The SQ5 is not coming to India, but here’s why we think it should. First, its 313bhp and 66.2kgm of torque lands it right in the performance diesel arena – yes, you read right, the engine under the hood is a twin-turbo diesel V6. Second, we like the theme of the SQ5 – big power, all-wheel drive, compact SUV. Third, performance diesels suit our conditions well – they have the on-demand torque that we so require in the cut and thrust of traffic and they also have the economy and running cost advantage of the cheaper fuel.
Still, we need to dig deeper. The SQ5 comes from Audi’s ‘S’ line of cars which is their performance arm – remember the S4 we drove last month? The SQ5 is a bit of a revolution though because it is the firm’s first S-badged SUV and also its first S-brand diesel.
Performance, as expected, is spine-compressing. Audi claims it will hit 100kph in 5.1 seconds, and the SQ5 does nothing to make you doubt that. Floor the throttle and once past the initial bit of hesitation, it’s one long, relentless surge all the way to its 250kph top speed. On the de-restricted Autobahn outside Munich, the SQ5 was simply stunning in the way it effortlessly breached 200kph, and it even had some reserve once we ran out of bravery at 240kph. Helping it along is the eight-speed torque-converter auto (a DSG can’t take extended assaults from this engine’s 66.2kgm of torque), with the especially long-legged eighth gear that allows fast cruising with minimum fuss.
There’s something else that makes the SQ5 fun, and that’s the sound the exhaust makes. When you dial up the ‘Dynamic’ mode on the Drive Select system, a sound actuator in the exhaust system makes this V6 sound like a V8. It’s why you’ll find yourself constantly pulling away from low speeds in a high gear, just to hear the cultured burble it makes.
Credit is also due to the mildly massaged engine. This engine feels even smoother than the V6 turbo-diesel currently in the Q5 3.0TDI. The 2,967cc V6 uses twin-turbochargers connected in series via a flap. Also on the menu is the cylinder head cooling, the timing and lift of the intake cam shafts, the pistons, their oil-jet cooling and the piston pins that have been specially designed to take on the extra load. The common-rail system can run at a maximum pressure of 2,000 bar of pressure and injects as many as eight shots of fuel into the cylinders per cycle.
As for the way it drives, Audi’s chassis development team has taken 30mm out of the regular Q5’s ride height, stiffened its springs and anti-roll bars and specified new, stiffer fixed-rate dampers. The kinematics of the suspension – camber, castor and toe angles – haven’t been altered from the regular Q5.
So, while it remains impressively flat and unflustered through corners, it never feels as nimble as, say, a BMW X3. The steering is a bit of a disappointment as well – it lacks progressiveness in both feedback and consistency. The SQ5, as is with most Audis, is better at straight-line thrills than corner-carving precision. That said, its tremendous grip and body control combined with that ever willing engine and aural excitement will be enough to satisfy most.
Now, for the bits that are coming to India. Audi has given the Q5 a light mid-life facelift that will be on all Q5s sold in India towards the end of 2012. If you’re wondering what’s different, you need to get your magnifying glass and fine toothcomb out.
The changes lie with a grille that now takes Audi’s new hexagonal shape and its detailing that differ depending on what engine is under the hood. The headlights get new daytime running lamps, the bumper is new and the fog lights have chrome ring surrounds. At the rear, the tail-lamps get different LEDs and there’s a new rear diffuser.
Like the recently facelifted A4, the interiors too get subtle tweaks and improvements to uplift the general feel and finish of the cabin. Audi will also continue to offer the 2.0-litre TDI, the 3.0-litre TDI and the 2.0-litre TFSI petrol with improvements that make them slightly more powerful and smoother.
Since its launch in 2009, the Q5 has always lived in the shadow of its big brother, the Q7. So the mild facelift and tweaks will give it a tiny but much needed shot in the arm. But we can’t help think it needs a bit more excitement. So come on Audi, maybe the time is ripe for the SQ5.