Car reviews - Audi - Q5 - SQ5 Plus
Clever chassis, drivetrain offers immense mid-range, quality feel to the interior
Room for improvement
Ride quality is brittle on bad bitumen and worse with optional 21s
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12 Apr 2016
THERE was little to be frowned upon when it came to Audi’s performance-honed SQ5 SUV, but the foibles didn’t extend to a lack of pace.
So much so that the $108,900 excluding on-roads SQ5 Plus doesn’t even claim to be any quicker in a straight-line sprint – it’s 0-100km/h time is unchanged from the ‘standard’ SQ5 at 5.1 seconds.
Also unchanged is the fuel economy claim of 6.8 litres per 100km – although the spirited launch drive was dwelling near double digits, under duress from the right foot – but the fact that it’s fuel use and 0-100km/h time are in a similar ballpark adds to the SQ5’s amusing abilities.
Its quietly handsome exterior covers a quality interior that has been given a trim and features upgrade, remaining a comfortable, quality cabin, albeit snug for anyone beyond the average height mark.
Legroom isn’t abundant front or rear and the width of the front footwell doesn't allow for much in the way of leg movement, but once away from the commuting chaos, the ability to brace against something in the bends is welcome.
The two-tonne SUV has been endowed with in-gear thrust that is laugh-out-loud funny the standard car was by no means slow in this regard but the meaty mid-range – 250kW is happy to make its presence known but visiting the top end of the tachometer feels a little pointless.
Why, with that much power on offer, is that, you may ask? The answer is a 50Nm increase to 700Nm, a worthy increase on what was already an immense amount of force from well down the rev range.
The torque spread on offer to the driver is ample – considerable urge is available without hesitation from the drivetrain and only the top few of the eight speeds on offer in the auto won’t deliver unearthly acceleration from low in the rev range.
Teamed with the interesting exhaust note from what Audi calls ‘sound actuators,’ it all makes corner-exits an aural event, for better or worse – opinion does vary a little on the soundtrack, but under full load it does growl with some intent.
But there’s few dissenters when it comes to the chassis – the addition of the active torque vectoring rear differential to the SQ5’s bag of tricks is where the real amusement begins.
The quattro all-wheel-drive systems for which the breed has long been famous are willing to work for the driver in the bends but the Plus model’s ability to push the drive to the outside rear wheel on corner exit takes it to a new level.
The differential’s demeanour is also adjustable through the drive select system, although the absence of adjustable suspension is noticeable when the roads deteriorate.
Where the journey in an SQ5 will lose some of its sheen is if the roads are second-rate as ride quality has not been the little Audi’s forte and little has changed in this respect with the Plus model.
As intent increases from behind the wheel the suspension works harder but with less strenuous pace over lumpier ground, the ride becomes brittle, even more so when the optional $1500 21-inch wheel package has been selected.
Given its ability in the bends it’s a payoff many will endure, but the extra funds can be better spent elsewhere in the options list than the larger wheel/tyre package – spend the options budget on the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system instead if the exhaust note isn’t to your liking.
But the Audi does deliver decently direct and well-weighted steering, good body control with the aforementioned mid-range and the SQ5’s swansong Plus edition gets from A to B in unnervingly short order.
In some respects the SQ5 is more deserving of an RS label than its smaller sibling from the Q3 range, but regardless of the badge, there are few SUVs that can match the Audi.
Outright pace is down and there’s a solid waiting list for the nicer-riding and still-swift Porsche Macan Diesel S, or there’s the BMW X4 xDrive35d, which has the drivetrain and chassis to mix it with the Audi, but a lacklustre loadspace and tight backseat holds it back.
Land Rover doesn’t offer anything short of the larger and more expensive Range Rover Sport to generate this sort of pace, while Jaguar is heading into that realm with F-Pace.
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