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First drive: Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.

First drive: Audi SQ5 TDI
The SQ5 finally gets the engine it has always deserved, in the form of a 3.0-litre V6 TDI.

 



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Audi SQ5 TDI

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

We drove the second-gen Audi SQ5 at its international launch and then we drove it again for a week in the UK, and both times we came back with the same conclusion: good, but it needs to be a diesel, like the older model. So here's the diesel SQ5, take two. End result? It's back to its brilliant best.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Audi SQ5 TDI
Pricing: Q5 from 41,420; SQ5 from 55,035 (provisional)
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with 48-volt electrical system and electrically powered compressor (EPC)
Transmission: quattro all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 172g/km (VED Band 171-190: 855 first 12 months, then 465 per annum years two-six of ownership, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 34.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 5.1 seconds
Power: 347hp at 3,850rpm
Torque: 700Nm at 2,500-3,100rpm
Boot space: 550-1,550 litres

What's this?

A halo model that broke all the records for halo model sales in its first incarnation. Such a successful, zeitgeist-capturing product was the original Audi SQ5 TDI (built from 2013-2017) that, in the UK at least, it amounted to 15 per cent of all Q5 sales. That's astounding for a flagship to take such a big slice of the fiscal pie and it proves that Audi utterly nailed the brief of providing a stonkingly rapid yet discreet family chariot to an absolute tee.

Fast forward to late 2017, though, and the second-gen SQ5 was a petrol. Which was slower than the old SQ5. And worse on fuel, as well. And then, when we finally drove it, we found it to be meek of voice, saddled with awful (albeit optional) Dynamic Steering and fitted with a ridiculous set of 'fake' quad exhausts, which were nothing more than chrome trim and some blanking plates. A shame, because it was obvious that the SQ5 Mk2 had a rather decent chassis to play with; not surprising, as - underneath it all - you'll find the same oily bits that underpin the marvellous Porsche Macan.

However, now that Audi has decided that every S model above an S3 is going to get a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel with a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system and the same electrically powered compressor as seen on the bewitching SQ7, the SQ5 TFSI is no more (in the UK, at least); after a brief and undistinguished 18 months on sale, it is making way for this TDI variant.

We will therefore spare you a full rundown on the SQ5's interior, exterior, equipment and so on, because all you have to do is read one of the TFSI reviews that are linked at the top of this piece - visually, absolutely nothing has changed for the TDI derivative (yep, those 'exhausts' are still there, although they're less offensive now the thing is actually a diesel). What you get instead are the following details: the TDI has lost 7hp compared to the TFSI, its 347hp also being 2hp down on the same application of this engine in larger S6 and S7 Audis; but it has gained fully 200Nm of torque; its 0-62mph time has been cut by three-tenths of a second, so it can now run the same 5.1-second sprint at the old SQ5 Mk1; the CO2 emissions are reduced by 17g/km to 172g/km overall (this is not enough of a decrease to affect its VED rating, though); and the quoted combined fuel economy figure has soared by, er... by 0.4mpg. Riiiiight. Still, that has been attained on the tougher WLTP cycle and, realistically, the TDI is going to be better on fuel than the TFSI, no matter whether you're driving serenely or sadistically.

How does it drive?

We'll keep this brief, as well: it drives brilliantly. Like the old SQ5, in fact, only with more finesse, better steering and an increased feeling of front-end bite. Oh, and sharper brakes, the mushiness of the superseded TFSI's middle pedal having been eradicated for reasons that aren't entirely apparent if you carefully peruse the spec sheets. Nevertheless, those nicer stoppers and steering which is no longer deeply frustrating help the SQ5 TDI's cause no end; although we will still say that the helm of the SUV isn't quite as nicely weighted as that found on the S6 or S7. It remains a touch too vague just off-centre and too light throughout its operation, but maybe the extra weight of a TDI lump over the front axle is what has helped it to lose the airy-fairy-ness of the TFSI's tiller. That, or Audi has been tweaking the control software and just not thought to tell anybody...

The SQ5, with an artificially augmented soundtrack, also doesn't quite boast the voice of the S6 and S7 models which share its engine (blame that 2hp deficit, apparently brought about because the SQ5 has a different exhaust routing to the two larger cars; both the incoming S4 and S5 will get the 347hp powerplant, as well), and it's nothing like as unremittingly bonkers to listen to as the SQ5 Mk1 nor the current SQ7. But, as performance diesels go, it's still really appealing in the vocals department and it helps accentuate the sensation of speed you get from that fabulous 700Nm mill up front.

Something else which adds to the hilarity of a 1,980kg hunk of metal which can punch Q5-shaped holes in the horizon when you depress the throttle is the squat it displays on the optional adaptive air suspension (this will be standard fit on the higher-ranking Vorsprung version, price still tbc); the softer set-up means the SQ5 TDI noticeably rears up when you plant the gas. This speaks volumes about the handling, which isn't as sharp as its two lower-riding brothers (the S6 and S7) but which is nevertheless damned impressive for a mid-sized premium SUV like this. Adopt a slightly more flowing driving style, decant the SQ5 into corners rather than trying to make it slice in at the apex, and you'll find it a most rewarding steer.

Yup, in short, the TDI has addressed the noise, steering, performance, braking and frugality issues that afflicted the otherwise likeable TFSI model. It would appear, then, that the SQ5 is now back to the rudest of fast-SUV health.

Verdict

This 3.0-litre TDI V6 is the engine the Audi SQ5 Mk2 was always supposed to have. It's that simple. Where the TFSI model was underwhelming, this one does everything a rapid SUV should do, and it does it very well indeed. If it weren't for the media-hyped customer backlash against diesel, we'd fully expect this SQ5 to take even more than 15 per cent of UK Q5 sales this time around, because it's a corker.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 22 May 2019









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2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.

2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.2019 Audi SQ5 TDI. Image by Audi.








 

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