It seems like only yesterday I was pedal-to-the-metal in the heart of Germany’s majestic Black Forest behind the wheel of the first ever Audi SQ2, going hell for leather through a torrential downpour and it didn’t miss a beat.
To say I was mighty impressed would be an understatement, not just for the punch this diminutive Audi SUV had on tap, but more for the mind-blowing traction it had through challenging bends on a rain-soaked surface at properly good clip.
The last thing I want to do is sound like an ad for the four-ringed German marque, but its only when you are able to drive a vehicle in a leash-free manner in such foul weather do you realise just how effective Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system can be. You can’t help but be impressed.
Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit soon after we returned to Australia from that September 2019 launch, and now here we are, a full two years on and I’m only just hopping into what is an already facelifted version of the Audi SQ2 for a drive in local conditions with local speed limits. It is what it is, I guess.
Importantly, it’s the same vehicle but with the latest Audi grille and outside embellishments – more a nip and tuck if you will, not that I think it needed any additional go-fast work on top of what I drove in Germany.
It’s still a seriously capable crossover for those enthusiasts presumably moving from premium hot-hatch ownership into something offering similarly satisfying performance but in a more convenient, high-riding package. We get that 100 per cent and the SQ2 fits the brief perfectly, for the most part.
Mind, there’s not much to delineate the SQ2 from its regular Q2 stablemates outside the quad-pipe setup at the rear and a bit of extra bodywork, otherwise it’s all a bit subdued. Okay, it rides a bit lower to the ground, but I can’t help think properly flared rear guards and some nice silver ‘quattro’ lettering across the anthracite side skirts would give it a tad more exclusivity – at least, that’s what I’d want.
Whichever way you look at it, the 2022 Audi SQ2 commands a big premium over all its lesser Q2 stablemates, with its $65,300 sticker price excluding on-road costs.
If you like the size and styling of the Audi Q2, but don’t need quite so much performance from your small SUV, then the entry price into Q2 ownership is $42,900 plus on-roads for the front-drive 35 TFSI. Or, if you’d like to opt for the middle ground, there’s the 40 TFSI quattro S line from $49,900 before on-road costs, which gives you more versatility for weekend getaways to the ski fields and the like with its all-wheel drive system.
Rivals for the SQ2 include the BMW X2 M35i Pure ($68,900) that extracts more power and torque from the same 2.0-litre displacement, but no more performance than the Audi, or there’s the less powerful Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic ($69,900). Both make the SQ2 look like a bit of a bargain in this specialised niche segment.
And, for what it’s worth, Jaguar has the E-Pace 300 Sport, but at $82,200, and noticeably less performance on tap, it’s probably not a real competitor to the Audi.
Even with its price advantage, Audi has chosen to load up the SQ2 with a raft of luxury kit in an attempt to keep up with rival models who offer larger screens and arguably more bling.
First up is the pearl-effect paint in Apple Green, which is a no-cost option, as is every other metallic or pearl paint the SQ2 is offered in. My favourites are the flat Turbo Blue and Daytona Grey pearl.
There are 19-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels as standard, but our tester was fitted with some super-stylish five-arm rotor versions in gloss anthracite black ($1200), to match the contrasting lower body panels in Manhattan Grey ($300).
The SQ2’s lighting is top notch and includes Matrix LED headlights with dynamic start-up sequence, animated turn signals, high-beam assist with auto-dipping, LED tail lights, LED interior lighting and DAB+ digital radio.
There’s also keyless entry and start, an electrically-operated tailgate, rear privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors, auto wipers, Nappa leather upholstery with diamond stitching, as well as heated front seats in three stages with electric lumbar adjustment.
Additionally, the SQ2 comes with a 14-speaker, 705-watt Bang & Olufsen sound system, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting with 10 colours, auto-dimming and frameless rear-view mirror, an S sports steering wheel, wireless Apple CarPlay with wireless phone charging, a 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display, and an 8.3-inch infotainment system with navigation rounds out most of what is a comprehensively equipped pocket rocket.
While the Audi SQ2 hasn’t specifically been crash tested, the regular Q2 received a five-star ANCAP safety rating when crash-tested in 2016, scoring 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 86 per cent for child occupant protection, 70 per cent for pedestrian protection and 60 per cent for safety assist.
Nevertheless, the SQ2 is equipped the following active safety systems;
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane-keep assist
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Park assist (steers the vehicle into parallel/perpendicular park spaces)
- Front, front-side and curtain airbags
Personally, I’d much prefer the standard-fit black/Magma Red diamond-stitched upholstery in Nappa leather than the straight black no-cost option fitted on our tester, but like any top-spec Audi, the SQ2 looks and feels first-class.
Mostly, it’s about the fit and finish of the quality materials used, where all the plastics, even the hard stuff, has a premium look and feel to it. For so long Audi was the benchmark in automotive interiors in the luxury car segments, but its German rivals have largely caught up, except in the brightwork department, where the four-ringed automaker still reigns supreme, with its trademark knurled dials and brushed alloy trim that makes it all work so well together.
While I’ve got no real complaints with the size or resolution of both the digital instrument display or the central infotainment screen – they’re attractive and functional – unfortunately, they’re old-hat now and nowhere near as nicely integrated as those in more recently-released models, like the new Audi S3, which actually looks similar to the cockpit in the Porsche 911.
However, I don’t think it’s a deal breaker as the next iteration of the Audi SQ2 is at least a couple of years away, and in the end this diminutive go-fast SUV is all about performance and handling – something that may not change all that much, at least in the horsepower stakes.
The SQ2’s real metal air vent surrounds still captivate from a design perspective, as well as the functionality aspect; they’re big vents that blow plenty of air, and when you rotate the outer ring there’s a satisfying ‘click’ as they lock in to place, not unlike the sound of the original R8’s manual shifter every time you changed gear.
I particularly like the carbon-look trim that used sparingly on the dash and centre console, especially at night when they glow with iridescent blue light. It’s one of the most tasteful ambient light systems in the business.
The front seats don’t look particularly sporty and for what it’s worth could do with a tad more bolster (given the pace this thing is capable of), but they’re wonderfully comfortable thanks to deep cushioning.
The dash itself is largely uncluttered and intuitive, though not having a touchscreen for the infotainment is a bit of a pain, but Audi’s rotary dial is easy enough to get the hang of.
It’s a small unit the SQ2, so don’t expect a ton of space inside.
That said, rear legroom is reasonable, as long as you can live without rear air vents (bit of an oversight) or a centre armrest.
Boot space isn’t massive either at 355L, and that’s with the two-tier boot floor at its lowest position. Don’t get me wrong, a week’s worth of groceries is no issue and I’ve had two surfboards in this thing with rear seats folded. No spare wheel, either, just a repair goo pack.
Along with ‘fast’ wireless CarPlay, there’s USB-C charge points for both seat rows including two in the rear, which is about the only place you’ll find an example of cheaper-looking hard plastics, too. The second row also folds 60:40.
It’s the Volkswagen Group’s cracking 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot, making a solid 221kW of power at 5300rpm and 400Nm of torque between 2000rpm and 5200rpm going to all four wheels using a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The SQ2 can scoot from standstill to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds, while top speed is a governed 250km/h.
Fuel consumption is a claimed 7.7L/100km on a combined cycle using premium 98 RON as a minimum.
Mind, that is less than the incoming Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R, said to make 235kW and 420Nm from its 2.0-litre turbocharged (EA888) four-cylinder, when it lobs locally early in 2022. The new Audi S3 is also slightly punchier, with 228kW and 400Nm.
I know it’s a ‘high-riding’ SUV, but this is one that feels more like a very accomplished hot hatch from the moment you get to unleash that four-pot turbo on a good bit of road.
You can drive it in Comfort or even Auto modes if you like, but far more fun is to be had by scrolling down to Dynamic, where all the major controls are at their most engaging – engine response, shift speed, steering weight and exhaust note.
And, if you’re like me, you’ll automatically reach for the paddleshifters and pull a few gears as you enter the braking zone.
It goes hard, too. There’s a little bit of lag off the line but once you sink your boot in and the revs scramble past 2200rpm, there’s no stopping this pocket-rocket. You’ll run out of road long before SQ2 stops pulling.
But, never mind the straight-line pace, there’s more than enough of that to satisfy the enthusiast driver, it’s the ride and handling combo that’s at the heart of the SQ2’s behind-the-wheel satisfaction. It helps that the steering is 2.1 turns lock-to-lock, so there’s a natural tendency to seek out back-to-back bends where you can reap the rewards of Audi’s well-sorted chassis.
There’s an innate confidence built into this car, but it’s not any one thing that stands out here, rather it’s testament to just how well all the mechanical and tech systems work together.
I’d forgotten the SQ2 didn’t come with adaptive suspension, but while the dampers are fixed rate and skew slightly towards the firm side of things, the balance between body control and bump absorption is quite excellent. Add to that a tight (and fast) steering rack and plenty of mumbo under the right foot, and you get what is a more engaging Audi than you might imagine.
Tight, technical B-roads in an undulating landscape is where this thing can best display its uncanny prowess with a full-on assault, not unlike the roads I experienced at Victoria’s Targa High Country event a few years ago.
There isn’t the understeer you might expect, so turn-in feels direct, if not natural, and once you’re in the mid-to-high rev range, it feels positively nimble and just so much fun.
But, for most folks, there will be none of those shenanigans, just suburban duties day-in-and-day-out and that’s fine, because I had fun in the SQ2 just going down to the shops and blasting back up the hill and through the five successive roundabouts to get home.
Here’s the thing: currently we have a Volvo XC40 T5 R-Design with a Polestar tune as the family sled, but with both kids living away it’s more than we need these days, so guess what, the SQ2 is on the shortlist for the replacement.
Audi continues to offer a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, in stark contrast to the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Volvo, Lexus and Genesis.
Only BMW and Audi have not graduated from three-year terms in the luxury segment.
However, a five-year service plan for the SQ2 can be purchased for $2540 upfront.
I was really hoping my reunion with the SQ2 on home soil would have me raving about the little Audi crossover with the same enthusiasm I had after driving the car in Germany more than two years ago.
On the whole, I’ve got the same gusto for the car, even if the speeds were vastly lower than those experienced in Deutschland.
That engine still has plenty going for it, and the chassis is just as capable as I remember, while the passively-damped suspension handles the less-than-perfect roads here without compromising body movement or general ride comfort.
There’s something to be said for a fast little SUV with adept ride and handling from a premium German brand at a fair price, even if it’s not perfect.
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