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Audi to put SQ5 front and centre at Q5 launch

Petrol power: Audi’s SQ5 makes the switch from diesel to petrol when the new-generation V6-powered mid-sized luxury flagship lands in showrooms at the same time as the regular Q5 variants in July.

SQ5 to lead from the front when new-generation Q5 hits Australian showrooms

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Audi logo16 Jun 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

AUDI Australia will waste no time getting its latest Q5 luxury SUV flagship, the SQ5, to market next month, launching it at the same time as regular Q5 variants in the all-new range.

This is unusual for the German car-maker, which usually settles the basic model range into the market first before propelling its Audi Sport-fettled S, SQ and RS variants into showrooms.

It speaks volumes about the importance of the SQ5 to the Q5 range, in which it has been one of the top sellers since the high-performance variant was added in 2013, helping to lift the high-riding wagon to the top of the luxury mid-sized SUV market a few years ago.

This time powered by a turbocharged V6 petrol engine instead of the turbo-diesel V6 of the current model, the new SQ5 will be on the same boat from the new factory in Mexico as the four-cylinder Q5s that will be priced between $65,900 and $73,900 at launch.

The Q5 launch cannot come quickly enough for Audi in Australia. Overall Audi sales are down 13.5 per cent this year, breaking a long run of year-on-year gains.

Now in run-out, the Q5 has slumped by 33 per cent to the end of May, hampered not only by its extreme age – the original was launched way back in 2009 before a major facelift in 2015 – but also “dieselgate” which forced Audi Australia to drop one of the most popular diesel-powered engines for a time until a new Euro 6-compliant engine became available last year.

It remains to be seen how customers who loved the deep well of torque and thrifty 6.8-litres-per-100km fuel economy of the outgoing diesel SQ5 will take to a petrol version that, while it is 20kW more powerful at 260kW, drops 150Nm of torque and chews more fuel, at 8.3L/100km.

While pricing for the SQ5 is being held back until launch, it is destined to cop an extra luxury car tax slug compared with the diesel version because it will not qualify for tax breaks offered on vehicles with a fuel economy below 7.0L/100km.

Audi Australia has not ruled out entirely a diesel SQ5 at some point, with general manager corporate communications Anna Burgdorf telling GoAuto that no such vehicle was planned “at this stage”.

The company has hinted a more modest V6 TDI Q5 variant could be added, perhaps before the end of the year.

Ms Burgdorf said the company’s large SUV flagship, the SQ7 with its stonking V8 diesel, was in strong demand.

“We could sell twice as many of them is we could get our hands on them,” she said.

Audi is hoping that, apart from the new Q5, a slew of other new models on the launch pad for Australia this year will help to reverse the company’s sales fortunes in what Ms Burgdorf described as a challenging start to 2017.

Fresh from debuting its new A5 coupe, TT RS coupe and cabrio and – this week – the first RS3 sedan, Audi is warming up to launch the RS5 Dynamic later this month, Q5 in July, A5 cabrio in August, R8 Spyder also about August, followed by the new RS5 coupe and revised RS3 Sportback in the final quarter.

The big worry for Audi is that its mass-selling models are struggling. This year, the small A3 that was facelifted in the second half of last year is down 24 per cent, the A4 is down 9.7 per cent and even the Q3 – Audi’s top seller since the Q5’s dieselgate dramas – has slipped 9.3 per cent.

Audi hopes the heavily revised RS3 sedan and Sportback with the all-new aluminium five-cylinder turbo engine – the most powerful in the class with 294kW – will give the whole A3 line a lift through the remainder of this year.

An RS Q3 using the same engine is also said to be in the pipeline for Australian launch at some point, but might be 2018.

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All future models

Q5 pricing

Motor industry news

GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.