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Driven: Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi SQ5
The fastest diesel SUV in the world, but should you buy a Porsche Macan instead?


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Audi SQ5

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: great, interior, cracking looks, good value.

Not so good: Macan S Diesel is more desirable.

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi SQ5
Price: from 44,715; car as tested 49,145
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: four-wheel drive, eight-speed Tiptronic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 179g/km (Band I, 350 first 12 months, 225 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 41.5mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 313hp at 3,900- to 4,500rpm
Torque 650Nm at 1,450- to 2,800rpm

Our view:

We love this Audi SQ5. No, really - in an age where more and more manufacturers are trying to genuinely put the emphasis on the 'S' of SUV, one of the first driver-focused examples of the breed remains a key contender in a growing marketplace. Sure, there are quicker brutes than this, such as the Porsche Cayenne Turbo, the BMW X5 M and X6 M pair, and the recently revealed Range Rover Sport SVR. And even Audi itself plonks a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo into the smaller SUV in its range to create the bonkers RS Q3.

But by sticking to diesel power, where all the aforementioned are petrol (and savagely thirsty to boot, in the case of the bigger machines), the Audi ploughs its own furrow, promising to offer some sense along with its speed. Indeed, during our time with this example, it managed to turn in 42.8mpg over a 300-mile journey, at an average 49mph, involving A-roads and motorways. That's ahead of its quoted economy figure, a remarkable performance for a car that's in excess of 1.6 metres tall and which weighs a not insignificant 1,925kg.

It's not even that expensive, as if you're imagining a mid-sized Audi SUV with loads of power to be well in excess of fifty grand, you'd be wrong. It starts at 44,715 and for that, most of the luxury toys you'd expect at this level are fitted. Our example also came with the 1,695 Technology Package (MMI Navigation System Plus, Audi Music Interface and Audi Parking System Plus), heated front seats (300), a power tailgate (385) and an option we'd definitely recommend, the superb Bang & Olufsen premium sound system costing 535. So equipped, this SQ5 still remained below the 50,000 barrier.

So far, so good. And you're not going to have any aesthetic gripes, either. The SQ5 is a beautifully judged piece of design, just restrained enough to prevent it being gauche but with enough of a hint of its extraordinary talents. Giant front air intakes, a bespoke radiator grille, large 20-inch alloys and the quad exhausts at the rear are coupled with silver detailing - door mirrors and roof rails - to add the perfect amount of bling to an already handsome car. The Q5 is the best-looking Audi SUV by some distance, eclipsing the dumpy Q3 and both generations of the Q7, a gargantuan lump of metal that's either too bloated (first-gen) or too angular (second-gen). We're not going to say anything much about the interior, other than 'very roomy for its size and near faultless for fit and finish'. C'mon - it's a high-spec Audi, what were you expecting?

If there are any criticisms of the SQ5's dynamic character, they are two gripes that have been thrown at many a performance Audi before. The ride is sometimes too firm and the steering is too numb. But as it is an SUV when all's said and done, it can be forgiven for not having the sharpest steering in the world. The ride is more of an issue, chiefly the secondary ride, as the SQ5 never lets you forget it's a sporty SUV; there's a constant baseline jiggle to everything it does. Like so many German machines, at higher speeds and on smoother roads the damping comes into its own, but around towns and on country roads, it can be a tad uncomfortable.

These are the only moans, though. Because there's a hell of a lot to commend about this Audi, not least its superb drivetrain. That 3.0-litre V6 is a gem, blessed with a towering 650Nm of torque that makes it seriously rapid in all situations. This flexibility is helped by a wonderful Tiptronic eight-speed transmission and yes, that means it's a torque converter auto, rather than a twin-clutch robotised manual. It works well, mainly because it's wonderfully rapid and quick to respond to your inputs (paddle shifts on a flat-bottomed steering wheel are a 100 option, however, and we'd go for them because the Volkswagen Group will insist on putting its sequential gear levers the 'wrong' way round - it's forward for up a gear and back for down; annoying).

The quattro all-wheel drive makes the most of the prodigious power and torque to offer up enormous grip and traction in all conditions, resisting understeer admirably and providing just a hint of rear axle involvement too. Body roll is quelled to a high degree and the SQ5 proves to be a sensationally quick point-to-point machine, the final big plus being the sound of the engine and exhaust in sport mode. An actuator in the pipes comes into play and makes this V6 diesel sound like a V8 petrol. Artificial it may be, but it's guaranteed to put a huge smile on your face because it sounds magnificent.

It's therefore a hugely likeable machine and easily our favourite of Audi's 'proper' SUVs right now. Yet you're reading between the lines and waiting for a colossal 'but', aren't you? Well done, you. The SQ5, launched in 2012, has had a major problem since 2014. And that's the Porsche Macan S Diesel. The Stuttgart SUV is admittedly slower, making do with a single-turbo 3.0 V6 with 258hp, and it's also based on exactly the same underpinnings as the Q5, albeit Porsche claims 66 per cent of the componentry has been changed from the Q5. And yet they feel like totally different cars - the Audi is a traditional Ingolstadt creation: very secure, very rapid, polished to a high sheen in all departments but just lacking that final degree of interactivity and emotion.

The Porsche, however, is everything you would expect of the brand. Quite how Zuffenhausen has taken the Q5 and turned it into a high-riding machine that feels nearly as superb to throw about as a Cayman is beyond us. The Macan S Diesel is so much more involving to drive, thanks to a more active chassis and near-perfect steering. It's also arguably better looking and it starts at 43,300, a useful 1,415 below the SQ5.

Which means that, fastest diesel SUV in the world it may be, but the Audi SQ5 currently sits second in a highly specialised class of two. You wouldn't be making an enormous mistake if you bought the SQ5, but if you try the Porsche, you'll put your money into a Macan instead.

Matt Robinson - 14 Jun 2015    - Audi road tests
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2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.

2015 Audi SQ5. Image by Audi.


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