Audi seems to be on a roll, soup-ing up everything in their stable. The Q5 3.0 TFSI we drove earlier is already as fast as anyone would want an SUV to be. Is there really a need for an 'S?Walk towards a parked SQ5 and you'll sense that this is no regular SUV. Especially from the rear. Quad tailpipes and huge 21-inch wheels hint at the brawn that is within this soft-roader. While the standard 'S' silver trimmings accentuate bits of the exterior like the silver wing mirrors and the grille. Other than that though, the SQ5 could be mistaken for a dressed-up Q5. So nice as this deep blue metallic paint is, if you want to really strike an impression, may we suggest a louder red paint instead?
Granted, not all of us want our cars to be loud (both literally and figuratively), so then our test car's set-up might just suit the subtle type pretty well. Other than the obvious SQ5 badge at the rear and 'V6T' emblem on the side fenders, there's pretty much nothing else to shout that this is a fast SUV. A VERY fast SUV.
The SQ5 is powered by a 3.0-litre supercharged unit that pushes out 354 bhp and 450 Nm of torque. That might not be a lot in this day and age, but it is enough to take the SQ5 from standstill to 100km/h in a mere 5.3 seconds. That puts it way ahead of its competitors like the Cayenne and X5.
It's not all about straight line sprints though, the Quattro-equipped SUV is planted and sure-footed even in the tight corners, although I felt that some body roll was still rather apparent. While I understand that this is an SUV, the 'S' branding just sets high expectations from the onset. That's when we realized that the Q5 wasn't quite as tweaked for performance as we'd expect. It is 30 mm lower and the dampers have been stiffened, but that's about it. Maybe if an RSQ5 was made, it'll be more sorted in this area.
While we're inside, let's look at the stuff that makes the SQ5 special. Hmmm, actually there's not much. A flat-bottom steering wheel with the SQ5 logo, a matching gear knob, some carbon fibre and silver trimmings are all that separate the SQ5 from the regular Q5. But that said, the interior of any Audi is truly respectable. Well-built and solid to the touch, the SQ5's finishing is top-notch quality stuff. It comes with a great sound system too. The Bang & Olufsen 14-speaker audio system is literally music to the ears, and makes cruising in the SQ5 very enjoyable.
From the 'command center', you can toggle with the Audi's Drive Select system to select between the pre-set modes - Comfort, Auto, Dynamic, and the customizable Individual setting. This allows you to drive the SUV almost any way you want it. Being a bit of an 'old man', I preferred it in Comfort. That way I could really feel the car for what it was, and not the synthetic sensation of sportiness through the Dynamic mode.
At this point, I guess it's safe to say that the SQ5 is not meant to be a driver's tool. It is really very quick, but it doesn't really excite. Think of it as an augmented Q5; it is effective, competent and pleasant to drive. But not exhilarating. Floor the accelerator and the SQ5 will pick up speed rapidly. Despite having huge 21-inch rims, the SUV is not hampered in anyway by the large wheels and the revs will pile up speedily. Turn it hard into a corner though, and there is a tad of understeer and a bit of body roll (Oh! Because I'm in Comfort?). But the SUV remains planted and sticks to almost any given line.
The exhaust note is great too, boomy with just the right amount of noise during the upshifts. But despite being a sporty SUV, the SQ5 is not stingy with the practical stuff. With lots of space all round and a total of 1,560 litres of cargo capacity, it will swallow quite a bit of stuff, including the dog.
As a fast and stylish SUV, the SQ5 scores. It's got the 'Sports' and 'Utility' part of the SUV acronym right, and then some. But as an 'S' model, it falls short a little. Audi could have made it sharper and more involving to drive, then it would have a winner in its hands. For me, the standard Q5 3.0 TFSI at $30,000 less looks like the better deal.