Slower. Thirstier. And ten grand more expensive.
What on Earth has Audi done to its fabulous SQ5?
Ok, at least to the untrained eye it looks as if Audi has kicked a massive own goal with the second iteration of its much-vaunted, mid-sized sporty SUV – a car that in its first carnation performed, and sold, way beyond expectations.
So how do you suppose the ambitious German company whose motto – Vorsprung Durch Technik – progress through technology – could deliver a second edition that seems to be a distinct step back, in several ways, from the first?
Well, as always, thermogenic pre workout it’s never quite that simple.
Yes, the twin-turbo-diesel powerplant of the first-generation SQ5 was a cracker – and it earned the vehicle something of a cult following with its combination of performance, fuel-efficiency and, surprisingly, a rorty exhaust note.
And there’s still a possibility Audi will offer that engine package in this all-new, second-generation SQ5 at some stage.
But for the time being, at least, the SQ5 MKII has become a petrol power-only proposition.
And let’s be fair. In isolation, the new engine – and the updated, upgraded vehicle it powers – are pretty impressive. A robust 260 kilowatts, 500Nm of torque and a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 5.4 seconds. What’s not to like?
Well, the previous SQ5 model was slightly less powerful but much torquier and almost half a second quicker to the speed limit, plus 20 per cent more fuel efficient. Oh, and it was $10,000 cheaper, just for good measure.
So why, oh why, would Audi make such a momentous change to a model that was many a motoring writer’s wicked little secret – a bit like the Lite N Easy diet. All of the flavour, but none of the fat.
Or, in the Q5’s case, lots of fun without the thirst.
So why take such an attractive, successful recipe and throw it in the bin?
I mean, it’s not as if Audi is stepping away from its “performance diesel” concept. They’ll still offer the same remarkable twin-turbo V6 oil-burner that powered the first SQ5 in several of their sedan, coupe and hatchback models.
And at the top of their SUV range sits the SQ7, which uses an equally fabulous, physics-defying, tarmac-tearing twin-turbo diesel V8 that seems destined to attract a similar cult following to the now-departed SQ5.
Maybe, somewhere in the massive automotive empire that is the Volkswagen group, somebody decided the original SQ5 was stealing too much attention from another part of the family – perhaps the Porsche Macan?
Anyway, it’s not our argument to settle.
What is clear is that, for the time being, the SQ5 diesel is gone. And in its place, this new SQ5 remains a very impressive, quite delightful machine for anybody with $100-grand to drop on a mid-sized luxury SUV.
It certainly delivers on that brief.
The new SQ5 uses a turbocharged V6 petrol engine found in other models, including the new S4 sports sedan, coupled to a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission. So it’s a pretty decent conveyance in its own right.
Yes, it’s more expensive (with a starting price of $99,611, compared to $89k for the previous version) but Audi argues this new model includes more equipment, more technology, and more edgy, responsive performance from that gorgeous turbocharged petrol V6. It even has slightly more power – 260kW versus the previous model’s 235.
But the numbers don’t lie. The diesel backed up that power with a gargantuan 650Nm of torque (150 more than the new petrol engine). It was nearly half a second quicker when scampering to the speed limit (5.1 seconds versus the current 5.4). And it did all that while guzzling about 20 per cent less fuel (6.8L/100km versus 8.7L for the new car).
Okay, that’s enough looking back fondly.
This new SQ5 is more than good enough to stand on its own two feet and in many ways is a step up in class and comfort.
Don’t forget that it shares much of its DNA with the aforementioned Porsche Macan – a smash hit for its German maker in this ever-more competitive performance SUV space.The Audi’s instant punch and intoxicating engine note evoke similar reactions to its Porsche cousin.
And like the upgraded Q5 upon which it is based, the SQ5 enjoys improvements to its Quattro all-wheel-drive technology, adaptive air suspension and fancier infotainment and cockpit management systems.
The look hasn’t changed all that much – nor did it need to – but Audi claims it looks more athletic and powerful than its predecessor. No argument here.
The cabin has been redesigned, in Audi’s latest style, featuring clean, crisp lines and a dash with air-vents running the width of the vehicle.
Equipment upgrades include a choice of three headlight configurations – the basic Xenon or more sophisticated Led and Matrix LED (at additional cost of course).
Seats are more comfortable and supportive.
Audi’s brilliant Virtual Cockpit instrument panel – featuring a customisable colour LED screen to display speed, tacho, trip computer and even satellite navigation mapping, is a valuable addition. The MMI infotainment system has also been upgraded, with an optional Bang and Olufsen 3D sound system, with 19 speakers, a highlight.
Luggage capacity has been increased to 550 litres with the rear seats in place – or 1550 with them folded flat.
Audi says its safety systems are best-in-class – including autonomous braking at speeds of up to 40km/h and impact mitigation up to 85km/h. Adaptive cruise control is standard.
A parking assist package will slot the car into a parallel space without input from the driver. All in all, a pretty clever thing.
Without doubt, this is a well-evolved, beautifully conceived and well-delivered package. No wonder the SQ5 still makes a persuasive argument when lined up beside other rivals in this luxury-performance SUV space.
The only rival it doesn’t compare favourably to is the memory of its predecessor.
I liked this car – quite a lot. Just not as much as the previous model.
HOW BIG? It’s marginally longer (by 34mm) than the previous model – as well as 6mm taller and with a larger wheelbase. That means some additional interior space – and it’s adequately spacious for five passengers, including four adults.
HOW FAST? Pretty darned quick – the speed limit will arrive in 5.4 seconds worth of snarling acceleration – aided by its all-wheel-drive Quattro grip.
HOW THIRSTY? This is possibly the biggest retrograde step with the second-generation SQ5 – it now guzzles 8.7L/100km which pales to its predecessor’s tiny thirst.
HOW MUCH? A welter of added equipment helps ease the shock of the $10,000 price leap for the new model., with an entry-level ask of $99,611. Our test machine added better headlines, premium audio and colour head-up display – boosting the price to $111,507 as tested.
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