An air suspension setup is offered for the first time on a Q5 variant in North America.
We as the media get to sample all sorts of vehicles, and it’s very rare for one to stand out enough that we dread returning it. Occasionally the cost of such a vehicle will exceed my price range, but the odd time, it fits the bill perfectly. All-new this year, the Audi Q5 replaces last year’s still-competent model. Now based on the MLB platform that also underpins the brilliant new A4 (reviewed here), the Q5 is up to par with every single one of its rivals. This though, isn’t an ordinary Q5. We took a spin in the 2018 Audi SQ5 Technik, a vehicle that quickly earned the nickname of “family crossover missile”.
It looks almost no different from the standard Q5, which itself doesn’t look all that different from the model it replaces. Much like the A4 and S4 (reviewed here), the new Q5 is an evolutionary update, taking all of the best cues from its predecessor and adding a modern flair. LED lights front and rear brighten things up nicely, and a nice body line along the side profile and flared fenders accents the style. One huge differentiator on this model that spices it up considerably is the addition of adjustable air suspension, which, when combined with the 21” wheels on this test vehicle, give the SQ5 a mean stance as it sits hunkered down.
An air suspension setup is offered for the first time on a Q5 variant in North America, and makes for impeccable ride quality. Audi Drive Select, which allows the SQ5’s engine, suspension, steering, and all-wheel-drive system to be toggled between various modes, is quickly adaptive to the environment. When left in the “Comfort” setting, the SQ5 has a pillow-like, smooth ride that remains firm – a good reminder that this is the sportiest model. When put in “Dynamic”, the crossover lowers to maximize aerodynamics and of course, add that little bit of verve to its aesthetics.
Unfortunately, Audi has finally done away with the supercharged 3.0L V6 in the SQ5. This initial disappointment has all but vanished after sampling its replacement, a motor still bearing 3.0L of displacement. This V6 is turbocharged, and pushes 354 horsepower at 5,400RPM and 369 lb-ft. of torque at 1,370RPM. This is the same engine as seen in the new S4 (reviewed here) and S5. This thing pulls hard and strong, with minimal turbo lag and a sound that almost mimics the 4.2L V8 that was once a staple in Audi’s lineup. Engine response is immediate, and the exhaust makes deep crackles when letting off the throttle.
The transmission of choice is not Audi’s S-tronic dual-clutch, but the ZF eight-speed automatic that was seen in the previous SQ5 (reviewed here). The average buyer will be hard-pressed to identify that this is not a dual-clutch gearbox, because shifts are lightning-quick. In Sport or Tiptronic mode, the transmission responds to inputs in milliseconds. While the SQ5 does handle very well from a technical standpoint, the steering itself is a bit over-boosted and quite numb. It gets heavier when set to “Dynamic”, but artificial weight is all that adds.
A Sport Differential on this model means the SQ5 has an excellent torque vectoring system, minimizing understeer. When in a corner and needing more power, clutches send additional torque to the outside wheel. Since this application of quattro is still front-based, there is some understeer as the SQ5 approaches its limits, but it’s certainly reduced thanks to this diff. Additional tech on board includes Audi pre sense front and rear, which can apply the brakes if it detects an object or a vehicle in your path. A 360-degree camera is also on board this top-trim Technik tester.
Audi has rated the SQ5 at 12.7L/100km in the city and 10.0L/100km on the highway, for a combined estimate of 11.5L/100km. This is right in line with what we would expect for a vehicle in this segment, and quite frugal when considering that it pushes over 350 horsepower. Our test consisted of approximately 650km on 91-octane premium fuel, and resulted in 11.9L/100km with a bias towards city driving. The tank will hold 70L and requires premium thanks to the compression ratio and forced induction.
Interiors have always been an Audi forté; they’re very elegantly designed and almost minimalist, with attention to detail and good fit and finish. The latest SQ5 gets Virtual Cockpit, meaning the instrument cluster is fully customizable and capable of displaying a variety of different things. The rest of the Audi MMI interface remains one of the best in the business, sitting right up there with BMW’s iDrive. MMI now has compatibility for Apple CarPlay, which worked seamlessly throughout our test. Audio is brought by Bang & Olufsen, a spectacular setup that provides crystal clear reproduction of a variety of different audio genres.
Audi Canada prices the 2018 SQ5 at $61,300 to start, a significant sum over the base sticker of $44,950. The Technik includes a lot of the technology and premium kit as standard equipment, and starts at $66,790. Our test vehicle was equipped with the Advanced Driver Assistance Package ($2,100 for Audi pre sense, active lane assist, traffic congestion assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop/go), 21” wheels ($1,000), Carbon Atlas inlays ($900), quattro with Sport Differential ($1,900), and Sport adaptive air suspension ($1,500). The total comes to just under $75,000, which is a hefty sum, but a lot of car for the money.
There are, however, some minor gripes we had with the SQ5, and the main one is around the faux exhaust tips that are on the rear fascia of the vehicle. They’re not actually exhaust tips, nor is there any cutout for them. It’s artificial, and for purists, will take away from the otherwise-sporty aesthetic of the car. It’s a shame, because the exhaust itself sounds very, very good, especially when blipping on downshifts. Also, the MMI controller is a smaller plastic rotary knob unlike the hockey puck in the S3 (reviewed here).
All in all, the 2018 Audi SQ5 Technik is a luxury crossover with not only the latest bells and whistles, but a punchy new motor to give you that edge over the other parents in the school pick-up lane. This is the car for parents who aren’t quite ready to give up the performance of the S4 and get a plain-jane SUV or worse, a minivan. The SQ5 is available with Audi’s all-in maintenance plans and of course, full comprehensive warranty to ensure that you’ll be in good hands if anything were to go wrong down the road. This one’s a winner, and we can’t wait to see how sales pan out for the Canadian market.