by John Tallodi
The burgeoning mid-sized SUV market has recently seen some new entrants to the field that threaten to steal the limelight away from the more established contenders. The Audi Q5 is one such machine with the first generation model arriving in 2009 it has evolved into an accomplished all-rounder although lacking somewhat compared to the newer machinery now on offer.
That has all changed with the newest generation of Q5, featuring an all-new chassis and bang-up-to-date interior technology it provides a great starting point for the performance oriented SQ5.
Audi has a long history of building quality interiors and the SQ5 is no exception here. It may lack the SQ7's sumptuous luxury feel, but then again it also lacks its much higher price tag. Diamond-stitched leather seats, high quality switchgear and a slightly sombre atmosphere are the order of the day here. The new Virtual Cockpit instrumentation is an option on the SQ5 and well worth considering. Taller passengers may find the rear seats a bit tight for longer trips but they do have a split-folding facility for bulky items. Something passengers won't be complaining about is the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and finally a USB port is standard too.
The standard suspension with its adaptive dampers does a good job of offering an absorbent ride while maintaining tight body control in corners but the optional air suspension is even better at ironing out rougher road surfaces. This new model is lighter and nimbler than before and while it may still not challenge the Macan for class honors, it offers a very composed and planted feel when pushed. 20-inch wheels are standard and may offer a tad softer ride than the optional 21-inch items which come with more performance biased Pirelli P Zero rubber.
Gone is last years supercharged lump and in its place we have an identically powerful 354 horsepower turbo V6, torque is up a tad to 369 lb-ft and over a broader rev-range which means an improvement in tractability and efficiency. The 8-speed automatic transmission remains unchanged and its quick shifts along with permanent Quattro all-wheel drive help power the SQ5 to 60mph in 5.1-seconds. Such is the competition in the sporty SUV category these days that this performance just puts it on par with the 380 hp Jaguar F-Pace S and leaves it trailing a few tenths behind the Mercedes-AMG GLC43 and class-leading BMW X4 M40i. Roll-on performance, perhaps a better measure of everyday usability, is right up there with the class leaders though.
Every SQ5 comes in Premium Plus trim which means they are equipped with a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry, LED headlights, Electric front seats, 7-inch touchscreen and smartphone integration to name a few noteworthy items.
The Prestige trim upgrade includes the useful Virtual Cockpit instrumentation, upgraded 8.3-inch touchscreen and 19-speaker sound system as well as a top-down parking assist system.
The S Sport pack offers air suspension, sports differential and additional features for the Virtual Cockpit display. Most of these items can be added individually to the Premium Plus trim as well and the usual modern driver aids such as blind-spot alerts are there for enhanced safety.
The latest generation SQ5 is a logical evolution of Audi's mid-range performance SUV and is the ideal match for those looking for an understated yet very accomplished all-terrain vehicle. It may not be a giant leap over its predecessor, but the detail changes make for a far more complete package.