The 2014 Audi SQ5 stands out as an overtly sporting entry in a segment largely characterized by anonymous, sanitized luxury.
Introduced in 2008, the Audi Q5 was yet another entry in the premium crossover segment taking advantage of meteoric global demand for the breed. and while it had the understatedly handsome looks and upscalefeel as is expected of an Audi product, nothing about it was a segment-busting game-changer. With its 354-hp supercharged V-6, and attention-grabbing exhaust snarl, the SQ5 definitely stands out as an overtly sporting entry in a segment largely characterized by anonymous, sanitized luxury.
Visually, differences between the standard Q5 and SQ5 are fairly subtle. A lower-rear-bumper accent piece, with quad exhaust tips, set it apart from lesser Q5 models, while beefy 15-inch front and 13-inch rear vented disc brakes show that this crossover is built for more than just groceries and soccer practice. Inside, the differences are a little more noticeable, the most apparent being Audi's signature flat-bottom steering wheel signifying its deliberately high-performance models.
Firing up the SQ5's supercharged 3.0-liter direct-injected V-6 still doesn't give much clue to the driving experience in store, with the civilized muted purr expected of an upscale luxury vehicle. The less overtly-sporting Q5 3.0T shares a lower-boost version of the same engine. Don't ask why Audi still insists on denoting its supercharged engines with a "T." At part throttle, the SQ5 behaves as you'd expect of a $50,000+ luxury crossover, with responsive acceleration, and a subtly sporty,-but-not-obnoxious exhaust burble. But if you kick down the throttle in anger, the SQ5 responds in-kind with a ferociously raw exhaust note accompanying the brisk acceleration.
The 0-60 sprint is dispatched in just 4.8 seconds, with a 13.5-second quarter-mile time -- Legitimately quick in anyone's book, and especially so for an SUV. At first, we thought the SQ5 was equipped with a double-clutch transmission, since shifts were so lightning-quick, a characteristic we've come to expect from Audi's S tronic dual-clutch boxes. But double-checking the spec sheet, we came to realize the SQ5 has a conventional torque-converter eight-speed automatic. The SQ5's smooth low-speed crawling behavior demonstrated one of the advantages of a traditional automatic over a dual-clutch, which can sometimes lurch a bit in low-speed stop-and-go driving.
But don't think a traditional slushbox kills all the fun. In sport mode and using the paddle shifters on the steering wheel, the SQ5 felt right at home on the backroad twisties. Since we live in Southern California, one of the more densely-populated metropolitan areas in the U.S., we found ourselves having to pull over to let the traffic open up to fully enjoy the SQ5's canyon-carving talents. The SQ5's pizza-pan-sized brakes aren't just for looks, either, with ample fade resistance, and the ability to bring this 4400-pouns SUV to a halt from 60 mph in just 104 feet.
So the SQ5's enthusiast chops have been firmly established, but how does it fare in the area of value? Like most high-performance German vehicles, that judgment is subjective, and the SQ5 is right on the edge of being considered a deal versus being overpriced. Total price on our Prestige model was $64,770, including destination. Certainly not the most egregious asking price we've seen for an upscale SUV. But if you can skip the Prestige package, the Estoril Blue paint, and black wood/aluminum wood interior inlays and other accoutrements, you could drive off an Audi lot for just $52,795. At that price, the SQ5 strikes us as a compelling buy, although we don't think a Navigation system or HD radio should be optional at that price, which are available as a $3400 option package, bringing the total to $56,195. That's right on the edge of what we'd subjectively say is "worth it."
But if you value performance just as much or more than utility in your SUV, and are willing to pay a premium for it, we can confidently say the Audi SQ5 delivers the goods, with an endearingly mischievous personality that will egg you on when the mood strikes.
|2014 Audi SQ5|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$64,770|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0L/354 hp/347 lb-ft supercharged DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4401 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.0 x 75.2 x 65.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.5 sec @ 102.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||104 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||25.9 sec @ 0.71 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||16/23 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||211/147 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.05 lb/mile|