BEHIND THE WHEEL: Audi SQ5
MONDAY NOVEMBER 2, 2020
The Q5 is quite possibly the least desirable midsize SUV offering from Germany. Seriously evolutionary exterior looks together with plain insides didn’t help but made it forgettable. An SQ5 is neither the fastest nor the loudest when compared to an X3 M40i or a GLC 43 so why would anyone in the world buy one?
I too have gone for either of those for how technologically filled or brawny they are however having one for a few days, their hyperactive personalities really starts to show. The ride never settles and with time, this wore me out. Call me old because I’ve come to a point in life where comfort is as important as performance. Don’t get me wrong because I still very much enjoy the childish noises that a 40i makes but the S pops are softer and at lower frequencies.
Daily commute comfort
Fit and finish
0-100 km/h 5.4 s
The few giveaways that the SQ5 might be ‘the fast one’ are those unnecessary large wheels with red callipers, V6T badge on its sides and that's about it. Bumpers, arches are no larger than those on a standard car or are there visible exhausts pipes. Everything is very watered down until you step inside to notice that this could actually be a little special.
Plenty of adjustments can be done to find a comfortable driving position plus these cross stitched seats are not only beautiful to look at plus snug to be in. A flat bottomed steering further hints on this is the fast one feels satisfying in the hands is also a good size. Someone’s got to get a promotion for doing the stitch work around here given how well that is executed. Push start to be greeted by a Nvidia-powered virtual cockpit that’s high on pixels, what a fine piece of technology.
Infotainment isn’t a touchscreen otherwise it will aid in cutting down input to navigate through menus but what I really wish for is with a press of a button, the screen can be flushed away to better match the interior’s minimalistic approach. Fortunately, this version of MMI does not require weeks of learning to get in tune with. If in-car computers still aren’t your thing, there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Locking or unlocking the car can only be done on the driver’s side, also there is no memory seat on the passenger side to remind you of how Volkswagen it is. Furthermore, materials used on top of the dash can be nicer to match the rest of the interior given this car has an optional extended upholstery package. On top of that, this car also has carbon inlays that’s somewhat excessive but nice to have. I believe everything will stay in place since each button and knob clicks with assurance. Like the Q7 driven last year, touch sensitive air conditioning control with integrated displays still is something neat.
The icing on the cake is unquestionably the 19 speakers 750-watt Bang & Olufsen 3D sound system. Knock bass, subwoofer down by a few counts and you’ll be in for a treat especially when lossless files are played. It makes no sense to consider buying a car for its audio but if you like your music, this alone is a good enough reason to swing you towards Audi’s direction. Sure this loses out to the Bowers & Wilkins in an XC60 then again, this one is half the price and comes with a DVD player.
Sunroofs make things that bit more open and ventilated but panoramic ones let in too much noise. Unsure of what Audi has pulled out of their sleeves but noise is being kept at a minimal. One thing to nitpick is that its shade takes ages to roll forward or backward. Life in the second row is great with ample of head alongside leg room for me. Recline too is good nevertheless more is welcomed.
Press start with foot on the brakes, SQ5 fires into life with not so subtle sounds. Steering is light with precision whereby you won’t find it difficult to manoeuvre in and out of a basement carpark. Throttle too is easy to modulate and very much drivable even in the sportiest mode. Although brakes are strong, they aren’t grabby so driving this for the first time is nothing frightful. Not to mention, using adaptive cruise was surprisingly user-friendly and I got it to work the first time.
Coming from the greatest roadster in history, I do not feel robbed of steering feel. Forget feedback, a car at this height, it is rather excellent to be this communicative. That being said, no SUV possesses the immediacy and feedback of a two-seater sports car.
The engine pulls progressively all the way to redline. In comfort mode, it takes the slightest bit to wake up while in dynamic, things are pretty much immediate. Augmented 8-cylinder sounds can also be tailored, as with the usuals; suspension, engine and gearbox.
Ride quality from its variable dampers is supple however imperfections can still be felt no thanks to large rubbers. That said, air suspension is available as an option and even without, it is noticeably more compliant than a GLC 43. Chuck it into corners at city speeds, some fun can actually be had in this Q5. Ultimately not a Macan but there’s some of that prowess lying underneath.
An 8-speed torque converter has been appointed over a dual clutch unit for smooth cog swapping. That said, shift by wire gear selection at times does not respond to input which requires several tries. Moving onto NVH, the SQ5 does well making it a superb package for daily hustling. From suburban driving, I’ve been averaging 11.5 litres every 100 km which is respectable for a car weighing this much.
The priciest option? A $3000 sports differential with the sole job of eliminating understeer. On this side of the world, this is quite an overkill or am I not going fast enough? What can be felt though is it working at parking speeds, a whirring sound that leads you to think something could be broken, that aggression can be dialled down in Individual mode.
By now, you can tell I’m enjoying myself with all these amenities that are nice to have but there’s no way of getting 2000 kilograms with me inside. Generally it lacks the response of lower, lighter cars and with the engine set to comfort, heft makes itself especially known when getting off the line and during in-gear acceleration. At least, it does not pitch, roll and yaw like some SUVs.
Getting into other modes via drive select while driving is always an underwhelming experience because it never gets there. Say you’d like to overtake with dynamic which is an up-click away but it will only get there having scrolled through the entire list of driving modes moreover by that time, an oncoming car has already closed the gap. Or you can pull the gear lever down then the engine will wake up for that boost of acceleration and that’s a far better solution.
Reading to go with watching everything on the SQ5 may not convince you even though it is everything you ever need and a little more. Comfort hasn’t been scarified for that nought point something second dash to a hundred and for once, I’m happy to trade speed for that extra insolation from the outside world.
Back to the beginning, why would anyone get an SQ5? As much as I’d like a V8, this is the furthest most can stretch to pitch in for more capacity and cylinders with practicality in mind for they might not be within reach for long.