We drove Audi’s new high-performance SUV that’s loaded with modern tech — here’s what it was like

source
Hollis Johnson

PROS: It has a satisfying engine, sleek styling, luxurious interior, good cargo capacity, nifty handling seating for five, and a fantastic infotainment system.

CONS: It will cost you.

Let’s cut to the chase: the 2018 Audi SQ5 3.0T quattro tiptronic – that’s the vehicle’s full, grand name – is a superb SUV that costs a lot. But it will give you just about everything you could possibly want in this segment of the market.

The SUV seats four comfortably, five people in a pinch, and it has a good amount of cargo space. The vehicle has sleek styling and features one of the best infotainment systems around. The SQ5 also has reasonable fuel economy and drives great.

But it begins pricing at $54,300, and our tester tipped the scales at a healthy $65,800, once options were added. So you gotta pay to play.

Will you enjoy the playing? I kind of gave it away already, but read on for specifics:


Say “Howdy!” to the 2018 Audi SQ5. This is the second generation of the performance-oriented SUV.

source
Hollis Johnson

Always one of my favorites, the SQ5 takes the pleasing Q5 and revs it up. By the way, just to cover it now, those rectangular chrome exhaust ports aren’t real — they’re a design element.

source
Hollis Johnson

The SQ5 is the sportier version of the stalwart Q5. Audi has a higher-up performance division, but there’s currently no RSQ5. Which is fine because the SQ5 gives you pretty much all you need on the go-quick front.

source
Hollis Johnson

The SQ5 badging is quite subtle on the front grille, up next to this famous four linked Audi rings.

source
Hollis Johnson

It’s a bit more prominent in back.

source
Hollis Johnson

The design has proven popular and has helped Audi carve out a space for itself in a field crowded with BMWs, Mercedes, Lexuses, Acuras, Infinitis, and Porsches (and more recently, Jaguars, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, and Lamborghinis).

source
Hollis Johnson

The rear end is as svelte as possible for an SUV that needs to be able to, for example, fit a bicycle. (I tested that out while I had the vehicle and was able to fit a two-wheeler back there with no problem.)

source
Hollis Johnson

The SQ5 summarizes everything that the luxury SUV has become: it’s German, it looks sharp, and it has moderate offroad capability, but is really more about handing everyday driving in affluent zip codes. It’s built on a car-like crossover platform and for those who like a little pep under the gas pedal, it delivers.

source
Hollis Johnson

The big change for the 2018 model was under the hood. The SQ5 loses the previous generation’s supercharged V6 and gets a 3.0-liter turbocharged mill.

source
Hollis Johnson

There it is, tucked away under …

source
Hollis Johnson

… fine Teutonic plastic.

source
Hollis Johnson

A six-speed automatic transmission pipes 354 horsepower to the SQ5’s outstanding all-wheel-drive system. The Quattro setup favors the rear wheels, providing a more traditionally dynamic driving experience. But if you start to lose grip up front, the system will lend an assist.

source
Hollis Johnson

Fuel economy, at 19 mpg city/24 highway/21 combined is deeply OK. You do pay a price for performance. Audi says you’ll be parting with over $3,000 extra in gas money over five years compared to what, say, a lowered-powered mass-market SUV would cost you.


Snazzy red brake calipers provide the stopping power and are part of a $3,000 S Sport package that also includes a jazzier adaptive-air suspension and a special rear differential. The Pirelli P-Zeros are more sporty than off-roady.

source
Hollis Johnson

Cargo capacity is in-line with the segment. I dropped the rear seats so I could load up the aforementioned bike. Otherwise, the passenger configuration provides ample space for grocery-shopping duty and short family road trips.

source
Hollis Johnson

Let’s slip inside the very nice black interior.

source
Hollis Johnson

It feels as good as it photographs.

source
Hollis Johnson

Notice the flat-bottom steering wheel, a classic sporty element.

source
Hollis Johnson

The vibe is premium-minimalist, with just enough bling to avoid the sense that you’re luxury ideals are too austere.

source
Hollis Johnson

The front quilted leather seats are comfortable, heated, and not overly bolstered. But they will hold you snug if you get spirited with the accelerator and tempt the SQ5 to serve up its 5-second 0-60 mph dash.

source
Hollis Johnson

Lovely details: Nappa leather and Alcantara.

source
Hollis Johnson

More lovely details. The use of carbon-fiber highlights is judicious — and costs $500 extra.

source
Hollis Johnson

As you can see, the back seats are also nice, but legroom isn’t all that great. My 11-year-old and six-year-old children were fine, but my 14-year-old daughter preferred the front seat.

source
Hollis Johnson

There’s no third-row option. For that, you need to move up from the Q5 family to the Q7.

source
Hollis Johnson

Read the Q7 review here.


Any gloominess caused by the all-black interior is offset by the large moonroof.

source
Hollis Johnson

The same diamond-stitched quilted seats found up front are in the rear.

source
Hollis Johnson

From the driver’s perspective, the SQ5 is a pretty high-tech machine, thanks to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit infotainment system, which makes use of both the center stack’s touchscreen and the instrument cluster. There’s also a head-up display.

source
Hollis Johnson

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit was Business Insider’s 2016 Infotainment System of the Year.


The driver can customize the all-digital cluster.

source
Hollis Johnson

A lot of people seem to like the full-on mapping view. No more shifting your eyes back and forth between instrument clusters and the screen for navigation!

source
Hollis Johnson

The cluster provides a lot of information, including functions to monitor the SQ5’s vital signs.

source
Hollis Johnson

Climate controls are more straightforward: buttons and knobs. But the design is sophisticated, modern, and high-tech.

source
Hollis Johnson

The core of the system is state-of-the art.

source
Hollis Johnson

The seven-inch screen seems bigger than the specs would suggest, and the resolution is arrestingly vivid. The system checks every box, although there is a learning curve because the controller is located above the shifters and you have to get used to a submenu-based organization.

Once you get a feel for it, however, the system is incomparable. Audio is sent through a wonderful Bang & Olufsen system, and you can cue up everything from your own tunes via Bluetooth or USB to SiriusXM satellite radio. Connectivity isn’t quite as intuitive as with some other carmakers – especially GM and its seamless 4G LTE OnStar system – but it’s present. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported, as is good old-fashioned Bluetooth smartphone pairing.

It never lags, it never hiccups. It just works fantastically well.


You can see the combination of a trackpad, controller, and buttons/switches here, above the shifter.

source
Hollis Johnson

Not a massive amount of storage up front, but about as much as you’d find in similar BMW and Mercedes SUVs.

source
Hollis Johnson

So how about we fire this guy up?

source
Hollis Johnson

Here’s the verdict!

source
Hollis Johnson

Well, the Audi SQ5 is splendid. It’s still my favorite luxury SUV in this performance segment, although some of good vibes are probably coming from nostalgia as the Jaguar F-Pace and the Maserati Levante are stout competition.

I wasn’t even as irritated by the turbo six as I thought I’d be, although I very much prefer the old supercharged six-banger. My colleague Ben Zhang detected a bit of turbo lag, and that makes sense, but the SQ5 is so biased toward sending power to the rear wheels if at all possible that you want to forgive it. It has that delicious, rear-wheel-drive hunker down thing going for it, and not many SUVs with all-wheel-drive systems can say that.

Driving it is a lot of fun. Perhaps not quite as tight and sharp as a Porsche Cayenne or Macan, but the suspension in Dynamic mode (there are also Comfort, Auto, and Individual mode that can be customized) likes to dig in, keeping the sway into the curves under control, which is something for a vehicle that tips the scales at over 4,000 lbs. The steering can get vague, but not distractingly so, and it provides a decent feel no matter which mode you’re in.

For bopping around town and freeway cruising, the SQ5 is a capable performer – so much so that you might ask why, if you never get on the throttle and want to skip through the gears with the paddle shifters, you need to pay the premium over the Q5?

Because you can. I think it’s an intangible thing, but I like the SQ5 way, way more than Q5, and I think the Q5 is terrific. The SQ5 is simply better. It’s worth the money. Audi has always done a great job with the Q5. And it followed that with the SQ5. With the 2018 model, the excellence marches on.