The Audi SQ5 is something of a cult favourite, offering sports car-like performance combined with frugal diesel economy in a family-friendly SUV package.
It’s proven very popular with Australian luxury SUV buyers, long making up a huge chunk of overall Q5 sales, and the diesel in particular has been in such high demand Audi has killed the 3.0 TFSI petrol that launched with the second-generation car and brought back V6 diesel power – now with 48V mild-hybrid technology.
Now, Audi has released the vehicle you see here – the 2022 Audi SQ5 Sportback. The Q5 Sportback line-up is to the Q5 SUV what the BMW X4 is to the X3. Given Aussie buyers’ thirst for performance models, the SQ5 Sportback sounds like a winner before its tyres even hit the ground.
Priced from $110,900 plus on-road costs it’s not your run-of-the-mill family SUV, at least in terms of affordability, but when you consider equivalent rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz cost well over $10,000 more before options, in relative terms it’s something of a bargain.
We sampled the new SQ5 Sportback as part of the Australian media launch in Melbourne, where we were afforded a day’s worth of driving. How does it stack up?
The starting price of $110,900 before on-road costs makes the SQ5 Sportback $4400 more than the SQ5 SUV ($106,500).
Unlike the SUV, there’s no 50 TDI V6 diesel plugging the gap between the SQ5 and four-cylinder variants in the Sportback range, meaning the flagship coupe-SUV is more than $24,000 dearer than the mid-spec Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro.
What do you get for that extra spend? We’ll get to that in a bit, but it’s a combination of more kit and more performance, plus the street cred that comes with having the Audi ‘S’ badge rather than just an S line. The lovely Navarra Blue exterior paint is a no-cost option for the SQ5.
Pricing for the BMW kicks off at $123,900 plus on-roads, while the AMG is even dearer at $130,724.
Even with the premium you pay for the Sportback body style, the SQ5 presents compelling value against its main rivals.
The SQ5 scores the following standard equipment:
- Adaptive suspension
- 21-inch alloy wheels
- Premium paint
- Red brake calipers
- Rear privacy glass
- Leatherette-wrapped centre console
- 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system
- Head-up display
That’s on top of specification from lower grades, including:
- Matrix LED headlights
- Adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist
- Nappa leather upholstery
- Stainless steel pedals
- Sliding and reclining rear bench
- Panoramic sunroof
- 10-speaker sound system
- Power-adjustable front sports seats with four-way power lumbar
- Driver seat memory
- 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless phone charging
- DAB+ digital radio
- 12.3-inch ‘virtual cockpit plus’ digital instrument cluster
- Eight-speaker sound system
- 20-inch alloy wheels
- Hill descent control
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Audi connect plus
- Leather upholstery
- Three-zone climate control
- Illuminated door sills
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Hands-free power tailgate
- Keyless entry and start
- Ambient lighting
- Heated windscreen washer jets
The Audi Q5 and SQ5 wear a five-star ANCAP safety rating, and this carries over to the Sportback variants.
That’s based on an adult occupant protection score of 93 per cent, a child occupant protection score of 86 per cent, a pedestrian protection score of 73 per cent and a safety assist score of 56 per cent.
All models come standard with the following safety equipment:
- AEB with pedestrian detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Lane departure warning
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Safe exit warning
- Driver attention monitoring
- Eight airbags
- Surround-view cameras
- Front and rear parking sensors
The Q5 Sportback 45 TFSI quattro and SQ5 Sportback TDI also come with adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assist as standard (optional on the base 40 TDI quattro).
Long story short, it’s lovely.
SQ5 models come as standard with fine Nappa leather upholstery with diamond-pattern contrast stitching and matte brushed aluminium inlays. The leather can be had in Black, Rotor Grey or Magma Red, and it’s plush regardless of the colour scheme you choose.
As with the wider Q5 line-up, the SQ5’s cockpit is typically Audi and Germanic in that it’s ergonomically sound, cleanly designed, and solidly built.
The facelifted Q5 range may lack the dual-screen MMI touch setup of the larger Q7 and Q8, but the big tablet-style 10.1-inch touchscreen atop the dashboard runs the company’s latest infotainment software, and offers wireless smartphone connectivity.
Ahead of the driver, the 12.3-inch virtual cockpit plus features S-specific content including alternate rev and and speedo readouts shaped like video game performance gauges. It’s interesting the steering wheel doesn’t have a flat bottom, but whether that’s a pro or a con comes down to personal taste.
Comfort and space up front is great. There’s plenty of adjustment in the sports seats including memory for the driver and an extendable seat base (one of my favourite features in high-end cars), and they offer great support and bolstering. Front seat heating is also standard.
Audi has built in plenty of nooks and crannies to store your stuff, including little drawers in the centre console, deep door bins and a centre cubby under the armrest that has a sliding phone charger shelf as well as cupholders.
Material quality and tactility is right up there, though we’d like to see extended leather/leatherette on the dashboard and door tops. The lower section of the dash is hard plastic where most rivals will have padded surfaces.
Being a mid-sized SUV the SQ5 Sportback offers good room in the back, regardless of whether you’re lugging around little kids, lanky teenagers or full-grown adults.
I’m a little over 6’1 and I could comfortably sit behind my own driving position with good leg- and knee room, and good headroom despite the panoramic sunroof.
There’s a third zone of climate control with air vents back there, as well as map pockets behind the front seats and bottle holders in the doors. Add to that a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, USB and 12V charge ports, as well as ISOFIX points on the outboard rear seats and top-tether points for all three rear positions.
Behind the second row of seats the Q5 and SQ5 Sportback offer 510L of cargo capacity, just 10L less than the Q5 SUV. The sloping tailgate will make taller items a tough ask towards the rear, but the space is nicely square and flat.
Netting and remote releases for the rear seats add to the luggage area ammenities, and while Audi Australia doesn’t quote a maximum boot capacity with the second row folded, the European spec sheet lists 1470L – 50L less than the SUV version.
Power in the SQ5 and SQ5 Sportback now comes exclusively from a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system to enhance efficiency. Note it’s a single turbo, not a twin-turbo like the original.
However, the MHEV system powers an Electric Powered Compressor (EPC) which fills in when the conventional turbocharger isn’t getting enough exhaust gas flow.
According to Audi, the EPC can accelerate its compressor wheel at up to 65,000rpm in “roughly 300 milliseconds”, and “supports more spontaneous engine response when the vehicle moves off as well as when accelerating from low engine speeds”. Essentially, it minimises the laggy, lazy characteristics of a big single-turbo V6 diesel.
Drive is sent to a quattro permanent all-wheel drive system via a ‘tiptronic’ eight-speed torque-converter automatic with steering-mounted paddle shifters. The standard torque split is 40:60 front-to-rear but up to 85 per cent can be sent to the rear.
Outputs for the V6 TDI are quoted at 251kW (3800 to 3950rpm) and a beefy 700Nm (1750-3250rpm), with the 0-100 dash taking a claimed 5.1 seconds. Flat out, the SQ5 Sportback can hit a top speed of 250km/h – not bad for a 2085kg luxury bus.
As for fuel consumption, the SQ5 Sportback claims to use 7.1L/100km on the combined cycle, aided by the aforementioned 48V MHEV tech that can shut the engine off when coasting and when coming to a stop from around 20km/h.
The company also claims its latest generation of TDI diesel engines reduce harmful NOx emissions by “more than 90 per cent” through twin-dosing technology, which sees two SCR catalytic converters injecting AdBlue urea solution in two different parts of the exhaust system. Audi adds the new engines meet the latest Euro 6d emissions standards.
This was my first time driving an SQ5 of any kind. I had high hopes given the many years of positive reviews from journalists around the world.
Fire it up and you may not realise it’s a diesel, such is the clever sound actuation tech inside and outside the cabin.
Right away you notice the effortless performance in regular driving, with all 700Nm available from just 1750rpm though there’s still a hint of hesitation from a standstill. Impressive too is the eight-speed automatic transmission that gets the SQ5 TDI going smoothly and shifts with precision.
Audi’s 48-Volt mild-hybrid tech is well integrated too, much better than I remember from the Q7 45 TDI quattro I drove last year with a similar engine. The system cuts the engine as you roll to a standstill from around 20km/h to save fuel, and will even turn it off when coasting above 60km/h on flat ground or a slight descent.
Even better, it fires up the V6 diesel super quickly when you set off from the lights. Good stuff.
The SQ5 feels perfectly suited to being a daily driver – much like just about every other S model. It’s comfortable, refined, the controls can be dialled to lighter settings for ease of use, and you’re well catered for in terms of infotainment and driver assists.
On the standard adaptive dampers with conventional springs the SQ5 errs on the firmer side (not helped by those massive 21-inch alloys), but it’s far from uncomfortable or unsettled. Personally though, I’d want to try the optional adaptive air suspension.
The Audi drive select menu offers several modes, including Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Efficiency and Individual. Comfort and Dynamic have noticeable differences in the damper feel and the steering weight, and offer a character suited to their respective names, which some brands continue to get wrong.
With that said, the steering feel is still a bit numb even in the Dynamic setting, which means the SQ5 isn’t the most engaging performance SUV through a series of tight bends.
The SQ5 is more of a GT than a corner-carver, so it’s at its best on long sweeping bends on winding high-speed country roads. It probably suits the vehicle better, given some rivals try too hard to handle like a smaller, lighter car to the detriment of usability and comfort.
Sink the boot in and the SQ5 rockets towards the horizon. You can tell this thing is built for the Autobahn because it’s so confident under acceleration that there’s no question it could sit happily at its electronically-limited 250km/h top whack.
Under throttle there’s a satisfying (fake) burble which is certainly more characterful than diesel clatter. To me it sounds a little too fake, but there’s worse systems out there.
At a cruise the SQ5 is quiet and refined like it is in town, though the ride settles nicely at speed and that diesel engine hums away pretty much silently. Even on liquorice-thin Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres, there’s minimal road noise and the cabin is just well isolated from the outside world in general.
It’s perfectly suited to long road trips and quick overtakes. The SQ5 just eats up the miles.
From an assistance standpoint, Audi’s active safety and assist features feel quite familiar to me since I own a VW Golf. The adaptive cruise and lane-keep systems work as you’d expect them to, and having blind-spot monitoring (and big wing mirrors) helps offset the reduced rearward visibility out of the Sportback’s tapered rump.
Oddly, the Q5 and SQ5 don’t offer Audi’s new adaptive cruise assist feature which combines adaptive cruise and lane centring functions for semi-autonomous highway driving. Regardless, it all works well.
Audi Australia offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty across the local line-up. It’s on par with the likes of BMW, though trails Mercedes-Benz’s five-year, unlimited kilometre coverage.
Scheduled maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000km – whichever comes first. Audi offers upfront service plans which cover the first five years of servicing, which for the SQ5 costs $3170 or an average of $634 per year.
We averaged an indicated 8.0L/100km over 132km of mixed driving, including some more spirited country miles. While that’s a litre up on Audi’s claim, it’s a darn good result for something of this size and performance capability.
The SQ5 has always been a Q car; a sleeper if you will.
Even with its more rakish styling, the SQ5 Sportback maintains all the great traits of its wagon-bodied twin and adds a dash of styling flair and something different for those who want to stand out just a little.
I love the crushing torque of this V6 TDI engine, as well as its excellent real-world fuel economy, and while the Sportback body style may not be my first choice, it catches your eye and is hardly compromised in terms of interior packaging as a result.
Audis are understated and classy in a way BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes generally aren’t anymore, especially in terms of the SUV Coupe segments. The Q5 and SQ5 Sportbacks may not be as attractive as the smaller Q3 Sportback or the larger Q8, but they’re far from garish.
Minor complaints include the obviously fake exhaust tips – though these circular units are much nicer than the pre-facelift SQ5 – as well as the hard plastic trim on the lower tier of the dash. Otherwise, unless you dislike the rear-end design, there’s not much else to complain about.
It’s clear why the SQ5 TDI is a cult hero, and it also demonstrates why there’s still a place for diesels in modern motoring – even in the performance segments. Old faithful came through.
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