by Jarryd Neves
When it comes to performance SUVs, few are quite as stylish and understated as the Audi SQ5. The performance derivative of the Q5 crossover wraps stellar dynamics and practicality in a compact SUV body shell. Don't let the subtle exterior fool you, though: it may have one engine option, but the turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 provides ample motivation, courtesy of 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This is sent to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, resulting in a claimed 0-60 mph time of 4.7 seconds.
This is pretty much on par with the SQ5's competition, the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 which, ultimately, provide superior driver engagement. In the US, three trim configurations are available. The price of the Audi SQ5 ranges from $55,800 to $65,200, giving buyers plenty of choices to suit their budget. Is the SQ5 worth considering in the compact performance SUV segment?
Following extensive updates for the 2021 model year, the 2022 Audi SQ5 remains largely unchanged. But that hasn't stopped the Ingolstadt-based brand from tweaking the regular Q5 lineup, and so the SQ5 benefits from Carbon atlas trim inlays as standard.
See trim levels and configurations:
As standard, the SQ5 receives a five-link suspension setup (front and rear) with S-specific adaptive damping. While it prefers highway cruising to switchback roads, it's still impressive when the road gets twisty. However you spec your SQ5, you'll be purchasing a sporty SUV that has impressive handling ability and plenty of grip. However, the X3 M40i and GLC 43 have the measure of the Audi, in this category at least, handling in a crisper, more neutral fashion. Still, body roll in the Audi is kept to a minimum, especially with the air suspension fitted and placed in its stiffest setting.
The standard suspension is cosseting, soaking up the bumps with ease. But for an even more sumptuous ride quality, we'd opt for the aforementioned air suspension. Whether it's traversing a rough urban road or sailing down a smooth highway, the ride comfort is superb. The optional 21-inch wheels do give a harder edge, so sticking with the standard rims may be a better choice if you value comfort.
The steering, like many Audis, feels numb, although popping the car into its Dynamic setting does give it more substance. Premium Plus and Prestige models are available with a $1,150 Dynamic steering package - Audi says it provides a more engaging feel with more feedback - but, in our experience, it's not worth the additional outlay.
As with other vehicles from the brand, the SQ5's brakes are superb. With 13.8-inch brake discs in the front and 13-inch discs at the rear, the SUV exhibits excellent stopping power. There's plenty of feel and, despite it being a large SUV, fade is virtually non-existent - unless you're really going for it. Respect the SQ5's limits, and it'll look after you just fine.
In a word, yes - but there's more to this answer. It's an excellent SUV, but it also competes in a segment littered with talent, which includes the likes of the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 - both of which are more engaging to drive. After the recent refresh, the SQ5 feels revitalized and is a better package overall than the aging Mercedes. But the BMW has also recently received a refresh and is a fierce rival that deserves your consideration if you're shopping in this segment.
However, with a base price of $55,800, the new Audi SQ5 is cheaper than both rivals. While some may have the performance edge, none quite match the SQ5 for comfort or value for money. What's more, the Audi is feature-rich and boasts an abundance of safety features. It may not have best-in-class cargo volume, but it's still a perfectly practical SUV. If you're looking for a razor-sharp sports SUV, the BMW will be your best bet. However, if you want a comfortable commuter with decent power and speed, the Audi may just be the one for you.
Even though BMW can offer you an X3M, the M40i is the perfect compromise between excitement and value for money, offering nine-tenths of the performance afforded by the halo model and possessing the daily usability of lesser derivatives. For 2022, the six-cylinder receives a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, but the total output is still rated at 382-horsepower. Despite the higher power and torque (369 lb-ft), the racier BMW is more economical than the Audi and has more cargo room.
These benefits justify the extra $2,000 over the Audi's base price, but the X3 doesn't ride as well as the SQ5 and, while the interior is well-crafted, is lacking the overall solidity of its rival from Ingolstadt. It's certainly the better performance SUV, though. Through corners, the BMW exhibits astounding levels of grip and steering feedback, belying its lofty ride height. The B58 inline-six also feels more urgent and has a beautiful, raspy exhaust note that reminds us of BMW's legendary power plants of years gone by.
Like the X3 M40i, the GLC 43 is a middle ground between regular GLC variants and the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG GLC 63. But don't let that fool you into thinking this is the poor man's AMG. It may not have the glorious rumble of its bigger brother, but the turbocharged V6, with its 385 hp and 384 lb-ft, is a superb performer. While it's more performance-oriented than the Audi, it's still not as dynamically gifted as the BMW.
While styling is subjective, the Benz is the looker of the group, with its tasteful AMG kit and imposing presence. Then again, this may not be to everyone's taste and the conservative Audi may appeal. The GLC 43 is also pricier ($59,900), meaning you could get a reasonably well-equipped SQ5 for the same price as a base model AMG. By no means a bad car, it offers a fine balance between the comfort afforded by the Audi and the dynamism of the BMW. But in both categories, it's outclassed by its respective rivals.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Audi SQ5: