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Detroit show: Audi SQ5 ditches diesel

Give it the beans: Audi Q5 production has moved from Ingolstadt to San José Chiapa in Mexico, and assembly of the hot SQ5 variant follows suit.

Petrol-powered Audi SQ5 super-SUV set for Australian launch in second half of 2017

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Audi logo10 Jan 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

AUDI wasted little time in following up the September reveal of its second-generation Q5 mid-size SUV with the hotted-up SQ5 unveiled at the Detroit motor show overnight, with the surprise packet for Australia being that power will switch from diesel to petrol when it arrives here in the latter half of 2017.

Producing 260kW of peak power and 500Nm of torque from 1370rpm to 4500rpm, the SQ5’s all-aluminium turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 is 20kW more powerful but 150Nm down on torque compared with the outgoing diesel-powered SQ5.

As such, it is three tenths slower than the old model in the 0-100km/h sprint at 5.4 seconds.

Mercedes-AMG also beats Audi with its GLC43, which pumps out 270kW and 520Nm, good for triple digits in just 4.9s.

Audi’s decision to change from diesel to petrol also harms fuel consumption, which has increased from 6.8L/100km to 8.3L/100km and is likely to result in price hikes over the current SQ5’s $92,600 plus on-roads starting price due to the new SQ5 missing out on luxury car tax breaks for vehicles consuming less than 7.0L/100km.

However, it is lighter and more efficient than the 260kW/470Nm supercharged V6 of a petrol-powered SQ5 version introduced in 2013 for markets where diesel is unpopular such as the United States, China and Japan but never made it Down Under.

A diesel drivetrain has not yet been announced but in November last year Audi powertrain development engineer Rolf Kronstorfer confirmed to GoAuto at the international launch Q5 in Mexico that two SQ5 engines would be available globally.

In addition to the engine changes, all the improvements that went into the second-generation Q5 apply to this hot variant, including a weight reduction of 35kg and stiffer body contributing to better agility.

For the SQ5, five-link suspension front and rear features adaptive dampers as standard, which are said to offer a distinct ride and handling contrast between the comfort and dynamic modes that also manipulate the steering and drivetrain.

The eight-speed transmission with paddle-shifters feeds the grunt into a quattro all-wheel-drive system that has a slight rear axle bias but shuffles drive to where it is needed most and has a torque control function to slightly brake individual wheels to aid and turn-in.

If the optional sport differential is fitted, rear axle behaviour is adjusted by the various driving modes and the system helps improve corner-exit traction and reduce understeer by distributing more torque to the outside rear wheel.

Air suspension that adds ride-height adjustability and variable-ratio dynamic steering are also optional.

Even compared with its stealthy predecessor, the SQ5 is visually subtle for a performance halo variant, with matte grey trim replacing much of the exterior chrome and a slightly bolder front bumper featuring sculpted air intakes.

Around the back is a diffuser with integrated dual exhaust tips flanking a honeycomb grille. Standard 20-inch alloy wheels can be upgraded with a choice of five 21-inch styles, behind which are 350mm rotors grabbed by six-piston callipers painted black as standard or red as an option.

SQ5-exclusive Panther Black paint finish is also available.

Inside the ambience is dark and sporty with the standard upholstery being a mixture of Alcantara and leather, with red contrast stitching throughout and brushed aluminium trim strips on the doors and dashboard, with faux aluminium paddle-shifters behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel and stainless steel pedals.

Customisations include diamond-quilted Nappa leather seats with massage function and a selection of wood or carbon-fibre trim pieces.

Audi has thrown much of its technological catalogue at the dashboard with the full-house 8.3-inch multimedia display, Wi-Fi hotspot and 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster display with specific sports functionality for the SQ5.

There is also adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, lane-keeping assistance, automatic collision warning and avoidance, rear cross traffic alert, exit warning to prevent opening the door in front of vehicles, road-sign recognition, hill descent control, self-parking and autonomous emergency braking.

Customers wanting more can go for a Bang & Olufsen premium 3D audio system, colour head-up display, and mobile phone signal booster.

The previous-generation SQ5 made up around of a third of all Australian Q5 sales and was at times the most popular variant in the line-up.

As a swansong for the long-lived first-generation SQ5, a Plus variant of the Australian-delivered diesel version with power upped 10kW and torque boosted 50Nm to 250kW/700Nm was released in April last year.

The mainstream Q5 is scheduled for Australian release in the third quarter of this year, so the SQ5 should not be far behind.

Despite its age, the outgoing Q5 still sold strongly last year with 3599 units, making it fourth most popular in the medium SUV over $60,000 segment after the Mercedes-Benz GLC (4454), Land Rover Discovery Sport (4432) and BMW X3 (3824).

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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.