The triple threat

The performance vehicle for all seasons, the new Audi SQ5 TDI arrives in Australia.

The very qualities that made the original SQ5 an instant success, coupled with greater technology and equipment – the new SQ5 TDI represents the model at its very best.

James McRory

Ian Dyk

28 May, 2021

The core qualities of the SQ5 TDI have seen it adopt something of a cult status that remains to this day

It’s a long held belief that you can’t be all things to all people, and while that’s true of most things, when it comes to personal transport the SQ5 TDI could well be the exception. From its first grand entrance back in 2012 – at the ancestral home of performance, Le Mans – the Audi SQ5 TDI exhibited that rare combination of qualities in a premium vehicle that made it perfect for a whole range of applications. 

It’s success in Australia where the Q5 had already struck a chord with customers saw the initial launch edition sell out in a flash and subsequent SQ5s then make up for as much as 30 percent of all Q5 models sales.

The appeal of the SQ5 from the outset was never a mystery. Here you had a vehicle in the mid-size range with plenty of room for five adults and luggage or all the trappings of an active lifestyle. It was every inch the luxury vehicle, with beautifully appointed cabin and all of the leading-edge technology you could ask for and it was a true performance vehicle. It was this final quality that was the clincher, its genuine performance and handling putting it in a class all of its own, because performance SUVs simply didn’t exist at the time.

Since then of course there have been plenty of imitators, but the core qualities of the SQ5 TDI and later the SQ5 TFSI saw it adopt something of a cult status that has remained to this day.

After a brief hiatus, the return of the SQ5 TDI late last year as a limited edition demonstrated once again just how popular this model is in the performance-oriented Australian market. Now with this new SQ5 TDI ($104,900*) arriving Down Under, the bar is raised again and in every sense the new SQ5 represents the very best version of this iconic model yet.

Now available as a TDI only, the new SQ5 TDI features that sweet 3.0-litre V6 engine with numerous internal modifications to make it even more responsive and efficient. New pistons, changes to the piezo sensor and an indirect water/air cooler inside V of the engine improve on the already impressive powerplant. The combination results in 251kW of power and 700Nm of torque that’s now available between 1750 and 3250rpm. This is a wider torque spread than before and means that power is on tap the second you hit the accelerator. This is largely a result of the 48-volt mild hybrid system (MHEV) and the electric powered compressor (EPC), both of which further improve that famous engine response as well as reducing fuel consumption.

Familiar in other Audi models, the MHEV system uses a a belt alternator starter (BAS), a lithium-ion battery and a 48/12-volt voltage converter. When the SQ5 decelerates, the MHEV system recovers up to 8kW of power and the vehicle can coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine switched off – but the BAS restarts the engine seamlessly and instantly as required. The MHEV system also has the potential to reduce fuel consumption by up to 0.7 litres per 100 kilometres. 

The EPC uses a compact electric motor powered by the compact 48-volt system to accelerate the compressor wheel of the EPC to 65,000 rpm in a matter of milliseconds. This delivers a spontaneous engine response, particularly from low engine speeds, giving the SQ5 that impressive urge off the line.

With an eight-speed tiptronic transmission and of course quattro all-wheel drive with self-locking centre diff, up to 85 percent of torque can be directed to the rear wheels for maximum grip in the most demanding of circumstances. 

The new SQ5 TDI features that sweet 3.0-litre V6 engine with numerous internal modifications that make it even more responsive and efficient

Then there’s that wonderful exhaust snarl that’s accentuated by the actuator in the exhaust system

The normal torque split sees 40 percent to the front wheels with the remainder to the rear, and with its standard adaptive suspension with damper control lowering the ride height some 30mm more than a standard Audi Q5, the feeling is one of being very planted and solid regardless of the conditions, road surface or speed. This is a vehicle that just feels right at home in any situation, which is another of its endearing qualities.

Of course it is possible to add air suspension to the mix which adjusts the ride height of the body through five levels depending on the driving situation. Driving dynamics can also be further altered with the optional quattro sport differential which allows you to direct almost all of the rear axle’s torque to either wheel when really pushing the limits of adhesion. 

The SQ5 TDI is very much a driver’s car and whether you choose to use the paddle shifts mounted behind the flat-bottom S steering wheel, or select sport and let the fast-changing tiptronic take care of the gear changes, the driving experience is no less rewarding.

Then there’s that wonderful exhaust snarl that’s accentuated by the actuator in the exhaust system. This is the perfect accompaniment to any spirited drive, particularly if it involves tunnels or indeed anything that allows the sound to further reverberate around the car. The sound can be dialled down through the Audi drive select if you don’t want it to accompany every trip, but it has been an integral part of the SQ5 experience since the very beginning and just never gets tired in this writer’s opinion.

Also part of the SQ5 experience is the superbly finished cabin and leading-edge technology employed throughout. 

From the Fine Nappa leather sport seats with diamond stitching with heating in the front to the adjustable read seats that can be split 40:20:40, and slide back and forward, comfort and luxury is at the heart of the SQ5. There’s ambient lighting with 30 different colours for the night time and a panoramic sunroof for the day (or night if the mood grabs you). Rear-window privacy glass keeps glare and prying eyes out and the hands-free electric tailgate operation will make you wonder how you ever survived without one.

The technology has been thoughtfully integrated so as to be convenient but not intrusive. Items like the Audi virtual cockpit and the 10.1-inch high-resolution MMI touch screen display all relevant information and allow easy touch or voice command control of numerous infotainment and connectivity functions, while the head-up display allows you to monitor the vitals of speed and navigation without taking your eyes off the road.

There is also seamless integration of the Audi smartphone interface via Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay, Audi phone box light with the convenience of wireless charging for mobile phones (with Qi standard) and two simultaneous Bluetooth connections, Digital DAB+ radio and four USB outlets (two in the rear). 

A 755w Bang & Olufsen sound system with 19 speakers is standard equipment and the new SQ5 TDI also features Audi connect plus for the first time. This brings all manner of additional functions onboard, connecting the vehicle to the surrounding world with everything from live traffic conditions, weather, and even nearby fuel prices all displayed on your screen. There is also a host of other other convenience functions through the myAudi phone app like service request and remote lock and unlock and of course the enhanced safety aspect of Audi connect plus should the unthinkable happen.

Inside, comfort, luxury and the latest technology is at the very heart of the SQ5

It is as at home outside the best hotel or parked outside a country pub, and makes easy work of highways, B roads or dirt

Indeed in a vehicle of this calibre it goes without saying that the highest levels of safety and driver assistance systems are all part of the package. So too is a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and features like the Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, active lane assist, collision avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic assist, park assist, hill descent control and hold assist are all standard inclusions.

Regardless of what you’re doing or where you’re heading, the SQ5 TDI just seems to have every base covered. 

It has the looks from the standard Matrix LED headlights on its sharp chiseled ‘face’ to the muscular sculpted rear that can be optioned with the state-of-the-art digital OLED rear lights.

It is as at home outside the best hotel or parked outside a country pub, and makes easy work of highways, B roads or dirt. Likewise the switchbacks of a mountain road are its happy hunting ground whether wet, dry or with a covering of ice on the way up to the snow and if you have to spend time in traffic, it reverts to full luxury conveyance.

It’s a vehicle that’s very easy to live with every day, even taking care of the more mundane chores, yet it provides genuine rewards driven hard on the right roads and is every inch the prestige car – and that has been irresistible appeal of this model since the beginning. If you had to choose one vehicle to satisfy your need for performance, luxury and practicality, you need look no further than the SQ5 TDI – and this new model is the SQ5 TDI at its very best.

(*Manufacturer List Pricing [MLP] – excludes dealer delivery and government statutory charges)