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2018 Audi SQ5 Review: The “S” Is for Special

by Jimmy Dinsmore
2018 Audi SQ5 Review: The “S” Is for Specialzoom in

    2018 Audi SQ5

  • Engine: 3.0-liter V6
  • Horsepower: 354
  • Torque (lb-ft.): 369
  • Transmission: 7-speed automatic
  • Drive Configuration: AWD
  • Top Speed (mph): 155
  • City/Hwy/Combined MPG: 19/24/21
  • Curb Weight (lb): 4,398
  • Wheelbase (in): 111.2
  • Total Length (in): 183.9
  • Width (in): 84.3
  • Base Price (USD): $54,300
  • Price as Tested (USD): $54,300

Earlier this year, I reviewed the 2018 Audi Q5. I wasn’t used to Audi SUVs as I generally get behind the wheel of their sedans (and thoroughly enjoy myself). But I did enjoy my time in the redesigned Q5 as well. In that review, I lamented: “There’s an SQ5 which does take on more of an aggressive posture…” Well, wouldn’t you know it, my contact at Audi read that little snippet in my Q5 review and hooked me up in the SQ5 so I could really see the difference.

Aesthetically, the SQ5 is only subtly different the Q5. But, certainly the SQ5 puts some sporty accents into this crossover. The grille has an aluminum outline which gives the SQ5 a more aggressive front end. Plus, unlike the Q5, there are full-on LED headlights, whereas the Q5 only has LED running lights. The same aluminum trim exists around the windows and side mirrors giving it a polished, complete look. 20-inch wheels give the SQ5 a more aggressive stance and a panoramic sunroof adds a touch of elegance.

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There are a lot of S words that appropriately describe the SQ5 like “special,” “sporty,” or “stunning.” They all are worthy descriptors. Underneath the hood is where special and sporty are most apropos. While the Q5 has a small 4-cylinder that I noted outperformed its specs, the SQ5 brings a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine with 102 more horses than the 4-banger. This is the kind of performance I grew to love in Audi’s sedans, and getting behind the wheel of the SQ5, when compared the Q5, was a night and day difference. The 354 horsepower-engine is ready to go at all times. Plus there’s no turbo lag, and quick shifting thanks to the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Of course, all that power results in a drop in fuel economy. The SQ5 has an EPA rating of 19 mpg/city and 24 mpg/highway. I averaged around 21 mpg in a week’s worth of heavy-footed driving (the only way to drive this car). The Q5’s fuel economy is about 4 mpg better. I found this fuel economy to be acceptable considering the significant performance gains.

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Shift into dynamic mode (one of four available driving modes) and the SQ5 lowers the suspension a little. This is one of the biggest (and best) differences in the SQ5 vs. the Q5, the adaptive damping suspension and the sport air suspension. The driving dynamics become quite special, especially for a crossover. In the SQ5, the suspension offers a wonderful balance between cushioned and responsive over the road. The cornering is tremendously sharp thanks to responsive steering, and the flat-bottomed steering wheel feels sporty in your hands. Of course, the SQ5 has Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system adding more confidence in all road conditions. I didn’t quite have the “feels” in the Q5 that I got in the SQ5. Now THIS is an Audi. This is how I expect an Audi SUV to perform and handle.

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Similar to the exterior, the interior differences between the Q5 and the SQ5 are subtle, but outstanding. I thoroughly liked the interior of the Q5 and didn’t find it to lack much. But the SQ5 takes things even further and really puts a luxurious stamp on this crossover. The aluminum theme from the outside makes its way inside with brushed aluminum inlays, whereas in the Q5, this was a darker walnut-like wood. The aluminum jazzes up the interior and makes it feel brighter and more exciting, generally. An 8.3-inch center display is standard, compared to the 7-inch display in the Q5. The stainless-steel door sills light up with a special S logo. In fact, that S badging can be found throughout the SQ5, on the steering wheel, the floor and the seats. Audi’s virtual cockpit is standard for the SQ5 and I still love that feature so much. It feels so fresh and modern and puts all the pertinent information displayed for you right at your eye level. Plus, there’s a heads-up display.

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All of this works in concert with the beautifully designed wing-like wraparound dashboard. The advanced MMI touch pad drives the infotainment system. This is a case of German engineering at its finest. It’s great, modern, and amazing once you master it. The only excess is the gimmicky handwriting tech that works for inputting nav destinations, but is not safe to do while driving. It’s cool, but over-engineered and simpler would probably be better.

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The cabin space is exactly the same between the Q5 and the SQ5. The rear seat affords almost 41 inches of legroom while there is 40.2 inches of headroom. The five-passenger capacity is legitimately comfortable for three adults in the back seat with 57.7 inches of shoulder room. Behind the second row, there’s 26.8 cubic feet of cargo room and with the rear seat folded back, there’s a very good 60.4 inches of total cargo area.

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All of the S-word superlatives that make the SQ5 better than the Q5 do come at a cost. The SQ5 is about $10,000 more than a well-equipped Q5. The SQ5 has an MSRP of $54,300 compared to the $45,000 or so of the kitted-out Q5 Premium. So, it’s up to you if all those extras and all the enthusiastic performance is worth the extra cash. It’s my job to offer my take, and I say it’s totally worth it. The Q5 is fine and nice, but the SQ5 offers the performance and luxury that I want in an Audi. And for that, the higher price tag is warranted.

I appreciate the opportunity to have driven both of these SUVs. While they are similar in looks, they’re vastly different in performance, which is where it matters most to me. Overall, the SQ5 is head and shoulders above its close counterpart Q5 in my book.

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