then 1550 litres with the seats folded. Like its cousin the Tiguan, the rear seats slide forward and back.

  • The boot has between 550 and 610 litres of space when the rear seats are in place. (image: Peter Anderson) The boot has between 550 and 610 litres of space when the rear seats are in place. (image: Peter Anderson)
  • It has 1550 litres with the seats folded. (image: Peter Anderson) It has 1550 litres with the seats folded. (image: Peter Anderson)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The diesel donk is out, replaced by Audi's 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo V6. Power is a hefty 260kW, with 500Nm available from 1370rpm.

The two-tonne-plus (tare) SQ5 streaks from0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds, with power reaching the road via Audi's Quattro system with a mechanical centre diff. Torque is generally apportioned 40/60 front to rear, but can be 85/15 either way when needed. The eight-speed ZF continues on and is, as ever, brilliant.

The diesel donk is out, replaced by Audi's 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo V6. (image: Peter Anderson) The diesel donk is out, replaced by Audi's 3.0-litre twin-scroll turbo V6. (image: Peter Anderson)

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Audi claims a combined cycle of 8.7L/100km. We put the SQ5 to work on mountain passes, the suburbs and long motorway runs, returning 11.7L/100km, which wasn't bad for the amount of fun we had.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

The old SQ5 wasn't perfect, by any stretch, but goodness gracious was it a barrel of laughs. No car as heavy or as high-riding as the SQ5 had any right to be so much fun, but somehow it was, without the compromise of a super-hard ride or a din from fat tyres.

The numbers are a bit of a compromise; weight is down by around 130kg, but you're also missing 200Nm compared to the old car. The colossal torque figure was a big part of that car's appeal, and I did miss it. However, once I'd got over that, I found something just as fun underneath.

Inside, the Nappa leather is very nice, especially with the detailed stitching and diamond quilting. (image: Peter Anderson) Inside, the Nappa leather is very nice, especially with the detailed stitching and diamond quilting. (image: Peter Anderson)

As with the rest of the Q5 range, it's quieter on the cruise and the cabin is once again the best in the business, borrowing much from the A4. With adaptive dampers set in comfort mode, it's comfortable and compliant and road noise is kept to a minimum. I'm not a huge fan of the light steering in this mode, but it's set to be low stress rather than man-handled.

Step up into Dynamic and everything beefs up; the ride stiffens and the car actually drops to lower the centre of gravity. The exhaust opens up and starts popping and farting, too, while the steering weights up and the throttle drops any easygoing slack.

As with the rest of the Audi range, the new interior lifts the best bits of the A4. (image: Peter Anderson) As with the rest of the Audi range, the new interior lifts the best bits of the A4. (image: Peter Anderson)

Throwing it down through the bends of some NSW Blue Mountains back roads, this car sparkles. It's tons of fun (literally), with the security of the of the Quattro drivetrain underneath. The exhaust isn't quite enough to make me want to wind the windows down on a cold morning, but it's amusing enough inside given the stereo plumps up the racket a bit.

Despite being down on torque, it still feels very strong in the mid-range. It doesn't quite have the organ-squishing punch of the diesel, but the smoother, more linear delivery feels more conventional, particularly with most of the power heading to the rear wheels.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / unlimited km warranty

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

The SQ5's five-star ANCAP rating (May 2017) comes courtesy of eight airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, exit warning system (which lets you know if you're about to clobber a cyclist, pedestrian or approaching car), cross-traffic assist (stops you turning across approaching traffic), blind-spot warning, forward collision warning (up to 250km/h), around-view camera and front and rear AEB.

There are three top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX points.

It comes with a space-saver spare. (image: Peter Anderson) It comes with a space-saver spare. (image: Peter Anderson)

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Audi offers its three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive in the segment, but much cheaper cars (and Lexus, for that matter) offer more. You can pay for a further four years and up to 160,000km on top of the standard warrant. Roadside assistance is yours for the duration of the standard warranty.

Servicing comes every twelve months or 15,000km, and you can purchase a plan to cover the first three years or 45,000km, whichever comes first, for $1870 - which is $280 more than any of the other Q5s.

Verdict

It's no hot hatch, but it's fast, stylish and plenty enough fun to be considered the ultimate family all-rounder. Unless your kids are freakishly tall or you need to regularly carry wardrobes, it's a great family wagon that can easily deal with the day-to-day stuff, with a comfortable ride and plenty of space.

Some families, like mine, like some genuine performance with their practicality, and the SQ5 is all the car you'll ever need. It may not be the diesel, it may not have that lovely gravelly silliness, but it still looks and feels great, and is full of some of the most advanced tech in a fast SUV today.

Most important, though, it's just as much fun as it ever was.

Is the SQ5 still on your list without the diesel? Or are fast SUVs the work of the devil?

Pricing Guides

$94,850
Based on 21 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$84,800
Highest Price
$109,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.0 TFSI QUATTRO 3.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $84,800 – 109,999 2018 AUDI SQ5 2018 3.0 TFSI QUATTRO Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Price and features7
Design7
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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