2017 Audi S Q5 Quattro
– Fairly quick
– Cabin space
– Comfortable ride
– Pricey with options
– Sporty but a bit soft
– Limited offroad ability
It’s not hard to believe that the Audi Q5 has been around since late 2008 virtually unchanged. Well, there have been a few updates every now and then, with new engines and more LED lighting thrown into the mix. And now, in this German-built first generation’s final year, the sportiest version of the compact crossover finally comes to the GCC in SQ5 guise.
It is honestly hard to tell the difference between a regular Q5 and an SQ5, unless you have them side by side. Obvious ‘S’ styling cues include the matte-metal mirror covers, but otherwise you have to be very familiar with Audi wheel designs and minor front-grille variations to spot one of these undercover performance models. The styling is clean and understated, with a hint of sportiness thanks to the fancy 21-inch wheels and quad exhaust tips, but the overall shape does not lend itself to an aggressive makeover.
Stepping into the crossover is easy enough, as the ground clearance is only a bit more than a car. The cabin itself is simple and largely dark, although there are some stand-out design details such as the minimalist metal trim, the quilted seat upholstery and the flat-bottomed steering wheel. There is the obligatory soft-touch padding on the upper dash and door panels, and a fair bit of hard plastics making up all below-the-waist cabin panels.
Cabin space is decent both front and back, as is the boot. There is even storage space under the boot floor next to the space-saver spare wheel. The front seats are well-bolstered and comfortable, while the back has the usual bench.
The multimedia tech is a bit outdated compared to newer Audi sedans, with a fixed screen high up on the dash, controlled by a dial and buttons on the centre console. The controls are a bit complicated, and require looking down while driving to use. And while you get navigation, panoramic glass roof, smart keyless entry, cruise control, power tailgate, HID headlights, front-rear parking sensors, a full set of airbags, a good auto a/c with rear vents and a great stereo, for some reason there are no USB ports or a rear camera, hinting at how old this Q5 platform is. We found out later that at least the rear camera is an option.
Powered by a supercharged 3.0-litre V6 engine, it makes an impressive 354 hp at 6000 rpm. The equally-juicy 470 Nm of torque peaks from 2150 rpm, but while the SQ5 is fast, power builds up gradually rather than kicking in hard at lower revs like its turbocharged rivals. We got a 0-100 kph time of 5.9 seconds during our December test, with a clean take-off from idle thanks to Quattro all-wheel-drive.
The SQ5 comes with a traditional 8-speed automatic, so it behaves with traditional refinement rather than the jerky-perky behaviour of dual-clutch transmissions. Gear-shifts are reasonably quick and handled smoothly, with paddle-shifters for manual shifting.
The SQ5 errs towards comfort rather than being an all-out corner-carver. As such, it rides pretty smoothly and is reasonably quiet except for some tyre noise, the latter getting more prominent at speeds above 100 kph. And the 13.5 litres/100 km in fuel consumption isn’t bad either, considering the power on tap.
The sporty-tuned crossover handles entertainingly well, with great grip from its wide 255/40 tyres, but some softness in the suspension can be felt in hard driving, with noticeable float over uneven surfaces and a bit of body roll creeping in on tighter corners. The steering is light in ‘comfort’ mode, but firms up in ‘sport’ mode, although there is not much feedback. The brakes are excellent.
The SQ5 isn’t built for offroading, and we didn’t try it out on sand, but we believe it can power through the soft stuff as long as the dunes aren’t particularly steep. The limited ground clearance, low-profile tyres and lack of low-range gearing will hinder any progress on tougher routes.
The Audi SQ5 is a last hurrah for the outgoing platform, and is meant to be a fast mile-muncher rather than something to chase sports cars with. When viewed that way, we appreciated its comfort levels and general practicality. However, it lacks some basic modern features for a premium vehicle and doesn’t look as expensive as it is.
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