By on January 9, 2013

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.

 

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38 Comments on “The Audi SQ5 Should Have Been A Diesel...”


  • avatar
    Sundowner

    this article is both cylical and 100% factually accurate. I own an A4. I love it. I would buy an S4, but I despise the fact that it’s essentially an A4 with the sport package ($1k option) with a 3.0T motor ($2500 option in the Q5 this year, and you can’t tell me that a retune to up the horsepower is a significant cost) and Audi expects you to pony up $8k for the difference between an S4 and an A4. Conclusion: marketing and profiteering gimmick. The SQ5 will be no different.

    I used to really like Audi as a brand, but lately, I’m getting a serious Hudsucker Proxy vibe with all the rehashing of existing or old models. What next? a battery powered hoola hoop for the spastic or lazy (Hybrid Q5 to come!) an oversize model for the Portly (Q7 available!)

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      I get where you’re going with this, Sundowner, but the name of the game is indeed profit. Even if you add in the nicer seats in the S4, some body kit differences and the Sport Differential, you’re at about $5-$6k between the two.

      I don’t take it personally that Audi is charging a premium for the S4 – they do want to make it a bit more “special” and one way to do that is to charge accordingly.

      • 0 avatar
        copanacional

        +1 to hreardon. I can understand where Sundowner is coming from as an Audi owner myself.

        Yeah I could have gotten the 2.0T asthmatic A5 but I couldn’t help myself to the growl of the 4.2 V8 in the S5. So what ended up happening? I had to pony up the premium for the S5 and I feel that the performance/visual upgrades warranted that price differential.

        Oh and I can’t help but smile every time I pin the pedal to the floor.

      • 0 avatar
        Sundowner

        I understand your point and fully endorse Audi to extract as much money as they can from any given customer. However, Painting a red stripe on a tailgate badge and calling it anything other than a A4 3.0T is pretty much a blatant cash grab. The S4 and the A4 even look completely identical to all but the most hardened Audi fans. Even most Audi owners wouldn’t notice the difference.

        I have the same problem with the A6 2.0T. It’s structurally and functionally identical to the A4, being that it’s the exact same drivetrain in the exact same platform with the exact same options packages, but costs much more. What am I paying Audi for except for a few more pounds of sheetmetal and some enclosed air? I do not see the value.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        @Sundowner

        The difference is quite significant. But if we just limit ourself to what the A6 does better then the A4, the answer is closer to everything then nothing. It’s quieter, rides better, it’s roomier, the interior is MUCH nicer, the seats are better, just about every metric favors the A6 over the A4. Quite frankly the A4 is closer to the passat then the A6 in most metrics, comparing the Euro spec passat to the A4 doesn’t even exactly put the A4 head and shoulders above it’s “cousin”.

        Saying that the S4 is the same as an A4 but with a sports package and a larger engine is pretty far of base. Drive over to your local dealership, go to the guy at the spare parts department and order some S4 suspension parts, brake disks and so on, then the try to fit them to an A4 with a sports package and see how that works for you.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    I’m not sure the case for it here is that strong. I think the case for diesel here still has to be more about fuel economy than performance. Isn’t the upcoming E-class diesel going to have a smaller and more FE engine than it’s predecessor? How many V-10 Touregs did VW sell here? Two? Three? Audi could probably expect to sell a similar amount of V-12 Q7′s, super expensive and show-offy or no.

    On the other hand, Audi dropped the boost for the Q5 3.0T, so it would certainly be easy and EXTREMELY cheap for them to just crank it back up, badge the car as the SQ5 and increase the price considerably. But hey, better seats.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      20% on average of all Audi / VW sales are TDI (this number includes sales of models without the TDI option). That being said it means that the TDI sales ratio with Jetta and other models where there is a TDI option can be up to 50%!

      Anyway VW’s fuel economy has never been stellar when their fuel efficient gas models normally lag behind their competition and the TDI models then beat out hybrids in highway economy. What we’ll see this year is the new Mazda6 Skyactiv-D that is the lowest compressio ratio diesel in a production car that can use an all aluminum block. Then there’s the Cruze Diesel which will make the Cruze Eco irrelevant.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Audi dropped the boost for the Q5 3.0T, so it would certainly be easy and EXTREMELY cheap for them to just crank it back up, badge the car as the SQ5 and increase the price considerably.”

      It’s actually not that simple because Audi does produce these engines in different states of tune and with different specs for the particular application. The 3.0T for a Q5 makes 272 hp at 5100 RPM and 295 lb-ft at 2750 rpm. The 3.0T for a Q7, for example, makes 280 hp at 4920 and 295 lb-ft at 2250. It’s tuned differently because a Q7 is bigger and more likely to be used for towing and may have different cooling requirements and other internals.

      A Q7 S-Line makes the same 333 hp at 5500 rpm and 325 lb-ft at 2900 that the S4 does, I believe, and I’m not sure how the engine differs in specs between the two.

      The 2007-2009 Q7s with the 4.2 V8 had an engine similar to the RS4 V8, but the RS4 was designed to rev a lot higher, and so there were some differences in internals between the two, which you can look at in detail: http://www.volkspage.net/technik/ssp/ssp/SSP_377.pdf

      The new SQ5 will be either 349 hp or 354 hp at between 6000 and 6500 and 347 lb-ft at between 4000 and 4500, so it’ll definitely be a high revver.

      Anyway, it’s not like most of you are jumping in line to buy it, regardless of whether it’s a diesel or a gasser, but it would have been nice had Audi brought the SQ5 diesel here. The cost of doing so, however, wouldn’t have been worth it, most likely.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Looks like a bloated Golf with three-times the price tag….. Oh wait, it is.

    When you see a Audi, you see somebody with no car-sense at all driving down the road. If you’re going to spend that kind of money on a car, I’d go for the small Mercedes SUV (GLK?). That DOES come with a diesel, has a proper drivetrain layout, and isn’t based on a cheap compact car.

    Not a big fan of really any of the big German makes, but compared to Mercedes and BMW (which is junk, but still) Audi’s look like a cheap joke when you peel back the pretty skin and look at them for what they are, and after having one VW product in the household, we’ll never have another.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      AMC_CJ -

      If you’re implying that the Q5 rides on the former PQ35 Golf platform – it doesn’t. The only Audis that share a platform with VW at the present are the Q3 and A1, neither of which is sold here (though the Q3 should arrive by the end of 2013).

      The A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q5 all ride on Audi’s own architectural kit called MLB. Volkswagen’s comparable kit architecture, MQB, was introduced last year in the new A3, Golf and Seat Leon.

      Otherwise, no commonality there.

      • 0 avatar
        copanacional

        aannnddd boom goes the dynamite.

        AMC_CJ, you bought a VW hence you got what you paid for. As the saying goes, “quality doesn’t come cheap”. If we were to expound on your philosophy then anyone who ever bought a Lexus, Acura, Infiniti… should get a refund.

    • 0 avatar
      themcmercslr

      I cross shopped between the GLK and Q5 back in 2010 and ultimately bought the Q5 after realizing the POS the GLK is. Its been facelifted and all since, but if you test drove it then you quickly saw how under-engineered it was. Incredibly firm seats, harsh suspension, slow, lifeless steering, an anemic powertrain (and actually, there is NO diesel available in the United States), awkwardly high window lines and the most cramped rear seat in the class. No wonder it was last in all the comparos and guess what was first… don’t know what your gripe is with its drivetrain layout, the engine is longitudinally mounted and is AWD only in the US. My family and myself have owned MB products for years and I’ve never come across such an ergonomically and dynamically flawed car.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “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”

    These days, the Audi equivalent to AMG and M is RS, not S.

    As for demand for diesel, I don’t see any reason for an exception to be made here. There is a limited market for diesels in the US, and the Germans already adequately serve it. Targeting the very top of the trim line isn’t an approach that seems to work; shooting for the middle is more effective.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The chance of confusing an Audi CUV and an Infiniti sedan is slim, but Audi probably isn’t happy Infiniti is changing the G37 sedan to the Q50, just a zero removed from their popular trucklet.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    If diesel was cheaper than unleaded gas, then I’d say sure, why not? But until diesel has a cost advantage associated with it, the majority of consumers will not buy a diesel vehicle, even if it is a performance model like the SQ5.

    There’s a reason why diesel doesn’t sell well here. Hell it’s higher than premium gas pretty much everywhere!

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      There is still a cost advantage to it; I run into this attitude all the time.

      Personal example, my Liberty CRD. I pay $.60-.70 more for a gallon of diesel fuel, true. However, my Jeep is also rated at 31mpg highway, which is accurate (and I’ve seen more). The same vehicle, gas powered, is rated at 22mpg highway.

      Both tanks hold 22gals. So my CRD, 30(being generous) x 22= 660.
      Gasoline vehicle 22gals X 22mpg= 484

      Difference of 176 miles. That extra mileage cost $15.60, which would would of bought 4.8 extra gals in the gas, giving you a generous 100 extra miles. So still, I come out 76 miles ahead.

      Now, I know there are some small car-based gasoline powered CUV’s that hit 30mpg, but they’re completely worthless to me as I tow a camping trailer (Liberty rated at 5,000lbs) and they simply can’t, nor do they offer a true 4WD with a low-range. Plus, none of this factors in a Diesel’s longer life cycle and long-term cost of ownership.

      Diesel makes perfect sense, and I’m sure if you ran the same math with a Jetta TDi vs. a Jetta 2.0T (although both garbage in my professional opinion) you’d come up with the same fuel savings. Speaking professionally, I do like the Mercedes 3.0 Blue-tec and have had good experiences with the ones in our fleet of Sprinters.

      • 0 avatar
        GeeDashOff

        Maff hard hurrr durrr

        Seriously, its scary how many people have no idea how to calculate how much driving 10 miles would cost in a car that gets 20 mpg compared to a car that gets 30 mpg when gas costs $3.00/gallon.

      • 0 avatar
        indyb6

        AMC_CJ – But how much was the extra upfront cost for the diesel Liberty?

        I know that VW charges between $2500 and $4000 (approximately) for similarly equipped (more or less) TDI models, that I can only justify if I’m going to be driving it for quite a while. I’d really like a 4-door Golf TDI, but the ~$4000 premium upfront (vs. a 4-Door 2.5L Gasoline Golf) stinks.

        I haven’t looked into how much price premium (on average) a hybrid commands.

      • 0 avatar
        Spartan

        indyb6 said it before I even got a chance to mention it. Diesel powered cars cost more upfront, which is part of the problem. I would love to have an F-150 with a diesel engine. However, they won’t make one because it would eat into F-250 sales and it’d be priced well over the Ecoboost and 6.2L V8 options by thousands.

        Diesel needs a selling point to be viable. Diesel needs to be cheaper and the diesel shouldn’t be a high cost option.

        Then, and only then, will the US ever sell Diesel in any reasonable quantities.

      • 0 avatar
        Landcrusher

        Sorry, Spartan. The difference in cost of the fuels would make a big difference if their really were a big difference. Diesel buyers are buying on value not price. It’s perfectly rational to value less time at the gas station at several times the extra fuel cost.

      • 0 avatar
        Spartan

        @ Landcrusher “The difference in cost of the fuels would make a big difference if their really were a big difference. Diesel buyers are buying on value not price.”

        You’re exactly right. Diesel buyers aren’t buying on price. You know why? Because there’s no reason to buy on price. I don’t agree about buying on value. There’s not much value to buying diesel.

        I’ll bet a month’s pay if diesel was sustainable at $2.50 a gallon, there’d be a lot more diesels on the road. Problem is, that’ll never happen, and again, that’s why people aren’t buying them here. There’s no real benefit when the car AND the fuel costs more than the gas equivalent.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        @ AMC_CJ/GeeDashOff

        As indyb6 and Spartan pointed out, you fail at math. Since I’m someone who always “does the math” when looking at cars, let’s look at one of the best selling diesels in the USA and figure out why it makes no economic sense for most people.

        Volkswagen Jetta SE w/ Convenience vs TDI (same options, different engine).

        SE = $20,310
        TDI = $22,990

        http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/bymodel/2012_Volkswagen_Jetta.shtml
        SE = 26 mpg combined
        TDI = 34 mpg combined

        Even using higher than average yearly miles at 20,000 the TDI would save you a whopping $252 in gas per year. It would take you 10.6 freaking years just to BREAK EVEN on the $2,680 additional up front cost of the diesel (and that’s ignoring the fact that most people would be financing that extra amount). If you only drive 15,000 miles per year your break even point stretches out to an absurd 14.1 years. That’s all using the average price of regular unleaded and diesel today as reported by AAA ($3.31 vs. $3.90).

        So unless you are sure you want to keep your car for over a decade or put a ton of miles on them every year (break even for 30,000/year is still a laughable 7 years), diesels don’t make sense in the USA. Then there’s the fact that they are often considerably slower then their gas twins (a full second for the Jetta).

        All that said I’d want the SQ5 diesel. It would make no economic sense, but I’d want that 479 lb-ft of torque. And if I’m buying an SQ5 I don’t care about value or ‘economic sense’ in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        @ myself

        And I’m talking about passenger cars/light duty trucks for consumers above. If you need 800 lb-ft of torque to tow your 25,000 pound trailer or have other real heavy duty needs for your business then diesel can obviously make sense (or be the only choice that works).

      • 0 avatar
        bikegoesbaa

        In your example, would the TDI Jetta command a premium vs the gas Jetta when resold or traded in?

        If so, would this change the math enough to significantly change the time required to break even?

        If KBB values are at all accurate, it appears as though it does.

        For example, from KBB:
        2010 Jetta TDI with 37,500 miles, good condition – $17,293
        2010 Jetta SEL with 37,500 miles, good condition – $13,896

        Spot checking values for similar same-year Diesel vs gas resale values show a consistent premium on Diesel resale.

        Granted the significance will vary a bit depending on how long somebody keeps their car and how well they care for it, but it seems that any real analysis would have to take resale into account.

      • 0 avatar
        johnny_5.0

        @ bikegoesbaa

        Resale is a great point and the one way you’d make up your money on the backend. I’d love to see some stats about what % of VAG diesel sales are lease vs. buy. In the end I don’t think many Americans are going to want a higher monthly payment for X years with a plan to make it up at resale time. If diesel wasn’t so expensive at the pump, or if diesel engine options were closer to $500-$1000 instead of several grand they’d probably make huge inroads here. Even with the current state of things I expect to see their popularity pick up a great deal with the new offerings from Mazda, Chrysler, etc. My main point was really that “the mpg will offset the cost” argument is a complete fallacy for most.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I would disagree for two reasons:

    1. The US luxury car consumer does not associate diesel with high performance and thus the potential market for this vehicle would have been quite limited. Going gasoline doesn’t buck any trends but will result in more sales.

    2. Car prices is the US are lower than in Europe so to sell this vehicle at a competitive price every saving counts. Hi-po diesel engines are expensive while just turning up the boost on the existing 3.0 is quite cheap.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    If anyone can sell diesel to prestige buyers it would be Audi. If they hyped their diesel racing success it might carryover.

    Also, there already ARE diesel buyers in the US. Enough to buy a lot of cars and trucks. They’re VALUE buyers. The jetta sport wagon is a deal. They sell. IIRC, the liberty diesel was a quick seller. A diesel transit might be a winner. A diesel fleet replacement for the panther would sell. In Europe they buy diesel due to government silliness. Over here, you need to put them in vehicles where they can offer superior value.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    “aside from some extra ponies”

    From 272 to 354? That’s a big change in and of itself (torque goes from 295 to 347 ft-lbs), but there’s more:

    “Other changes include a firmer suspension that sits 1.2 inches lower and 20- or 21-inch wheels (the Q5 tops out at 20s). An optional Dynamic Steering Package varies ratio as well as assist, and Quattro vectors torque to sharpen handling like similar systems from BMW, Acura and others.”

    I thought regular Q5s also have torque-vectoring, but not entirely sure.

    “How else to explain the popularity of the S4 and S5 in wake of the death of the 3.2 powered cars?”

    Well, they did make the S4 cheaper than it used to be when they still had the 2.8/3.0/3.2 V6s available. Yes, that’s marketing, to some extent.

    Also, leasers galore. To be honest, the S4 now is more like the 335i, whereas the 2.0T is analogous to the 328i. The RS4 is the one that is like the M3, and I don’t see anyone complaining about the huge numbers of M3s being purchased as a top-of-the-line 3-series.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    When I read the title for this I forgot which website I was on and went for the “like” button.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    In the US you buy a diesel for the pulling power. If your not hooking something to the back of it on a regular basis heavy enough to require tandem or triple axels there’s no reason to own a vehicle with a diesel. Once again the US is not Europe.

  • avatar
    mulled whine

    @indyb6

    “I’d really like a 4-door Golf TDI, but the ~$4000 premium upfront (vs. a 4-Door 2.5L Gasoline Golf) stinks.”

    Look at the spec difference between a TDI and a gas golf. It’s not just the engine, the gas golf is a stripper model with steel wheels, plastic steering wheel, etc. In spec (not hp) the US Golf TDI is closer to the European GTD trim; it’s a lot more than apples to apples.

    On my last tank of fuel, I averaged 41mpg on my TDI golf.

    Finally, look at the resale of the TDI s versus gas. It’s way higher.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Agree with mulled whine. It’s because TDI is more of a “premium” spec here, and the people who buy them are buying them as a premium spec car (think Sportwagen). It’s the same on other VAG cars, e.g. the diesel Q7 is more highly equipped than a base petrol Q7.

      The contrast in Europe is that many cheap cars are available as diesels. Not true here.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Wow. Do you guys really look at fuel cost and buy the car with the lowest cost of operation? Really?

    Lets say it cost $100 extra per year to own the diesel after all considerations. Is the diesel buyer now an idiot in your mind? Is the diesel now a poor value?

    The answer is … NO.

    Stop doing math, and figure it out for yourselves, I am done.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      a) I doubt most of the commentariat here actually do that, but they love to bitch about it as fanbois.

      b) A lot of the commentariat here want a cheap diesel (and are generally cheap), so they want to complain about how emissions standards have made diesel vehicles not cheap, but, in the US, diesel is seen by most buyers as a premium option, for passenger cars at least (as opposed to vehicles designed for hauling).

      c) It also may be an overzealous rebuttal to the fact that people who actually own diesels often say it’s cheap to buy diesel because their cars get 4x or 5x MPG.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Isn’t math a way to figure things out for yourself?

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      @ Landcrusher

      If they are buying the diesel to ‘save money on gas’ they might be stupid. As controllio mentioned there are often option differences which account for some of the added cost. But even the apples to apples cases don’t usually make sense money wise.

      There are plenty of reasons to buy diesels in the US. Comparative reliability at high mileages. Loads of torque. A desire to be more “green”. Higher resale. Etc.

      And what’s wrong with math? Besides your house, your cars are one of your most expensive assets. That’s like saying people should stop using math to figure out the best scenario for them on housing down payments, making extra payments vs. investing that money, etc. Guess what? Doing the math is the only way to know!

      And that evil math is what I find most amusing when speaking to friends/neighbors/random folks at gas stations about their new hybrid (with a gas twin) or diesel. It’s an obviously small sample set, but when you get into conversations (nicely, complementing them on their car) the outcome can be surprising. When you get to the part of the discussion where they talk about how awesome their mileage is and you ask how much they’re saving on gas every year you will usually be met by a deer in headlights look, followed by an “um…erm…well it should be considerable with the way gas prices are going!”. I think for a decent % of the user base it’s a knee-jerk reaction to rising oil prices. If they haven’t even taken the first step by figuring out annual fuel costs then what the hell was the point of them buying the car to “save money on gas” as many of them profess?

      I’m pro diesel and pro hybrid. There’s plenty of reasons to buy them. But the “value” created by their significantly higher mpg that gets brought up so often usually never gets realized during their lifetime with the original owner. As the technology improves and the costs come down then the value comes back into the rationale for buying them.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “I think for a decent % of the user base it’s a knee-jerk reaction to rising oil prices. If they haven’t even taken the first step by figuring out annual fuel costs then what the hell was the point of them buying the car to “save money on gas” as many of them profess?”

        Exactly, there are tons of people who will dump their recent-model SUV for a Prius when gas prices go up, not realizing that their overall costs went way up because they bought a new car.


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