A mix of good and bad news for fans of European forbidden fruit – the Audi SQ5 will be coming to our shores, but with the familiar 3.0T V6 rather than the Euro-spec TDI powertrain initially shown earlier this year. And I think that’s a big mistake.
I know what you’re all thinking. Derek Kreindler must have gotten into the last of the now curdled egg nog, because there’s no way that TTAC’s resident TDI-troll would ever write anything in support of a diesel car.
Go ahead, look outside your window – the sky is intact and there aren’t any airborne swine flying around either. The truth is, I don’t have any particular disdain for diesels. Much like wagons, my opposition to them – in certain cases – is rooted in the economic realities of the car market, and I refuse to pander to the peanut gallery like other outlets do by writing fallacious 800-word appeals to tradition about why we need these kinds of cars, lest Brand X withers and dies because consumers, god forbid, buy cars they actually want.
But there are exceptions, and the SQ5 is an obvious one. For starters, the North American-spec car is basically redundant What separates this car from a Q5 3.0T S-Line, aside from some extra ponies and a badge on the tailgate? It is a massively cynical exercise in marketing and profiteering, since Audi knows that the S-cars, like AMG and M-Cars of the recent era, have now become just another trim level for affluent customers, rather than a separate line of serious performance cars. How else to explain the popularity of the S4 and S5 in wake of the death of the 3.2 powered cars? Sure, the looks and performance play a part, but you can’t tell me that there isn’t a significant demographic out there that bought them because they couldn’t be seen driving the prole-spec 2.0T model.
Unlike the S4 and S5, nobody buying the SQ5 will really be overly concerned with how the car performs, just how expensive it looks and whether they can one up their fellow yoga practitioners or their peers at the International Student Lounge. These same people are generally fond of two other things – telling everybody how much they spent on something, and appearing to care about “green” causes and products. Which is why the ultra-expensive, limited edition TDI version would have made so much sense.
Audi is set to launch four new TDI models, including a Q5, over the next few years, and what better way to kick things off than with a halo model like the SQ5? It would have been so easy to stuff a tuned up 3.0 TDI motor into a North American SQ5 and do a limited run, enjoying the double-whammy of positive press from the diesel-mad buff books and the celebrity set that has now adopted Audi as the cool luxury car of choice. Unlike, say, importing the RS4 Avant, the regulatory and logistical hurdles would have been minimal, since the Q5 TDI is already coming here anyways, while the PR angle could have been spun in any number of ways to make Audi look both exciting and socially responsible. Kind of like Tesla. Doing this in a sedan or a coupe would have been a cool but very risky move. But an alternative powertrain in a crossover would have been risk free; the real eccentric car dorks would have bought it because of its oddball powertrain, while henpecked husbands could easily unload it on their status-conscious spouses, passing it off as the most expensive Q5 that just happens to be more eco-friendly than all the others.