It sounds like a case of deja vu: Audi is introducing the 2013 SQ5 at the Detroit auto show, less than a year after the automaker revealed the SQ5 TDI at Le Mans. Yet the final three letters explain the distinction between these two versions of Audi's performance crossover. Whereas the original SQ5 TDI uses a diesel engine and is sold only in Europe, the new SQ5 has a gasoline powerplant and will be marketed in North America, Asia, and South America.
Sportier Supercharged Six
The main ingredient in the gasoline-fired SQ5 is a variation of the 3.0T supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine used in many other Audi products -- applications include the S4, S5, A6, A7, Q7, and even the regular Q5. Here the engine is tuned to produce 354 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque, compared with the 272 hp and 295 lb-ft on offer in a standard Q5 3.0T. An eight-speed automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive direct power to the road. Audi says the 0-to-62-mph sprint takes 5.3 seconds and top speed is limited to 155 mph. That makes the SQ5 about 0.7-second quicker to the benchmark than the regular Q5 3.0T. Despite the power upgrade, Audi expects combined fuel economy of around 21 mpg.
The numbers also stack up well when compared with the European-market SQ5 TDI. That model has a 3.0-liter twin-turbo diesel V-6 that produces 313 hp and 479 lb-ft, sending it to 62 mph in a claimed 5.1 seconds.
Stiffer Suspension, Sharper Styling
Beneath the sheetmetal, the Audi SQ5 receives the same chassis upgrades as its diesel forbearer. Tauter springs and dampers make the crossover ride 1.2 inch lower than a normal Q5. Twenty-inch wheels shod in wide, low-profile tires are standard, while 21-inch alloys are optional. The front brake calipers wear SQ5 logos, and the all-wheel-drive system has a torque-vectoring feature for more nimble cornering.
Like the TDI version, the Audi SQ5 wears new front and rear fascias, a larger roof spoiler, a platinum-gray front grille, aluminum-look mirrors, LED running lights, and V6T badges. Two new paint colors, Estoril blue and panther black, and unique to the SQ5. Silver trim is used for the roof rails, rear skid plate, and greenhouse trim; a pair of round exhaust tips peeks out from either side of the rear bumper.
The cabin adopts contrasting pearl Nappa leather and Alcantara upholstery, brushed aluminum trim pieces, gray instruments with white lettering, aluminum-look pedals, and aluminum-look shift paddles on the steering wheel. Optional upgrades include wood, piano-black, and carbon-fiber trim pieces; four other colors of leather; a moon silver headliner; and Audi's usual list of luxury goodies.
After preening at the Detroit auto show, the Audi SQ5 hits American showrooms in the third quarter of 2013. The performance-oriented compact crossover won't have much direct competition when it arrives here; its two closest rivals will be the BMW X3 xDrive35i and the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic, although neither offers as much power or performance as the Audi SQ5. The X3 xDrive35i has a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six with 300 hp that can propel it to 60 mph in a claimed 5.5 seconds. The Mercedes GLK350's 3.5-liter V-6 makes 302 hp, and the crossover takes 6.4 seconds to reach the 60-mph benchmark.
Pricing for the 2013 Audi SQ5 will be announced closer to its on-sale date later this year. The base Audi Q5 starts at $36,795 (after destination) and the Q5 3.0T $44,795, so expect the new SQ5 variant to crest the $50,000 mark when it arrives here in the fall.