More than a go-slightly-faster SUV, the Audi SQ5 has enough substance to be one of Audi’s best S cars
Singaporeans are really good at queuing. But if there’s more than one queue, sometimes you get flummoxed by choosing the seemingly shortest one, but where the guy in front is withdrawing the entire bank at one go.
When it comes to Audis and a fast ‘Q’, there’s pretty much only one choice in Singapore: The Audi SQ5.
The wonderfully mad RS Q3 was never sold here, while the previous-gen Audi Q7 with a 4.2-litre V8 is now an amber-clad memory. But the SQ5, which we first reviewed when it appeared in Singapore in 2014, hit the sweet spot of fast, competent SUV with a sporty S edge and no overt coupe styling to ruin the fun.
We expected more of the same from the new model. Since it’s based on the latest, second-gen Q5 – which we found thoroughly competent in 2.0 quattro form – it seemed very logical to expect a dash of speed and dynamism to go with the high-riding seating position and SUV practicality, but no great flashes of brilliance. Long-time readers will also know that performance SUVs are often more about style than driving substance.
Even more so, considering the new turbo V6 3.0-litre replaces the old supercharged unit, but has almost identical specs – peak power is identical (354hp), as is the 0-100km/h of 5.4 seconds, though peak torque is 30Nm more, at 470Nm, and fuel efficiency is boosted from 8.7L/100km to 7.6L/100km.
But the new SQ5 surpasses expectations in more than a few ways. It’s feels smoother, yet quicker than before. The turbo V6’s generous torque is generated almost from idle – 1,370rpm to 4,500rpm – and all that’s shuffled without drama through the eight-speed automatic gearbox, the same as the previous SQ5 though different from the dual-clutch standard on the current Q5, and then the quattro all-wheel drive.
Its drivetrain town manners are very good. The 21-inch tyres do offer a busy ride on rough surfaces, but it’s a minor transgression compared to other SUVs, even non-performance ones. On smooth roads, the cabin is extremely quiet, so long road trips are not a chore in the SQ5.
Of course the entire reason to go ‘S’ is to have more usable power on hand when you want it. The fat torque range means muscular acceleration is just a foot-flex away, and the range of driving modes actually do work – Efficiency mode wrings out more miles, Dynamic mode stiffens things up in the right places and lets you have it your (fast) way.
The other surprise is that the SQ5 is an involving car to drive. There’s quite a bit of communication – just enough body movement to tell you what’s what, while the steering is enjoyably precise, the overall level of grip is high. In fact, driving it back to back against the S5 Sportback (with a similar engine, but quicker overall) we’d choose the SQ5 over it for higher points in fun. Perhaps it’s the same case, like how a hot hatch is more fun to drive at sane speeds than a sports car is.
Even if you’re not driving mad, the additional horsepower comes with more equipment over the standard model, such as S-model styling, bigger wheels, premium sound system, heads-up display and more – though it does represent a $60,000 premium over the Q5 2.0 quattro.
The SQ5 has more company this time around, anything from the likes of the Porsche Macan S, to the new Range Rover Velar, and the forthcoming BMW X3 M40i. At least amongst the Audi S cars, it stands tall.
It’s been scientifically proven that joining the shorter queue isn’t always the best bet for time saving. In the case of Audi’s range of mid-high-performance S cars, the case is that opting for the taller car may actually deliver a better time behind the wheel.
Engine 2,995cc, 24V, V6, turbocharged
Power 354hp at 5400-6400rpm
Torque 500Nm at 1370-4500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100km/h 5.4 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.4L/100km
Price $306,000 with COE
Agent Premium Automobiles
Verdict: Restrained styling, but plentiful power and fun-ner than you’d think
Also Consider: BMW X3 M40i, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Porsche Macan