MALIBU, California—It’s about 70 degrees on Zuma Beach and the sun is shinning through scattered clouds.
Big blue waves crash along the shore as I slowly rock a 2018 Audi SQ5 in low gear, which I have to honestly say is one of the finest SUVs in the world, deeper and deeper into the soft sand.
Under its hood, the sportier Q5 gets a 3.0-liter turbo V-6 engine that delivers 354 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The V-6 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
But more about the Audi SQ5 in a moment—I spent a majority of my morning stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, which tends to suck no matter what you are driving, though massaging seats do help a little bit.
My starting point for today’s drive is The Malibu Beach Inn, a romantic spot on the Pacific Coast Highway with stunning views of the ocean. It’s the perfect rendezvous to pick up my first tester of the day—a silver 2018 Audi Q5.
Under the hood, the Q5 quattro AWD packs a potent 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder, the same that you’d find in the 2018 A5 Cabriolet—another standout ride by Audi.
It delivers a spunky 252 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to a smooth seven-speed automatic transmission. It can sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds.
Out on the country roads, the roomy Q5 SUV handles just as well as an A5 thanks to its magical all-wheel drive system. Pricing for the Q5 starts at $42,475 and comes packed with plenty of bells and whistles that make the competition seem down right primitive.
Our man Georg Kacher took an Audi Q5 muddin’ down in Mexico last year and survived to tell tales of his adventures. Kacher and the Q5 tackled Baja California beaches and riverbeds with ease despite extreme temperatures in excess of 118 degrees.
Around the back roads of Southern California, the Q5 performs better than an Alfa Romeo Stelvio, Acura MDX, and could easily leave a Lexus RX in the dust. The cabin is substantially quieter than ones found in those SUVs as well.
After a spirited run through Kardashian country, we swap our silver Q5 for the sportier-looking 2018 Audi SQ5 at a Starbucks’ parking lot in Calabasas.
The SQ5 crossover is geared mostly towards tech happy males in their mid-thirties. Audi’s virtual cockpit is by far the best system on the planet—it even manages to make the latest ones by Mercedes-Benz look seriously dated.
Audi’s SQ5 starts at $55,275 for the Premium Plus version that rolls on 20-inch wheels and all-season tires and $59,475 for the Prestige, which gets an optional 21-inch wheel package with summer sport tires.
It also wears a more aggressive grille, special badging, aluminum mirrors, and has a rear defuser and spoiler to help it stand apart.
The V-6 engine feels noticeably quicker as I hit the accelerator and easy pass a blacked out Land Rover on Las Virgenes Road on the drive back towards Malibu.
It’s a scenic run and I quickly find myself back on PCH in record time. The Audi SQ5 has a top speed of 155 mph, but I only managed about a third of that speed along the shoreline.
With a little time to kill before lunch, we ride north and run the SQ5 in dynamic mode and adjust the sport adaptive air suspension, which lowers the vehicle several inches. It feels more aggressive and handles just fine on the highway.
Aside from dynamic, there are comfort, auto, individual, and offroad modes to choose from. Audi says all of its Q5 and SQ5 models get Quattro all-wheel drive standard, which offers high-precision dynamic handling with active torque distribution to both axles.
Compared to the Q5’s smoother and more refined four-cylinder engine, the SQ5’s V-6 feels a bit harsher, but it’s definitely a bit more engaging to drive. Both also feature start-stop systems to help save fuel and are thankfully easy to deactivate.
At Zuma Beach, I stopped to take a few photographs of the Audi SUV with a glorious Pacific Ocean as a backdrop—which bring us back to my current dilemma in the sand after switching the SQ5 into lift/offroad mode.
After a minute or so, I manage to get the sand to dance on the hood and sunroof of the 4,398-pound SUV. It is not looking good. Like countless overzealous four-wheelers, I failed to consider the SQ5’s standard 20-inch summer performance tires in my quest for the perfect Instagram post. Big mistake.
Here’s the fine print from the SUV’s spec sheet—“Summer performance tires are designed for optimum performance, and handling in warm climates. They are not suitable for cold, snowy, or icy weather conditions. If you drive under those circumstances, you should equip your vehicle with all-season or winter tires, which offer better traction under those conditions. We suggest you use the recommended winter or all-season tire specified for your car or its equivalent.”
They left out a word of warning about sandy SoCal beaches, but you get the drift. I couldn’t locate the lifeguard on duty for help, as it seemed like the tide may come and more importantly—we might be late for lunch.
Fortunately, a savior named Fred and his French girlfriend had a towrope in their silver Dodge Ram pickup and pulled us out of the sand. He tells us his friend just bought a Q5 and loves it—and so do we.
This round goes to the Q5 with its all-season rubber, but if you want to look cool on the streets, the SQ5 was made for you. Just watch out for the beaches.
|2018 Audi SQ5 Specifications|
|PRICE||$55,275 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6/354 hp @ 5,400-6,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,370-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/24 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||183.9 x 74.5 x 65.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.1 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|
|2018 Audi Q5 Specifications|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/252 hp @ 5,000 rpm, 273 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine AWD SUV|
|EPA MILEAGE||23/27 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||183.5 x 74.4 x 65.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.9 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|