2014 Audi SQ5 - First Drive, September 2013
Back to our initial premise, the SQ5 felt like more of a pretender—or completely out of its element—in a series of tight hairpin switchbacks along Colorado's challenging U.S. 550. For such a compact vehicle (just 183 inches long), the SQ5 weighs a portly 4,400 pounds. And that weight doesn't like being thrown around; here, there's no way around it, and the SQ5 protests and plows when pushed hard around tight radii. The steering doesn't return well to center in those tightest corners, either.
Those hairpins served to underscore that while you get upgraded sport seats in the SQ5, they're the same sport seats that are part of the Sport Package you can get on other Q5 models—and only somewhat better bolstered than the base Q5 perches. Either more aggressively bolstered sport seats or the wondrous single-piece, racing-style seats from Audi's RS cars would be much appreciated here.
Adding to that initial impression on the hairpins was that the SQ5's engine isn't tuned like your typical supercharged V-6. Sure enough, while the 3.0T model makes its peak 295 pound-feet of torque at just 2,150 rpm, the SQ5 extends that trajectory, essentially building torque all the way to a 4,000-rpm peak. The engine's definitely in its sweet spot from there up until the peak 354 horsepower arrives at 6,000 rpm. And this is an engine that keeps rewarding you for singing up into its highest ranges.
On the other hand, then the road opened up—relatively speaking—to a series of higher-speed sweepers, weaving through canyons—and the SQ5 suddenly charmed us completely, and felt in its element, really. There were occasionally some upsetting motions right at turn-in (something we can't help but feel has to do with how U.S.-spec SQ5s ride 1.2 inches higher than Euro-spec ones), but the suspension loads up in a reassuring, progressive way that lets you take high-speed sweepers, truly at high speed. All the while, the steering maintains a sense of subtle loading and precision that gave us confidence at those higher speeds.
By then we'd trained ourselves to keep the shifter in Sport mode and verge on choosing a lower gear to keep the revs up, too; and by the end of our drive, we were convinced that this vehicle sure would be a hoot on a fast road course—to a degree that very few who buy the SQ5 will probably ever experience. We like the upright, comfortable driving position, too.
And that gets to a point. Audi envisions that SQ5s will be snapped up by middle-age, upper-middle-class dads who, at the thought of having more than 350 horsepower under the hood, are raring to go for the commute and occasional carpool duty. They'll use all that power when they're late to work, perhaps...once in a while.
In any case, in a segment of the market that was until recently completely missing serious high-performance entries, the SQ5 is as bona fide as you can get.