Tom Crosby: Audi improves already impressive SQ5 SUV for 2018

Tom Crosby

With its modest profile – not much different from last year – Audi’s ninth generation SQ5 is a stealth vehicle with upgrades providing the popular SUV with extra torque, technology and performance.

The compact SQ5 is the sporty and more powerful sibling of the Audi Q5, the German automaker’s best selling vehicles in the U.S. lin 2016.

SQ5 adds 23 more foot-pounds of torque from a new turbo charged engine, is 1.3 inches longer, creating more backseat space easily accessed, and increased cargo space 3.1 cubic inches to 60.4 with rear seats flattened. Sacrifice was made to the rear cargo area with seats upright – shrinking 2.3 cubic feet.

Miles per gallon (mpg) was increased – even with better torque – but remains pricey with city driving getting only 19 mpg on premium fuel – less than comparably equipped luxury competitors like the Jaguar F-Pace, Porsche Macan and Mercedes GLC class.

The SQ5’s appeal comes with a beautifully outfitted cabin where comfort, functionality and performance are top tier.

Audi’s highly touted quattro all-wheel drive switches automatically for best traction (including channeling all traction to one wheel, a function included among our plethora of features in six options totaling $10,525 that upped our SQ5 to a top-trim Prestige). There is a lesser-outfitted Premium Plus SQ5.

Ground clearance can be upped 4 inches to 8.2 inches for off-roading and there are six driving modes – Lift/Off Road, Allroad, Auto, Comfort, Dynamic and Individual. Towing muscle is 4,400 pounds.

Speed handling variance – easier steering wheel manipulation at lower speeds, tighter at higher speeds – combined with an absorbing ride on 21-inch tires using an improved sport suspension heightens driver comfort and confidence.

Audi’s pre-sense®city adds automatic braking for pedestrians, stationary vehicles, etc. and a top-down parking camera aids parking and backing up.

Inside elegance oozes with Nappa leather quilted seats, carbon Atlas inlays, soft felt door linings and stylish chrome accents.

A center spine knob, a handwriting recognition controller pad and voice commands offer multitude ways to control and access features. Techies will appreciate the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.

Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and Audi connect include a gauge panel with boost gauge and lap timer, a heads-up display, a Bang and Olufsen 3D sound system, Google Earth maps, navigation, application links and a 12.3 inch touch screen easily accessed for information drill downs.

There is an inflatable spare tire and visors are extendable. Optional adaptive cruise control was not included.

LIKES: Power, handling, ride, cabin space, technical interfaces, ergonomics

DISLIKES: low gas mileage, adaptive cruise control needed

BOTTOM LINE: Stealth luxury combined with off-road and highway performance pluses

AUDI SQ5 3.0T QUATTRO TIPTRONIC

Base price w/destination fee $55,275 ($65,800 as tested)

Curb weight: 4,398 lbs.

Wheelbase: 111.2 inches.

Length: 183.9 inches.

Width: 84.3 inches.

Engine specs: 3.0-liter, TSFI, turbocharged.

Horsepower: 354 hp at 5,400-6,400 rpm.

Torque: 369 lbs.-ft. at 1,379-4,500 rpm.

Transmission: 8-speed automatic/tiptonic w/manual paddles.

EPA rating: 19 city, 24 highway.

Range: 18.5 gallons, premium only.

Performance: 0-60 in 5.1 seconds.

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

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