2018 Audi SQ5 — One of the best gets better

By Jim Prueter

(April 26, 2018) A popular suburban mainstay of crossover utility vehicles, the Audi Q5 luxury SUV first came on the scene following its North American debut in 2009. The Q5 received a refresh in 2012 and now, for 2018, comes the second-generation with a complete revamp that includes more technology, advanced driver assistance systems, a redeveloped powertrain, and modest exterior design treatments. So modest, in fact, only those with an educated eye will spot the difference.

But the secret sauce of the mid-sized luxury Audi Q5 — which slots between the larger Q7 and smaller Q3 SUVs — is less about the dizzying array of high-tech features and more about the chakra of its brilliant driving experience, Armani-like luxurious interior styling, and, of course, it’s Bavarian pedigree. 

There’s little doubt that Audi was careful not to tinker too much with success. Q5 is responsible for huge operating return on sales for Audi. Of course, a large part of that success is attributable to cost savings via design and engineering-sharing among Volkswagen AG and its seven auto brands that include Audi, Porsche, Bentley and others.

Our test car for the week was the 2018 Audi SQ5, the performance version of the Q5 crossover that competes with compact performance crossovers like Jaguar F-Pace S and Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC 43.

While the standard Q5 is powered by a 2.0-liter 252-horsepower four cylinder, our SQ5 model comes with a beefier 354 horsepower 3.0-liter twin-scrolled turbocharged V-6 with an eight-speed Tiptronic® automatic transmission and quattro all-wheel drive (well loaded for $68,750). While the 2.0-liter is anything but timid, we’re more than happy to flog the SQ’s 354 horsepower to a 60-mph sprint from a dead stop in just five seconds.

While the SQ’s responsiveness is certainly addictive, Audi does afford the driver the opportunity to select from five different drive modes: comfort, auto, dynamic, offroad and individual settings allowing the driver to choose the option that best meets their driving situation and handling preferences. Of course, if we wanted comfort, we’d switch to a Buick.

It’s not outrageously fast, given the Quattro all-wheel drive and portly curb weight of 4,398 lbs. Still, for a crossover it’s certainly entertaining behind the wheel with confident and predictable handling, superb brakes and the lusty-sounding active exhaust system. Adaptive damping is standard and our SQ was equipped with the optional $3,000 S Sport package that includes adaptive air suspension, which raises and lowers the suspension approximately four inches for desired ground clearance.

One would expect the cabin to be quiet in both city and highway driving, given its luxury status. In that regard, the SQ5 delivers.

Inside, the SQ5’s interior treatment is exquisite and impeccably tailored with the optional diamond stitched quilted Nappa leather, standard matte brushed aluminum trim with carbon atlas inlays and stainless steel door sills with “S” badging.

The interior is surprisingly roomy given the compact size of the vehicle. Rear seats accommodate three average sized adults comfortably, and the front seats, while on the firm side, are satisfying with good head, shoulder and legroom. We especially liked the attractive flat-bottom steering wheel that felt thick and substantial in just the right way.

Infotainment is delivered via the optional premium Bang and Olufsen sound system with 3D sound that’s included in Audi’s optional MMI touch with handwriting-recognition technology. That technology certainly takes some time to master but, overall, the system is quite logical.

A large, iPad-like touchscreen is responsive, with pinch and swipe motions. The screen is high-definition and controls are well laid out and within easy reach. There’s an ample number of surround view cameras that’s excellent for pulling out of a tight parking space while audio sensors alert you if things are getting too close to the vehicle.

Unique to the SQ5 trim level is Audi’s virtual cockpit that features a sport display mode for the tachometer and speedometer, along with a boost gauge and a lap timer. Also available is a full-color head-up display that projects on the windshield directly in the driver’s field of vision, displaying the vehicle’s speed and other operational and infotainment information.

Regardless of trim level, all 2018 Audi Q5s come standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Blind spot detection and rear traffic alert comes standard on all trim levels except the base Q5 model.

Overall, the SQ5 is an excellent crossover vehicle with just the right amount of luxury and sporting dynamics for most drivers, but we thought it less thrilling to drive compared to performance competitors like the Jaguar F-Pace S, Porsche Macan and Mercedes-Benz AMG. And while you do get a lot of bang for your buck, all this goodness is expensive, especially when adding optional packages and desirable stand-alone features.

Final assembly for all Audi Q5 SUVs takes place at company’s new factory in San Jose Chiapa, Mexico and is on sale now.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $54,300
Price as Tested: $68,750
Powertrain: 3.0-Liter 354 horsepower twin-scrolled turbocharged V6 and eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission
Fuel Economy (city/highway): 19/24
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded highest rating of “good.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded highest overall possible rating of five stars.

Competes With:
Jaguar F-Pace S
Mercedes-Benz AMG GLC43
Porsche Macan
Range Rover Evoque

Fab Features:
Quick acceleration with the twin-scrolled turbocharged V6
Upscale interior
A techno-Geeks nirvana