The Q5 is Audi's most popular vehicle line in Australia. Another fun fact, every third Q5 was an SQ5 TDI, when it was last available.
Those who wanted a slice of efficient SUV performance were drawn to its characteristics. When the original launched in 2013, it was alone in what it offered. Performance SUVs were still in their infancy, let alone featuring a high-performance diesel engine.
That was the first generation Audi Q5. The second generation saw the SQ5 continue, albeit with a petrol driveline only. Despite offering equal amounts of power, and arguably feeling more lively, the TFSI version lacked the hallmark of low-end kick now synonymous with fast Audi SUVs. Think SQ7, for a second.
To those holding on to hope, good news – the SQ5 TDI has returned. With a catch.
Only 240 examples will arrive on our shores. It seems strange, given the previous versions' huge popularity, and lack of a successor. Audi also claims a facelifted SQ5 range will debut early next year, so these few units represent a taste of what's to come.
It's priced at $104,900 before on roads, which is $3764 more expensive than the petrol SQ5. Despite costing more, the value equation falls in favour of the TDI. On top of better performance, buyers also receive matrix LED headlights, a black exterior styling package, carbon interior trims and massaging front seats, as bonuses.
Our test car was fitted with a few additions, namely a sport differential ($2990), air suspension ($2150) and a climate controlled cup holder ($350), which lifted its pre-on road price to $110,350.
|2020 Audi SQ5 TDI special edition|
|Petrol engine||3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel|
|Power and torque (petrol engine)||255kW @ 3850rpm, 700Nm @ 2500–3100rpm|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque-converter automatic|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||10L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||510L/1510L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 (tested 2017)|
|Warranty||3 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz GLC, BMW X3, Volvo XC60|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$110,350|
Over some extra fruit, the 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine is its biggest attraction point. Compared to the previous generation SQ5 Plus TDI, performance stats are nearly identical. Power is rated at 255kW, which is 5kW down on the petrol, but 15kW up versus the old car, or 5kW ahead of the old SQ5 Plus TDI.
Peak torque is the same 700Nm, now over a smaller rev range. Whilst the new car makes maximum brawn across 600rpm, the old car did so over 1050rpm. Despite this shortfall, the 0-100km/h dash is still completed in just 5.1 seconds and near-peak performance is a whole other story.
It's a sign of the times. With ever-tightening emissions rules, brands like Audi are fighting hard to ensure performance, in particular diesel performance, does not go backward.
Audi has employed some clever tech in order to achieve this. Its TDI engine still uses two forms of compressor as the old car did, however now with a twist. The new SQ5 TDI uses both a traditional turbocharger, as well as an electric-powered compressor (EPC), in place of the old twin-turbo arrangement.
EPC technology made its world debut in 2016 with the larger, more expensive SQ7 TDI. Integral to its application is a 48-volt power infrastructure.
The EPC is located after the intercooler, and operates in low-load situations. When needed, it takes pre-cooled, pre-charged air, and gives it another squash before entering the motor.
The result is a lag-free experience. Our drive program saw us cover ground in the Southern Highlands district of New South Wales, which is a semi-rural area with plenty of fast-paced backroads.
In this territory, the SQ5 feels comfortable. Performance on the roll is swift and precise, but uneventful feeling. The short spectrum of power is over before you know it.
It's a performance engine in every sense of being quick, given its 0.3 seconds faster to 100km/h than the petrol version. As we know, performance can transcend figures and data.
'Engine effervescence' is my recently coined term to describe where I'm heading with this, and this SUV's engine is prime evidence in the term's case. What's just as important as numbers on paper, is the way an engine delivers power.
Power at high rpm, big spreads of torque – however you like your engine cut; such traits often lead to an exciting experience. In the case of the SQ5 TDI, it feels flat, lacking scale, and clinical. Devoid of jive, and persona, in ways.
Don't be afraid to jump into the comments below and agree, disagree, or discuss this with me further.
Delivery aside, it feels stout. Engine performance is distributed through the brand's Quattro all-wheel system via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic.
It's smoother than the brand's S-tronic dual-clutch transmissions, but not as swift in terms of operation. In this case, you'd take transmission refinement, over a few tenths of shift performance. Consider it a bonus, not a burden.
The driveline has other, non-performance orientated qualities too. There's a sense of sedateness to how it plods around under partial throttle. With the active engine sounds dialed down, and powertrain on snooze, it's quite smoothing. Leaning on it gently perks things up, but it never feels overly tasked.
Again, a result of its big torque figure coming home to roost. If you're interested in lugging watercraft, or other weekend toys, the SQ5 TDI will tow 2400kg braked / 750kg unbraked, and cop 200kg down ball weight.
Our test car was fitted with optional air suspension. Height and stiffness can be adjusted via the drive select function, but the 'comfort' setting is firm. Over a selection of varying terrains, from snooker table smooth freeways, to bobbly, thin country lanes, it never felt unhinged or nerve-racking however.
This is a sporty SUV, and has been tuned accordingly. One can't help but feel some underlying firmness is likely the product of its heavy 21-inch wheels, and their accompanying small profile tyre.
Given we only experienced an air suspension equipped car, we can't provide a recommendation on whether it's worth the extra $2150. CarAdvice is interested in trialing the standard-fit sprung suspension, as we expect it to feel quite different. Leave that with us.
Inside, the fit out is luxurious. A panoramic sunroof, brilliant Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker stereo, and carbon-fiber interior inlays all represent standard nice-to-haves, that are usually found on the extras list.
The basics are quality also. Nappa leather sports seats come with the ticket price, which also feature a massaging function. Storage is aplenty with large door bins, versatile centre console area with wireless charging pad, and a cubby, just shy of the gear shifter.
Its 8.3-inch infotainment screen is starting to look old, though. Most new Audi's use a more modern unit, that's not only bigger at 10.1-inches, but also features ten-times more processing power.
However, ergonomics are better with the old system found in the SQ5, as it still retains Audi's clever rotary dial controller. This means despite looking and feeling middle-aged, its actually easier to use whilst driving when compared to the new system, which is touch-screen only.
As for advanced driver assist systems, Audi has bundled in the lot. Adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, lane keeping assist, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear autonomous emergency braking all feature as standard, as does a a five-star ANCAP rating, too.
In the back, a 40:20:40 sliding second row helps to introduce versatility. Knee room behind a 183cm driver is around 4cm, which is fair for the class. Leg room and foot room are good, but head room was less than expected. Occupants in the back have access to controls for a third-zone of climate control, as well as two air vents, and two USB ports.
Behind the second row, its boot is smaller than the wider Q5 range. The SQ5 TDI features 510 litres of cargo capacity with its second row up, and 1510 lires with it folded – 40 litres down versus other Q5s. Underneath the boot floor lies a space saving spare wheel.
Long term running costs are middle of the pack. Maintaining a SQ5 TDI over a five-year period, with a prepaid service plan, costs $2940. Over the same period, a BMW X3 M40i will cost $1850, whereas a Mercedes-Benz GLC 43 $4600. Audi's warranty coverage is three years / unlimited km, and like BMW's, is two-years shy of Mercedes-Benz's five year offering.
Fuel usage crept up to 10L/100km, however the car was predominantly driven at pace. Before such events, low eights were shown. The official combined fuel figure is 6.8L/100KM, so reserve judgment until we test an SQ5 more thoroughly.
As there's only 240 examples available, many will miss out. If your current Audi SQ5 TDI is feeling long in the tooth, head to your local Audi dealer and try your luck. Used cars are worth more than ever before, so a trade-in valuation may be favourable.
More detailed testing of the Audi SQ5 TDI will be conducted soon. If there’s anything you’d like us to focus on, please let us know in the comments section below.