2021 Audi SQ5 TDI review: Popular performance SUV returns
Audi’s SQ5 could be the spiritual successor to Australia’s muscle cars. In the same way that a HSV Commodore or Ford Falcon GT was a family sedan with a big motor and butch bodywork, the Audi SQ5 is a beefed up version of the SUVs preferred by many buyers.
As with Australian muscle cars, the SQ5 experience is all about the engine, a thumping 3.0-litre turbo diesel V6 offering 251kW of power and 700Nm of torque.
The latter is particularly impressive, arriving from just 1750rpm.
Heavily revised for 2021 with a secondary electric turbocharger to reduce lag, the SQ5 motor is even more impressive than those numbers suggest.
It’s a charming machine with the baritone voice and effortless strength of a big V8, bringing rare character to the increasingly homogenous SUV scene.
That will be welcome news to fans of the best-selling original SQ5.
It had a similar diesel motor benched in the wake of the Volkswagen Group’s emissions scandal, replaced by an effective if forgettable petrol V6.
The new diesel is complemented by 21-inch alloy wheels wrapped in high performance tyres as well as multi-mode sports suspension and oversized brakes with bright red calipers. A flat-bottomed steering wheel with shift paddles joins sports seats in a cabin that feels a step above regular Q5 models.
As the range-topping model in the Q5 family, the SQ5 is loaded with equipment including three-zone climate control, heated leather seats with electric adjustment, a panoramic sunroof and a Bang and Olufsen stereo.
Safety tech includes auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and traffic jam assistance.
Well appointed and beautifully finished, the cabin is a practical space with a good amount of room, including 520 litres of cargo space.
A more stylish Sportback version with a coupe-like roofline arrives in the second half of the year.
Priced from $104,900 plus on road costs – about $117,000 drive away – the SQ5 costs about $40,000 more than a regular diesel Q5.
While the model is wildly popular, it really isn’t a budget option.
Audi’s decision to pack it with desirable features means today’s SQ5 is a business jet rather than a performance bargain, which is disappointing as the 2013 original cost less than $90,000 and matched the new model’s performance. A stingy three-year warranty also disappoints.
Optional extras on our test model included digital organic light-emitting diode (OLED) tail lamps worth $2500, and a sport differential that added $3000 to the bill.
The former are nice to have, but the latter is a must for keen drivers, as it helps the SQ5 rotate into corners and make the most of its prodigious power.
The SQ5 TDI remains one of Audi’s better efforts. Planted on the road, with an accommodating ride and surplus traction from its all-wheel-drive system, it feels unflappable in everyday driving while rewarding keen drivers with surprising poise.
Though it doesn’t quite have the sports-car athleticism of a Porsche Macan, the SQ5’s lusty shove, long-range stamina and relaxed highway performance make it a fine companion for long road trips.
Accurate steering, powerful brakes and that mighty motor translate to a special driving experience.
It’s easy to see why the Audi SQ5 has been a smash hit in Australia, combining a fashionable, practical body style with loads of equipment and a truly unique engine.
Practical, punchy and packed with character, Audi’s SQ5 is a great option for keen drivers.
AUDI SQ5 TDI VITALS
Price: About $117,000 drive-away
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 251kW, 700Nm
Warranty/servicing: Three years/unlimited km, $3100 for 5 years
Safety: 5 stars (2017), 8 airbags, auto emergency braking, blind-spot warning, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert
Cargo: 520 litres
Spare: Space saver