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Driven: Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.

Driven: Audi SQ5 TFSI
Back on home turf and shorn of Dynamic Steering, can we muster up some love for the SQ5 Mk2?

 



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Audi SQ5 TFSI

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: fabulous interior and tremendous all-weather pace

Not so good: why is it so quiet?

Key Facts

Model tested: Audi SQ5 3.0 TFSI
Price: Q5 starts from 40,175; SQ5 from 50,690; car as tested 58,345
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive, Tiptronic eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 189g/km (VED Band 171-190: 830 first 12 months, then 450 per annum next five years of ownership, then 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.4 seconds
Power: 354hp at 5,400-6,400rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 1,370-4,500rpm
Boot space: 550-1,550 litres

Our view:

A quick and dirty review for you here - we drove the second-generation Audi SQ5 at its international launch last summer, and couldn't help but wonder if Audi had dropped a massive clanger by moving away from the USP of the original SQ5, which had been a derv-burner and a ludicrous showroom success in this country for the German manufacturer - sales of that 3.0 TDI Mk1 amounted to 15 per cent of all first-gen Q5 units shifted in the UK, which is a quite remarkable and extraordinary percentage for an expensive, high-performance 'halo' model.

Now, our mulling over the potential calamity of shifting from a diesel to a 3.0-litre V6 petrol was not because we thought the SQ5 Mk2 was a bad car; far from it, in fact, as the chassis on this SUV showed real promise. But it was let down by one or two little details, and one colossal spanner in the works, in the form of Dynamic Steering.

And so we decided to spend a week with a UK-spec SQ5, on UK roads, to see if our concerns about the Dynamic Steering were unfounded or not. Thus, our test car had a normal electromechanical set-up, which we hoped would be better than the version we drove in Germany, which was saddled with Dynamic Steering. And the news is... good. Yup, whatever you do, if you're buying an SQ5 3.0 TFSI, DON'T specify Dynamic Steering. We're not saying the regular set-up is in any way game-changing or likely to have you singing from the rooftops about the steering feel your SUV fires into your synapses every time you grip the wheel, but it's a lot more consistent, pleasantly weighted and informative than the Dynamic option. So that's validation for our earlier apprehensiveness, at any rate.

However, we're still not 100 per cent convinced by the TFSI SQ5. For a start, those blanked-off 'quad exhausts' at the back ought to be an offence punishable by custodial sentence for whomsoever thought them up. We have absolutely no idea, no idea at all, as to why the SQ5 couldn't just have a set of normal pipes poking out of its bumper, or even some quad finishers on an otherwise mundane backbox. What it has now is borderline offensive and it would be better if the bumper was just smoothed off entirely, leaving the downturned exit pipes hidden (as they are anyway).

This aesthetic nonsense links into the noise of the SQ5 - or rather, the lack of it. We understand some performance vehicles like to play the 'Q-car' card, an apt term for a vehicle called SQ5, and keep things understated. But there's understated, and then there's just quietly dull. At no point are you forcefully reminded that you're in a 354hp petrol V6 in the SQ5; it just burrs around the place discreetly, never once making a sound that might make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Compared to the previous diesel SQ5 and the ridiculous muscle car-copying rumble of the mighty SQ7 (admittedly, both artificially augmented tunes, but well-judged nonetheless), this TFSI SQ5 is simply boring in the acoustics department.

We remain convinced it has a corking chassis for an Audi SUV, though, and it's supremely refined overall as a result of its demure voice. Across a 780-mile week in its company, that distance spread over 18 hours behind the SQ5's wheel, we chugged up and down stodgy motorways - that might have been frustrating, given the jerkiness of the traffic flow they were exhibiting - without a care in the world in the Audi, the SUV turning in a respectable 31.2mpg overall and a best figure of 34.8mpg on a run down the A46, M1 and M25. The handling is as sharp and impressive as we remember from launch, the SQ5 is spectacularly easy to use, and it looks properly handsome inside and out, although it's capable of looking like nothing special at all if you choose a reserved colour and silver alloys for it, such as Matador Red metallic. Oh, those wheels were 20-inch items, by the way, further lending gloss to the Audi's excellent ride and comportment characteristics.

So, it's a very good performance SUV, then, the Audi SQ5 Mk2, even with the TFSI engine that dare not speak its V6 name (there's a TDI version on the way, which might be a bit more vocal). But it lacks for much in the way of character - it's nothing like as beguiling as its demented RS Q3 stablemate nor that aforementioned SQ7. And, in a class where there's now some serious talent swilling around, a conservative machine like the talented SQ5 TFSI, that's hiding its light under a bushel, might not win as many fans as it possibly could. Especially with those egregious exhausts.

Alternatives:

BMW X3 M40i: Noisier (in a good way) and more thrilling to drive than the SQ5, this is a classic case of BMW dynamics trouncing Audi's comparative attempt at the formula.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43: Another V6 performance SUV that makes all the right noises, which is presumably why people buy this sort of model in the first place, and not a plain old 2.0-litre turbodiesel.

Porsche Macan S: The elephant in the room here, of course, is that the Macan is very closely related to the Q5/SQ5 - and yet, as good as the Audi's chassis is, the Porsche's is quite a lot better.


Matt Robinson - 31 Aug 2018









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2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.

2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.2018 Audi SQ5 TFSI. Image by Audi.








 

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