Hot SUV makes its long awaited return
Audi has revived the diesel version of its SQ5, a car that was once one of the brand's hottest sellers but hasn't been available since 2017.
However, there's a catch. The SQ5 TDI that has just gone on sale will have a short life, as it will be replaced by an updated version next year.
COVID delays meant the new SQ5 TDI arrived months later than planned, so just 240 units will make it here, each badged as a Special Edition with black exterior highlights, matrix LED headlights, massaging front seats and carbon fibre trim inside.
Priced at about $117,000 drive-away ($4000 more than the TFSI petrol) it also has a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, head-up display, tri-zone ventilation, smart-key entry, leather trim and 21-inch alloys.
But it's beneath the bonnet that it offers more than your average mid-sized SUV.
The SQ5 TDI thumps its petrol alternative for torque with a full 700Nm (versus 500Nm for the TFSI). And while it's just shy on power (255kW versus 260kW) the diesel is 0.3 seconds quicker to 100km/h, completing the dash in 5.1 seconds.
That time is identical to the original SQ5 of 2013, as is the claimed fuel use of 6.8 litres per 100km. That's despite another 20kW/50Nm.
So, where's the progress?
Driveability. While the new car loses a turbo for a single-turbo set up, it picks up an electric compressor, or electric turbo.
That compressor spins up briefly on initial throttle applications, forcing air into the regular turbo to reduce the time for torque to swell.
There's also a mild hybrid system that allows the engine to shut down more frequently and provide mild assistance when accelerating, further aiding initial responses.
However, some of the engineering nous in the engine is undone by transmission laziness. Step on the throttle and the eight-speed can take a moment to sort out the right ratio before harnessing that torrent of torque and sending it faithfully to the bitumen via the Quattro all-wheel drive system.
When cruising it's also eager to pluck a taller gear to save fuel, so if you kick down to overtake or punch out of a corner there may be a delay as it shuffles back to the right gear.
It's better in Sport mode or you can call the shots with steering-wheel mount paddles, at which point the engine's talents are more obvious. Responses are livelier and acceleration is more in keeping with the sporty positioning.
An actuator in the exhaust also means less diesel drone and more of a meaty grumble, reinforcing its intentions.
Powerful brakes are up to spirited attacks and the taut suspension, sharp steering and grippy Pirelli rubber deliver slick cornering, albeit with some firmness over bumps.
Inside there are classy materials and finishes and the flat-bottomed steering wheel adds pizzazz.
The 8.3-inch screen is small by current standards, but thankfully it retains the easy-to-operate rotary controller for scrolling through menus. More recent Audis have dropped the physical dial for touchscreens.
The bigger touchscreen will arrive with the next SQ5 TDI next year.
The SQ5 TDI retains its muscularity but delivers a slicker driving experience.
AUDI SQ5 VITALS
PRICE About $117,000 drive-away
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 yrs/unl'td km, $2940 for 5 yrs
SAFETY 5 stars (2017), 8 airbags, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist, 360-degree camera, rear cross-traffic alert
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 255kW/700Nm
Originally published as Hot SUV makes its long awaited return