Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
In terms of pure straight line pace the SQ5 is fast, but not quite as explosively so as, say, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. Yet if you’re after something that is quick but also effortless to drive, i.e. that gains speed without needing to be ragged, the immense torque that this 3.0 TDI engine produces does the job. There’s still some momentary low-end turbo lag, even with the EPC, but otherwise the engine responds so forcefully in its mid-range that you barely need to flex your right toe; you’re up to 70 mph or swiftly past that dawdling Sunday driver in no time at all. It’s just a shame that Audi has chosen to augment the engine note using a sound generator located in the exhaust; this faux V8 soundtrack quickly becomes irritating at a cruise.
The brakes prove to be impressive at shedding speed but are also easy to apply smoothly. The standard eight-speed automatic gearbox is a little slow to kick down several gears in one hit, but it sifts through its ratios smoothly and speedily the rest of the time – especially if you change gears manually using the paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel.
There are various driving modes to flick between, the most focused of which is Dynamic. This sharpens the SQ5's accelerator response, adds weight to the steering and makes the gearbox more assertive. The standard fit S suspension with damping control (air suspension is only available on the higher Vorsprung trim), can be stiffened to reduce body lean through corners.
The results are good. In dynamic mode, the weighty steering might not be quite as communicative as the Porsche Macan’s, but it is accurate and quick to respond to inputs, making it dead easy to place the SQ5 exactly where you want on the road. This applies whether you’re carving blithely along your favourite B-road or funnelling down the outside lane of a motorway. And it controls its body remarkably well through tight bends and feels more eager to change direction than the GLC 43. The Macan might be a little more fun, with its more rear-biased four-wheel drive set-up, but we doubt that it would actually prove any faster round a track.
Flick the SQ5 back into Comfort mode and everything relaxes, including the suspension damping, allowing lumps and bumps on roads around town to be dealt with commendably for a car with big 20in alloy wheels. Even the 21in alloys fitted to Vorsprung models don’t ruin the ride thanks to its standard fit air suspension — and once on the motorway it is supremely cosseting. If you throw into the equation the SQ5's whisper-quiet levels of wind and road noise, it makes for a hugely relaxing car to cover big miles in.
We’re yet to try the standard suspension, though. If it’s follows the lead of the regular Q5 models, don’t be surprised to find it’s a bit firmer.