A sport-tuned crossover wearing 21-inch low-profile summer tires has no right to ride as creamily as does Audi’s second-generation high-performance SQ5. But smooth and refined the SQ5 most assuredly is—as I discovered mere minutes after climbing behind its leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel. This is a busy segment of the market, bursting with the likes of the Alfa Romeo Stelvio, the Porsche Macan, the BMW X3, and the Jaguar F-Pace, to name just a few. Even among such impressive competition, though, the SQ5 has a lot to show for itself.
My Matador Red test car was a 2018 model but the 2019 carries over essentially unchanged aside from a new Premium base trim level that joins the Premium Plus and Prestige models. (Specs and pricing will be for 2019 models.) My example was a sumptuously appointed Prestige, which commands $9,700 over the Premium. For that sum you get a color head-up display, a Bang & Olufsen surround-sound audio system, Audi MMI navigation, Audi’s virtual cockpit, and much more. Among the other options on board: $500 carbon-fiber interior trim, the $595 paint, the $3,000 S Sport package (adaptive air suspension, red calipers, torque-vectoring rear differential), Nappa leather upholstery for $1,000, Dynamic Steering for $1,150, and 21-inch wheels with 255/40 summer rubber for another grand. My car also had an $1,800 Driver Assistance package that brought a bunch of active safety goodies, most of which were made standard on 2019 Premium Plus and/or Prestige models. The final tally to get a 2019 like mine? $70,340, not an insignificant amount for something this size.
But climb aboard and the SQ5 welcomes you into a stylish atmosphere full of pleasing shapes and rich materials, including fine, diamond-stitched quilted leather and crisp brushed-aluminum trim. The general feeling of quality is all but unsurpassed. This is a delicious—that’s the word—environment in which to hit the road. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard features of the comprehensive infotainment system, but the real star is the Virtual Cockpit, which beams a full-color, photo-realistic Google Earth map display onto a large screen directly behind the wheel. It looks great and works beautifully, also allowing you to configure the main gauges (speedo, tach) as you like them. A large rotary knob and an accompanying touchpad on the central console make navigating the MMI multimedia interface totally painless. Audi has smartly avoided doing away with buttons and switches altogether, using a simple dials-and-tabs interface for controlling the climate-control system, plus additional buttons for operating various systems intuitively. Even seemingly unimportant details—such as, say, how smoothly the central display screen rolls through SiriusXM radio stations—combine to enhance the driving experience. The is one well-thought-out cockpit.
Space-wise, the gen-two SQ5 is roomier than its predecessor, but you wouldn’t call it “big” inside. Rear-seat leg- and shoulder room step up a notch, but you’ll trade some spaciousness to enjoy the Audi’s tidy exterior dimensions. The cargo area behind the second row is adequate for groceries or bags for a getaway, but there are roomier options in this class. I’d say most performance-minded shoppers considering the SQ5 will be fine with its interior volume and its prioritization of sportiness over size.
That Sport adaptive air suspension is a recommended option, as it drops the ride height by 1.2 inches compared with the standard suspension, lowering the center of gravity and improving agility. Its modes are chosen using the Drive Select switch on the dash and include Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, Individual—allowing a personalized setup of ride height and damper stiffness—and Offroad, the last of which raises the suspension for increased ground clearance. I ran the SQ5 mostly in Dynamic, and even then the ride never got testy, at least on L.A.’s generally smooth roads. The rig has enough grip to be entertaining to hustle along when the mood strikes, the optional variable-ratio steering system becoming increasingly direct at low speeds to improve maneuvering and, on the highway, changing response to enhance stability. Overall, steering response is first-rate.
Not to be forgotten is the sublime powertrain. The turbocharged and direct-injected 3.0-liter V-6 is a stout little thing, good for 354 horsepower and serving up all 369 lb-ft of torque at just 1,370 rpm. Fed through the standard ZF eight-speed automatic and Quattro all-wheel drive, the turbo engine can launch the SQ5 to 60 mph in just over five seconds. There are faster rides in rival showrooms, but the Audi feels plenty brawny. The sport rear differential that comes with the S Sport package can, if needed, divert almost all torque to one rear wheel. The entire system—engine, transmission, Quattro, diff—works with conspicuous refinement. That is, it never seems to work hard, yet you find yourself zipping right along and feeling totally secure the entire time.
The SQ5 may not biggest or the fastest or the flashiest machine in its sporty-crossover field, but there’s nothing it doesn’t do well, it’s brimming with helpful safety tech, and it exudes poise and competence in any driving situation. Add the clean-lined exterior and the gorgeous cockpit, and you have a spirited package that deserves a spot on any list of one shopping the segment. I’d raise my hand for seat time in an SQ5 any day.
2019 Audi SQ5 Specifications
|ENGINE||3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6; 354 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,370 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||19/24 mpg (city/highway)|
|L x W x H||183.9 x 74.5 x 65.3 in|
|0–60 MPH||5.2 sec (est)|
|TOP SPEED||127 mph (mfr)|