I said it when I wrote about the launch of the all new Audi Q5 a few months ago: the Q5 is my favourite Audi Q car now.
And after having the flagship SQ5 on test recently, these words remain true for me.
The SQ5 is mostly about high performance, for in this model generation you get a 3.0-litre V6 TFSI engine producing 260kW of power and 500Nm of torque from a mere 1370 rpm, right up to 4 500 rpm.
The previous generation SQ5 was a potent 230kW and 650Nm turbodiesel, but because of our reluctance, locally, to see turbodiesel as a performance option, unless of course it is in a bakkie, they simply failed to find as many homes as one would have expected.
The new turbopetrol version is obviously rather fast for an SUV that weighs in at almost two tons, with the 0-100km/h sprint being done in 5.94 seconds, the quarter mile in 14 seconds and crossing the 1km mark at 213km/h, while the top speed is electronically limited at a serious 266km/h.
So, is there a downside to this aspect of the SQ5? Well not the performance as such, but you will pay at the fuel pumps, with my average for the week coming in at 11.6 litres per 100km versus the claimed 8.3 litres.
That’s maybe why there was such a strong case for high performance turbodiesel models, and now for electrically assisted high performance models, but I think it’s going to take some time before our mindset changes and we accept the future.
This said, at least with the new SQ5, you know you are buying a high performance turbopetrol, and you are prepared to live with the fuel consumption, because you want to use the power as offered by this SUV.
Handling is much improved over the previous generation car, and the quattro permanent all-wheel drive system distributes the engine power with a slight rear-axle bias during normal driving. But dial it up a notch or two, and most of the power is now sent to the axle with the better traction.
Wheel-selective torque control is active on all types of surfaces, and during hard cornering, the software function slightly brakes the inside wheel, so the car turns in precisely and sharply.
A five-link suspension front and rear lays the foundation for the sharp driving characteristics of the SQ5, while the standard damper control features a particularly wide spread between comfort and dynamic.
If that is not enough, you can go for the optional sport diff that is said to further optimise the handling by actively distributing torque between the rear wheels, and sends more torque to the outside rear wheel when accelerating out of particularly tight corners.
Also available as an option is the S-specific adaptive air suspension which allows you to adapt not just the damping, but also the ride height to the respective driving situation.
Our test unit didn’t have these options fitted, but I was quite happy with what it offered us in the form of a family orientated SUV.
Moving inside, the interior offers a lot of space for five people, and the SQ5 not only surpasses the previous model, but also its competitors in key dimensions. The rear seat back is split into three segments.
Depending on the rear seat position, the basic volume of the luggage compartment ranges from 550 to 610 litres, 10 litres more than in the previous model.
When the rear bench is folded down, this volume grows to 1 550 litres. Being the SQ5 model means that you also get a dark-toned interior with illuminated door sills bearing exclusive S logos.
Contrasting stitching on the leather steering wheel and sport seats add to the sporty interior feel.
Aluminium-look shift paddles along with the pedals and footrest that are surfaced with stainless steel also do duty.
Of course, being an Audi means you also get state of the art infotainment options from the likes of Audi’s virtual cockpit that presents all you need to know in terms of speed and rpm etc onto a high-resolution 12.3-inch screen, located right in front of you, to a newly developed head-up display, and MMI control unit, that uses the flat hierarchies you find in your smartphone.
But I did feel that for a flagship that retails for over R1 000 000, some of this technology should have come as standard, because without it, you are looking at an interior that might remind you of any other older Audi.
Sadly, the same continues with the optional driver assistance systems.
If you have the money and you also want to start understanding what autonomous driving is going to be about, opt for the Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) including traffic jam assist.
Cross traffic assist rear, the exit warning system, collision avoidance assist and turn assist are other new features that perform excellently in pursuit of safety.
There you have it, the Audi SQ5 is a very fast, very clever, premium SUV, that also looks the part, while being able to accommodate the needs of the entire family at a suggested starting retail price of R1 044 000.