I’ve spent a lot of time discussing the Audi SQ5 but until last month had never experienced it myself. One of my best friends has been considering a purchase for some time and ever since his test drive the subject has come up over a cold Three Sheets on numerous occasions. Why he feels the need to purchase a small SUV is something I’ve never understood but I’ve been intrigued to drive it regardless.
I’ve always been a tad sceptical of the sporty SUV class, which may stem from my own desire to be as close to the road as possible when pushing a car to its limits (and thus my preference for a sports wagon over an SUV). I feel far more confident and more in control with a lower seating position so I was keen to see how I’d feel about the SQ5 after tackling the bends on Peats Ridge Rd en route to Wollombi and Broke.
I picked up the SQ5 from Audi’s excellent new service centre at Zetland and headed to Bondi for a meeting. Steering the car through Randwick and down into Bondi I was instantly confronted with my biggest issue about the car – the review mirrors. They are absolutely massive. They make the Rolls Royce Ghost mirrors look like the mirror on the inside of your girlfriend’s NARS blush. As I noted above, whenever I’m driving cars I like to set my seat as low as possible to benefit from a lower sense of gravity, even more so in a higher vehicle. In the SQ5 I couldn’t. I’m about 5 foot 10, which I’d say is pretty average and with my seat in my preferred seating position all I could see was the mirror. Coming into roundabouts, trying to spot someone entering on the right, was like trying to plug a power cord into the socket in the dark, as was turning from any hill or crest.
Sitting on Hall Street in Bondi the Estorial Blue SQ5 was in its element. Admiring it from the window of the cafe with my friend Patrick I could see why the design team made the mirrors so big, because they look brilliant. I can’t fault the SQ5’s exterior styling, I think it’s a gorgeous car, handsome but muscular with a lovely stance on the road. Interior wise I also find it to fault, Audi execute the sports luxury cabin with ease and the quilted leather seats are a dream.
With the boot full I hit the highway heading north to spend some time experiencing the car on the open road. With my seat lifted a touch and my phone hooked up to the entertainment system I cycled through the various engine, transmission and steering settings from Drive Select. In most cases I’ll have the exhaust dialled up as much as possible then alter the steering and transmission depending on the type of driving I’m doing. With the sports exhaust selected the diesel twin turbo V6 is aided by sound actuators inside the cabin giving the SQ5 a lovely growling V8 soundtrack and with access to effortless power from the world’s quickest diesel engine it’s more than a competent cruiser.
Experiencing the world’s fastest diesel is best enjoyed through the bends and the SQ5 conquers them with surprising poise. For a 2 tonne beast, braking hard into corners comes as second nature and the Quattro all wheel drive system provides more than a reassuring amount of grip. Where the SQ5 shines however is its acceleration, with the ability to propel you from 0-100 in 5.1 secs and overtake anything dribbling along in front of you. With 21inch wheels and low profile tires the ride is sometimes harsh and the steering feels a little over engined in Dynamic mode but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.
Following my time with the car I’ve realised that the SQ5 makes perfect sense for a young 29 year old bachelor. It’s impressive without being overzealous, it’s practical and somewhat fuel efficient, it’s aspirational without being ridiculous and it’s got enough room for a handful of friends, a couple of surfboards and a golf bag or two.
In saying this I must admit I wasn’t enamoured of it. I can’t quite explain why, perhaps it was the mirrors or my personal preference away from SUVs. At around $106k on road it’s a pretty sharp choice considering the performance it delivers but it’s got stiff competition from the Macan S which comes in around $5k cheaper. Unfortunately I haven’t driven the Macan so I can’t compare the two but I will say that the SQ5 is a seriously enjoyable drive and a pleasure to be in.