2013 Audi SQ5 review
It's all down to Audi's new Biturbo diesel engine – previously available only in the A6. The 309bhp it produces is impressive enough, but it's the 479lb ft of torque between 1450rpm and 2800rpm that gives the SQ5 such staggering real-world pace.
What’s the 2013 Audi SQ5 like to drive?
Press the accelerator hard enough to make the eight-speed auto gearbox kick down, and you're hurled forward. In fact, even a gentle squeeze of your right foot will have the SQ5 building speed at a staggering rate.
One of the big drawbacks of many powerful diesel engines is that they fill the cabin with a lorry-like clatter under hard acceleration, but the SQ5's is different; in Dynamic mode it sounds more like a V-engined petrol than a diesel.
This is partly due to 'sound actuators' in the exhaust system, but thankfully the noise they help produce doesn't sound at all artificial, and it dies down noticeably when you deselect Dynamic using the optional Drive Select system.
Like all Q5s, the S handles pretty sharply, too. With loads of grip and comparatively tight body control, it munches through corners more like a hatchback than a typical SUV.
You just need to be careful when exiting corners – particularly in the wet. Put your foot down even a fraction too early and the front wheels will start to run wide.
In Normal mode, the overly light steering doesn't give you a huge amount of confidence through fast bends. Switch back to Dynamic and the steering becomes heavier, but the way the weight is applied as you turn the wheel doesn’t feel particularly natural.
The ride isn't too bad. Things are a little firm and unsettled at low speeds, but the SQ5 doesn't thump and crash its way along the road like you might expect.
Despite its incredible pace, the SQ5 is also reasonably efficient, averaging a respectable 41.5mpg – although you'll have to drive it decidedly gently to achieve this figure.
What’s the 2013 Audi SQ5 like inside?
Standard leather trim and lashings of expensive-looking soft-touch plastic makes the cabin feel classy. However, the Q5's interior doesn't quite have the flawless attention to detail of Audi's best cabins; some of the switchgear is a bit lightweight.
The Q5's MMI infotainment system isn't as user-friendly as it is in some of Audi's newer models, either, mainly because the shortcut keys aren't as intuitive. The air-con controls are also rather fussy.
Four adults can travel in complete comfort thanks to the impressive space. The rear seats can be slid back and forth to juggle space between the passenger compartment and the boot. Wherever you set them, though, the boot is pretty huge.
The high driving position means you get a good view out and there's lots of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel.
The SQ5 also comes with automatic xenon headlights, three-zone climate control, cruise control and Bluetooth, but sat-nav will cost an extra £1695.
Should I buy one?
Obviously, more sedate versions of the Q5 (such as the 2.0 TDI) make better financial sense, but if you want near-supercar pace from your SUV without the associated running costs, the new SQ5 has plenty going for it.
The only other SUV that comes close on performance at this money is the BMW X3 xDrive35d M Sport, and the diesel engine in that car is nowhere near as smooth or refined.
True, the BMW handles better, costs £1150 less to buy and is slightly more efficient, but it’s predicted to hold its value less well.
What Car? says...
BMW X3 xDrive35d M Sport
Porsche Cayenne V8 diesel S
Engine size3.0-litre twin-turbo diesel
By Will Nightingale