By on November 1, 2014

2014 Audi SQ5The number of double-takes was odd, I thought. In the summer, with the top down in a red Camaro ZL1, rubberneckers are a dime a dozen. But the SQ5 is a subtly enhanced version of the Audi Q5, a small crossover that’s been around for more than five years; the best-selling model at one of America’s/Canada’s fastest-growing luxury brands. Sure, this one has optional 21-inch alloy wheels, valued at $800, but are big wheels enough to cause the majority of passersby to turn for another look?

Ah yes, the noise, that’s what did it. Audi’s supercharged 3.0L V6 does have the tendency to bark melodically, particularly when Audi Drive Select is used to switch engine noise (along with engine/transmission and steering) to Dynamic mode, up a notch from Comfort and Auto. Added to that was the 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, which was used extensively at wake-the-neighbours volume. How civilized.

Less civilized is the amount of understeer and the way that understeer is encountered prematurely. Yet that’s only a surprise because of the dynamics manifested by the SQ5 most of the time – it’s not a high-riding SUV that you drive like an SUV. At all. Naturally, when taking corners like the TTS you forgot it wasn’t, the SQ5 plows sooner and with more disconcerting pressure on the outside front tire than you expected. After all, you forgot you were driving a 4400-pound, 65.3-inch tall utility vehicle, not a 3858-pound, 55.4-inch tall S4.

2014 Audi SQ5That you could forget something so obvious is a testament to the SQ5’s overall balance. Of greater interest to those who prefer the SQ5 over conventional Q5s like the 220-horsepower 2.0T and 240-horsepower 3.0L TDI because of the SQ5’s rate of acceleration, ride quality is firm but compliant over the worst roads, if slightly busy in routine driving.

But what acceleration it is. The SQ5 is less expensive than other hyper-quick SUVs, the AMGs and M-badged BMWs, less costly than the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, as well. Audi’s supercharged 3.0L, with 354 horsepower and 346 lb-ft of torque, is mated here to an 8-speed automatic, not the 7-speed dual-clutch from the similarly engined S4.

Not at any moment do you feel as though the meat of the power band is located elsewhere, although Comfort mode does seem to use very economy-minded programming for the 8-speed auto, refusing to drop down a gear without a real kick in the pants. Audi’s famed Quattro all-wheel-drive means firm prods of the throttle always result in instantaneous forward motion almost regardless of surface. (We’d strongly recommend something other than 255/40R/21 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GTs if you’ll be driving in snow. Nothing kills the benefits of all-wheel-drive quite like skipping out on winter tires.)

The true brute force of the supercharged V6 is felt not from rest but at speed, however. Squirting around traffic to get to an off-ramp ahead, rather than behind, of a line of slow-moving CR-Vs and RAV4s is a task completed with shocking quickness.

TTAC 2014 Audi SQ5All the while, SQ5 pilots are ensconced in a typically classy Audi interior. There are letdowns. For starters, the interior doesn’t feel fresh, perhaps because of the overarching darkness. Even the optional aluminum inlays ($1100) don’t spice up the ambience. I wouldn’t say the SQ5 offers luxury-like silence, either, with wind noise being rather prevalent. There are a number of blanked-out switches in prominent locations, too, which always causes you to wonder what you’re missing out on after spending $53,595, or $68,745 fully equipped ((U.S. market pricing including destination). Audi’s MMI is simple, though, with shortcut buttons spread around a central control knob, and everything feels so very expensive. As it ought to.

Rear seat space does not stand out, not for its snugness or its abundance of space. Yet cargo dimensions are a letdown. The Q5 is 183 inches long from bumper to bumper and 75.2 inches wide. That’s nearly five inches longer and nearly four inches wider than the Honda CR-V, but the CR-V offers 24% more seats-folded cargo capacity and 28% more space behind the rear seats. The SQ5 remains a flexible cargo carrier, but the sloping roof which helps to make all Q5s so handsome reduces the SQ5’s ability to take a young family away on vacation.

2014 Audi SQ5 interiorThe SQ5 is not alone in this luxury crossover cargo conundrum: GLKs and X3s are also down on luggage capacity compared with America’s similarly-sized top-selling utility vehicles.

The Audi SQ5 is the fast Q5, an older and popular vehicle, and thus a common vehicle. It’s also tiny in the back and, not unexpectedly, quite a guzzler. We averaged 18.7 mpg during the week Audi Canada allowed the SQ5 to visit our driveway, in keeping with its ratings and appropriate for a pickup truck. Fortunately, Audi adds a healthy dose of standard equipment to the SQ5’s performance credentials, the kind of stuff we often see on premium brand option sheets: panoramic sunroof, power tailgate, three-zone automatic climate control, keyless access, twelve-way power seats with driver memory.

One could make an argument that with this amount of power, unavailable in the Q5’s direct rivals, and this level of equipment, the SQ5 is making an overture to the value-conscious corners of our brains. Meanwhile, the SQ5 is also playing another tune, courtesy of Bang & Olufsen and a supercharged 3.0L, in order to tug on our heartstrings.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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40 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Audi SQ5...”


  • avatar
    Maymar

    I’d be interested to see the performance and ride difference between this and a standard A4 Avant (not S4, A4). I can only assume the ride would improve with the wagon not having to account for as much body motion, and clocking in at something like 500lbs lighter is hardly insignificant. It’s also not like the A4 is a particularly low car or one you really have to fold yourself into.

    Mostly, I suspect most of the people who buy these don’t really want a performance…whatever. They just want the most expensive Q5. If it wasn’t what the market seems to be demanding, it’d be a lot easier to swallow the refusal to offer any sort of A4 wagon that didn’t have surplus ground clearance if this was just a Q5 3.0T.

    • 0 avatar
      cdnsfan27

      The only thing wrong with the SQ5 is we don’t have enough to sell. Compared to the Macan it is a bargain, lower it to Euro specs and the oversteer is minimized. As for the utility it is much more useful than the S5 on which it is based:)

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      I own an A6 Avant. I can’t testify to the Q series vehicles, but the A6 Avant is very composed. It handles just like the sporty, luxury car that the A6 sedan is. The Avant doesn’t handle any differently than the sedan does.

      People will buy this for the “cool” factor, though. Most Audi drivers just buy it, because it’s got like four rings and Quattro.

      The quattro system is great! It’s also great for clueless drivers. They get a sense of invincibility- all the way into the roadside ditch.

  • avatar

    No mention of the Porsche Macan? IMO the only 4WD Audi SQ5 prospects will take seriously.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      The Macan S is reviewed in this space tomorrow.

      • 0 avatar
        JalopNick

        “Of greater interest to those who prefer the SQ5 over conventional Q5s like the 220-horsepower 2.0T and 240-horsepower 3.0L TDI because of the SQ5’s rate of acceleration, ride quality is firm but compliant over the worst roads, if slightly busy in routine driving.”

        Tim,

        I’m a bit of an Audi man, owned a few, know most everything there is to know about their current lineup and have driven almost every single one of them. I do like to read others’ take on their various virtues and shortcomings and was looking forward to your opinions on the SQ5. I tried to read the review but couldn’t make it to the end. It’s cringeworthy.

        Try reading up a bit about writing techniques; a few simple things would probably improve your writing a lot. Use shorter phrases, don’t jam as much tech data and comparisons in a single phrase (see quote above) and have a clear train of thought across the article. It looks like you have gone over some of your phrases and changed them and then changed them again to the point where there is no beginning and no end (again, see quoted example). Try to write when you’re a bit more relaxed. When done, put it aside and proof-read it a bit later, once you have cleared your mind. Clarity has far more value than content density … after all, this is leisure reading for us readers.

        I took the time to mention this not because I feel like trolling but because I see you making the same mistakes I often make. Ask Baruth for some tips, his writing is very good and I bet it hasn’t always been like that. Not everyone is Clarkson (he’s awesome even when he’s full of crap, which some say he is just about all the time) but anyone can be pretty good with a bit of effort.

        Cheers!

    • 0 avatar
      natrat

      rich kids who don’t need acres of space and want to go fast in a slightly less compromised sporting vehicle will look at the 355 horse, 3450 lbs gla45. Most wont, but it’s out there and faster than the rest except maybe the macan turbo which is more expensive and still a truck

  • avatar
    VW16v

    I guess Audi does not send out that Toyota size check before your reviews. This is an ultra high end SUV that should not even be in the same sentence with a Honda. From the 2.0L turbo to the TDI with 470+ ft/lb of torque the Q5 has been a been the go to European SUV for many years. And probably the reason why Porsche has built the small SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      If you stick ostrich covered Recaros in, and goldflake, a UPS van, you’ll end up with an ultra high end one. Which will most likely understeer a bit alarmingly, if those seats made you think you were in a sportscar…..

  • avatar
    Brumus

    So if I understand correctly, this is a sport utility vehicle without the utility.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    I’d love to do a side x side with one car having those cartoon wheels and another identical car with 16″ rims and appropriate sidewalls.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      When I had a A3 I noticed these Q5s and think, take my A3, jack it up, charge an extra $5,000 for it and people love it, yet they wonder why I paid so much for a “little car.” I just don’t understand the SUV.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s funny…but your A3 and the Q5 are not related. The entry-level Audi products (A3, Q3, TT) rely on whatever the latest transverse-engined Golf/Jetta platform is, or in the case of the A1, the Polo platform…so a jacked-up version of your A3 would actually be the Tiguan. The A4, A5, Allroad, Q5, A6, A7, A8 and Macan, on the other hand, use Audi’s MLB platform, which is known for having longitude-oriented engines, yet still being FWD-based.

        You’re right that the Q5 does seem quite a bit smaller than competitors, especially the X3…

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    OMG, I used the phrase “s*de x s*de” in my comment and was appropriately flogged.

    Please, WordPress, may I have another?

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    So 75.2″ wide is considered a small SUV these days? For some perspective on that, a Challenger is only a half inch wider.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    So 75.2″ w*de is considered a small SUV these days? For some perspective, a Challenger is only half an inch w*der.

  • avatar
    raresleeper

    What we have here is another heavy ass cute ute. Its loaded to the hilt, the interior makes your high income uncle “oooooo and ahhh”, and the mileage is lackluster.

    “But it’s good mileage for what it is!!”

    Yeah, yeah.

    Pony up $50K, it will make your wife happy. If you have one of “those” wives.

    I do- errr, did rather. I left her and she cried me a river over our GLK350. I caved and she now has it.

    I agree that snow tires “enhance” your AWD grip and capabilities. My GLK with its 4MATIC system climbs right up a steep hill, from the base, in just under a foot of snow from a dead stop with unbelievable prowess. That’s with Continental 4×4 Contact All Seasons. In short, I see no need for winter tires, UNLESS you have summer, performance tires. In that case, hell yes, good luck with those bastards in the snow.

    The seven speed slushbox in my GLK would frequently take long hunting trips in city driving. I can only imagine having 8 of them gears in the bastard. No thank ya.

    21″ tire replacement will bankrupt you and the maintenance on this car will probably be a “sunuvabitch”.

    Regardless, sounds like a nice little CUV if you can muster those caveats. Thanks for the write up.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I see the reason for having snow tires is that once you get going, you have to then stop. And AWD does not help with that in the slightest. The difference is not particularly subtle between the stopping power of all seasons in the snow and snow tires in the snow.

      I put the snows on my Range Rover today, given we are forecast for the white crap tomorrow here.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        Most all-seasons are not good in snow. But some do okay, and some do well. Some are even winter rated. Both all-seasons and studless winter tires are practically useless on smooth, warm, wet ice, so you still have to exercise some caution anyway without studs.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      “In short, I see no need for winter tires, UNLESS you have summer, performance tires.”

      You mean like the Max Performance Summer Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GTs mentioned in the review? Why does someone need to opine on the usefulness of winter tires in every single review of an AWD car? Those Dunlops have to go when the snow starts. Unless you want to undo quite a bit of the performance that you paid for by springing for an SQ5 over a Q5 in the first place, the second set of rubber might as well be winter tires. The end.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      The 8 speed ZF is for all practical purposes, unless you’re more anal than your rear end itself, the perfect slushbox. The MB 7 isn’t even in the same zipcode. I am not exaggerating; a 20K stripper V6 Ram pickup has a smoother and more correctly shifting transmission than the latest S class. And, even more bizarre, that ZF was just as darned perfect when the DB9 first came out all those years ago. Why the others can’t figure it out, is beyond me.

    • 0 avatar
      Lbart

      I have the Q5 with 3l. TDI and the 8 speed. This car hardly changes gears at all, I get close to 50 imperial m.p.g. and paid $750.00 for 4yrs. maintenance. Can’t go wrong with that IMO.

  • avatar

    I will vouch for Continental ExtremeContact DWS all seasons. Some people say the all seasons suck in the summer, and suck in the winter. I understand if you are tracking your car, you may need summer rubber. I can do some aggressive dry summer driving in my fwd Protege, go through inches of standing water like its nothing, and get around great in the worst Cleveland winters with these all seasons. They also wear better and are cheaper than the Michelin Pilot Exaltos I had.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      I second this. I put Conti ExtremeContact DWS on my Miata (which came with summer rubber) last year before the cold and snow came. When the starter on my 4WD winter beater failed, I had to drive the Miata the mornings after a few snowstorms when the roads were in various states – from cleared to loose snow to packed snow. These tires handle all conditions extremely well.

      They’re good enough that I didn’t bother swapping back to the summer rubber this year – I’ve been driving the Contis all year with no complaint. They are great tires.

  • avatar
    johnny_5.0

    Probably the only vehicle where I’d rather have the diesel version the Europeans get. Barely down on horsepower, with ~480 lb-ft just off idle.

  • avatar
    alexndr333

    In short:
    German vehicle: Wonderful, except for all these weaknesses. I love it!

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    Can’t wait to drive the supercharged V6 in current Audis sometime soon. I have an early B7 with the 3.2, which is a wonderful engine that is well behaved around town but comes alive at higher rpm’s really nicely. It was a friends’ car with high mileage but in impeccable condition, so I jumped on it and haven’t looked back, with zero problems in 15k miles (though the T-belt and all that is due soon). I always wonder if I’d have preferred the 2.0T with its more accessible torque… whose little brother i may end up driving down the line given how good the new Golf looks.

    • 0 avatar
      Lbart

      The 2.0t is a torquey engine but don’t forget it is trying to move 4500lbs. of SUV. I’ve driven the 2.0t and found It quite sluggish at lower speeds but quite acceptable at higher speeds if you really got into it.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    Perhaps an ideal SUV for those valuing sport over practicality?

    Does the SQ5 have launch control? The Porsche Macan does, though its owners manual suggests launch control be reserved for race track use.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I wonder if the marketers at Porsche secretly laugh their tail off behind the backs of the kind of customer swayed to write a check based on the presence of track-only features on a grocery getter CUV……? Or if P these days hire and promote people more “in tune” with the bailed out classes they depend on for survival…..

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I have to say the B&O system in my wifes 2014 A4 really rocks.

  • avatar
    RHD

    I can’t help but think that at $68,745 for the car, the family won’t care that there’s no room for vacation gear, because there will be no money left for a vacation.
    Love the invisible B pillar on the yellow one… too bad such a high-performance car doesn’t come with a 6-speed manual, for the real drivers!
    At the risk of cramming too many unrelated ideas in one post, it seems that more than ever, a car is a tool used by manufacturers and dealers to separate the owners from ever-larger bundles of their money, rather than a comfortable and useful conveyance for the owners.

  • avatar
    TybeeJim

    I’ve had a Q5 2.0T for 3 years now. The requirements of grandfathering dictated I trade my awesome Cayman S for the Audi. The Macan was but a twinkle in Porsce’s eye in late 2011. The Audi has proved trouble free with more than adequate performance up to the point of sanity on public roads, e.g., 90+ mph. It has supplied all the utility I’ve needed while returning 23-24 mpg city and 28 mpg at 70-80 mph on the highway. I’m what insurance companies and cops call an aggressive driver. I never get left at a stop light (a guy in a 2500 Dodge diesel tried and lost once), probably out of surprise if not gearing. It has all the “bells and whistles” and came in at $48k. I’ve reasearched virtually all 37 of the vehicles I’ve owned over the years and the Q5 is Audi’s bestseller for any number of reasons including quality, luxury, performance, style and utility. Color me a fanboi!

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