While sitting at a red light, minding my own business, I couldn’t help but notice the guy next to me sizing up the Audi with those “I can take it” eyes. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Not all CUVs are made equal, which is why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The Audi SQ5 was one of the first to break the mold and inject the compact SUV market with a shot of adrenaline. It’s no longer necessary to sacrifice performance for practicality; they are one and the same in the 2015 Audi SQ5.
After spending some quality time with the Audi’s distant cousin, the Porsche Macan S, we were interested to see how the SQ5 stacked up. If you think there’s a long list of shared parts, you’d be wrong. Beneath their very different bodies, both cars utilize very different turbocharged six-cylinder engines, different transmissions, and unique suspension mounts. But there was a much bigger difference between our tests of the Macan S and this SQ5, the weather. This isn’t sunny California.
The Audi SQ5 makes a stately first impression; foregoing elaborate grills and aerodynamic add-ons in favor of a smoother, sophisticated look. Many manufacturers have designed sharp creases, dazzling angles, and gaping grilles to give their SUVs “aggressive styling” when it’s not entirely appropriate. Audi hasn’t gotten involved in the trend, opting for a unique grille and quad exhaust to set itself apart. But then, Q5 also hasn’t been redesigned since its launch in 2008.
Inside, you’re greeted by a simple yet dated interior. There’s plenty S-badge additions to hint at the Audi’s abilities. The performance-oriented flat-bottom steering wheel with paddle shifters is accentuated by simulated suede and leather-trimmed sport seats, aluminum pedals, and a slew of SQ5 badges. The cabin is airy, even with the standard panoramic sunroof removed, and there’s plenty of room for four. All the creature comforts you come to expect are also available—heated seats, power liftgate, and keyless entry. Plenty of tech is offered in the SQ5 as well. Although we are quick to criticize the MMI system’s reverse-dial, it just takes a little patience and common sense. Yes, it may not be the most intuitive system initially, but its menu setup makes plenty of sense after a few hours.
A 3.0-liter supercharged V6 engine – what is not appealing about that? We thoroughly enjoyed its abundant torque in the Audi S5, but the SQ5 gets an additional power bump. With 354hp and 347lb-ft of torque, satisfaction is just under your right foot. Toggling the Audi Drive Select setting to Sport tightens up the steering, drops a gear, and opens all the exhaust baffles.
We didn’t have any life-affirming experiences on scenic coastal roads this week. It was bitterly cold and we were thankful for the SQ5’s snow tire package and quattro all-wheel-drive system. When the roads were dry, the Audi was every bit as quick as the Porsche Macan S. Normally speed and a high seating position leads to feelings of uncertainty, but the Audi is stable and responsive.
An unfortunate event shortened our time with the Audi SQ5. With one day left on our loan, the power steering failed unexpectedly and triggered one of the sternest warnings we’ve ever seen. “Steering defective! Do not drive vehicle!” Needless to say, we let Audi roadside assistance coordinate a flat-bed delivery to our local Audi dealership for repair. According to Audi, a failed electronic control module locked the steering column and triggered the error. The failure rate of this part is extremely low, but we haven’t had the best of luck with complex automotive electronics in 2015.
Who doesn’t want the best of both worlds? If you need the space but crave the power of something more, the 2015 Audi SQ5 is a contender. With a reasonable sub-$60k as-tested price, the Audi trumps the Porsche in value as well. In a country that doesn’t seem to embrace performance wagons, a performance CUV is the next-best thing. It’s an all-in-one type of vehicle. You get the opportunity to go from 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds and still have the ability to transport up to 57.3 cubic feet of cargo with rear seats folded. That guy at the light didn’t even know what hit him.
-Christopher Little & Danielle Assenheimer
|2015 Audi SQ5
|As Tested MSRP||$57,625|