Long-term test (Introduction): Audi SQ5 3,0T FSI Quattro Tiptronic
Sporty SUVs. They’re now most certainly a thing. Indeed, this SQ5 finds itself scrapping for attention in an increasingly crowded (and shouty) segment that includes the Mercedes-AMG GLC43, the box-fresh BMW X3 M40i and, of course, the Porsche Macan S with which the Audi shares a number of oily bits.
But, unlike these harder-edged rivals, Ingolstadt’s flagship Q5 spreads its talents rather more broadly, lending it the aptitude to fulfil more roles, more of the time (life isn’t always a dead-quiet mountain pass, after all).
Whether this malleable personality will leave the SQ5 feeling any less special to pilot once the new-car smell has faded is something I’m keen to discover as this test progresses. Still, I didn’t have to wait long to become properly acquainted with this Ibis White example, since it sashayed into the CAR garage mere days ahead of a long-planned getaway.
So, with my daughter’s child seat securely in place thanks to one of the impeccably finished cabin’s three Isofix arrangements and the luggage compartment crammed with items my wife insisted we’d need, the SQ5 was soon pressed into action, whisking us away on a five-day jaunt to the Overberg.
The SQ5’s turbocharged 3,0-litre V6 petrol engine, shared with Audi Sport’s S4 and S5, boasts sportscar-like poke at 260 kW and 500 N.m. But it’s on the open road that this deceptively rapid SUV’s powerplant does its best work. Its remarkable in-gear acceleration allowed us to safely pass the odd slower-moving vehicle with little more than a nudge of the loud pedal as we nosed along the N2, savouring the surprisingly compliant ride. Still, even with this generally relaxed approach, the six-cylinder’s liking for unleaded quickly became apparent, with consumption settling above 11,0 L/100 km.
Granted, though, the journey included some fuel-chugging gravel sections – varying in finish from fairly smooth to downright lunar-like – which the SQ5 took in its stride. The optional air suspension (one of 13 boxes ticked on the options list) played a key role here, hiking the ride height appreciably once the dedicated off-road mode had been selected, although the relatively low-profile rubber wrapped around those optional 21-inch alloys at times compelled me to slow to a crawl.
Overall, though, the SQ5 passed its first test with flying colours. Safely back in Cape Town (with the foldable tow hitch handily hidden from serial caravan- hauler, Nicol), I’m eager to learn how the SQ5 – or, perhaps more importantly, its potentially thirsty heart – will handle my traffc-infested daily commute.
It’s early days but the SQ5 has settled in as an ideal all-rounder, coupling comfort, practicality and refinement with a wicked turn of speed. Next up? A hunt for that deserted mountain pass.
After 1 month
Current mileage: 1 099 km
Average fuel consumption: 12,78 L/100 km
We like: brawny in-gear acceleration; supple ride
We don’t like: frequent trips to the petrol station
Long-term test (Update 1): Audi SQ5 3,0T FSI Quattro Tiptronic
Like most self-respecting premium vehicles wearing a German badge, our SQ5 boasts a fairly lengthy list of options adding R125 000 to its seven-figure sticker price. While the 21-inch alloys and panoramic sunroof are the priciest extras specified on our unit, the R13 618 adaptive air suspension isn’t far behind.
Question is, should you place a tick in this particular box, especially considering the SQ5 we tested in December 2017 delivered a compliant ride on the standard sports suspension?
Well, if you plan on doing even a smidgen of gravel-roading, the answer is a resounding “yes”. You see, the air suspension setup allows the driver to not only adjust the SQ5’s damping, but also vary its ride height over as many as five stages. Specifying this option adds two modes – lift/off-road and all-road – to the Audi Drive Select bouquet.
This essentially affords the driver the best of both worlds, with the Mexico-built SUV hunkering down 15 mm lower than standard in its angriest setting and hiking itself a whopping 45 mm over default mode in its off-road setting.
Furthermore, to render the loading of substantial items into and out of the generous luggage compartment a mite simpler, the rear of the vehicle can be lowered by some 55 mm with a prod of a dedicated boot-mounted button. Don’t jab too hard, though, or like me you might see the button disappear into its housing (a problem thankfully remedied by simply popping the switch back into place … once you’ve located it).
In short, air suspension has already proven the most useful of the 13 extras fitted to our SQ5. So, in the context of this premium midsize SUV’s price tag, is this option worth the cash? Without doubt.
After 4 months
Current mileage: 4 563 km
Average fuel consumption: 13,51 L/100 km
We like: air-suspension versatility
We don’t like: hefty fuel consumption
Long-term test (Update 2): Audi SQ5 3,0T FSI Quattro Tiptronic
How much power is enough? The answer to this often-asked question will, of course, depend largely on the type of vehicle in question (and, to a degree, on the foolhardiness inherent in its driver). You could, for instance, make a compelling argument there is such thing as too much oomph in a front-wheel-drive hot hatch.
But what about an SUV? Well, here the line becomes a little blurrier, chiefly thanks to the effects of added weight and the security of all-wheel drive.
Indeed, there are a number of high-riding machines on offer in South Africa boasting peak outputs well north of 400 kW (like the Cayenne I drive on page 60), with more to come as the inevitable “power wars” – which have since spilled over into the double-cab bakkie segment – intensify. Overkill? Perhaps, although most are an absolute hoot to drive.
Yet, each time I alight from another performance vehicle (traditionally shaped or otherwise) and slot back in behind the SQ5’s now familiar flat-bottomed tiller, I’m further convinced this powertrain – as thirsty as it is proving – is close to perfectly judged and the highlight of a remarkably well-rounded package.
Sure, Ingolstadt’s flagship Q5 – which packs 260 kW courtesy of Audi Sport’s turbocharged 3,0-litre V6 petrol heart – is short a small handful of kilowatts compared with similarly priced rivals such as the BMW X3 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43 but, in an everyday setting, where the Audi excels at serving up fuss-free pace rather than acoustic or dynamic theatrics, this matters nought.
For the first six months of this test, I haven’t once found myself longing for more power from the SQ5, whether I’m blasting along a quiet strip of tarmac, cruising down a highway, negotiating a gravel road or sitting in soul-destroying traffic. And I simply can’t see that changing over the next six.
After 6 months
Current mileage: 7 041 km
Average fuel consumption: 13,39 L/100 km
We like: fuss-free pace
We don’t like: mounting fuel bill
Long-term test (Update 3): Audi SQ5 3,0T FSI Quattro Tiptronic
One of the most memorable roads of Performance Shootout 2017 was Pakhuis Pass, a stunning strip of tarmac outside Clanwilliam, peppered with switchbacks. A family getaway to nearby Citrusdal afforded me another taste of this quiet mountain pass, this time from behind the wheel of an Audi Sport relative of that year’s overall winner.
With the (optional) air suspension ensuring a suitably hunkered-down stance, the SQ5 displayed an athleticism belying its considerable heft, while the rear-biased all-wheel drive arrangement served up heaps of grip. A mile-munching holiday chariot and brutally efficient corner-carver in one.
After 7 months
Current mileage: 8 101 km
Average fuel consumption: 13,34 L/100 km
Long-term test (Update 4): Audi SQ5 3,0T FSI Quattro Tiptronic
During a recent trip to the filling station, a pair of petrol attendants panned the SQ5 for its most controversial styling cue: those fake exhaust outlets. Yes, the quartet of chrome-edged orifices you see here are in fact not orifices at all and are instead blanked off with black plastic (Audi isn’t the only brand guilty of this trick). Drop to the floor to peer behind these faux exits (as said attendants did) and you’ll spy a single modest pipe at each end. Street-cred issues aside, the SQ5’s exhaust system delivers a broad aural range spanning from open-road refinement to full-throttle vigour.
After 8 months
Current mileage: 9 613 km
Average fuel consumption: 13,24 L/100 km