From £44,0558
The Audi SQ5 Plus adds more performance and equipment to what's always been a quick and competent SUV. Is it worth the extra cash?

What is it?

Audi has tweaked the Audi Q5 range with a new lower-look front bumper that houses bigger vents, a restyled grille to match its newer models and new headlights.

However, of more interest is the addition of this Plus version of the already compelling SQ5. It ups the ante with an extra 14bhp over the standard model, plus another 20bhp temporarily available on overboost. Torque is also up by 37lb ft, so you get a hefty 516lb ft available from just 1500rpm.

That’s all been achieved by running higher boost for the two turbos that feed the 3.0-litre V6 diesel, as well as increasing the injector’s operating pressure to 2100 bar and playing about with the ECU mapping.

Now for the anticlimax: 0-62mph still takes 5.1 seconds, so no change there then. To keep it tied down in bends Audi says the body’s been lowered by 30mm with the sports suspension, although that's the same as the standard car.

So what do you get for the extra £6370? Well, there’s an active rear diff to shift the torque between the back wheels and some extra kit including diamond-stitched Nappa leather seats, an upgraded sat-nav, 21in alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors and metallic paint.

What's it like?

Pretty good. Not the most playful thing - we’ll come to that in a bit - but certainly impressive for an SUV.

Let’s start with that engine. If only Rudolph Diesel had realised his compression ignition creation would reach such a zenith, he might not have thrown himself into the North Sea 103 years ago. Like us, he would’ve delighted in its pace and smoothness.

Plant your hoof down and after the inevitable moment of lag, the SQ5 Plus advances with the determination of Billy Vunipola charging toward the try line. It’s not barnstormingly quick, just solidly fast, building speed handsomely in the mid-range and revving out keenly in a very un-diesel-like fashion to its 5300rpm red line. That all sounds fabulous, but then comes the realisation that the same is true of the standard car, which rather undermines the extra outlay for the Plus. 

The eight-speed auto gearbox can be frusrating. It occasionally needs some thinking time to process your commands, even when you’ve selected the Dynamic driving mode or are using the paddles, but it remains silky between the ratios.

You’ll want to be in Dynamic most of the time anyway, as that’s when you get the SQ5’s party trick of a bassy burble from the exhaust speaker. Yes it’s contrived, but not in a Clio Renault sport way. It’s better than that, and thoroughly addictive. And even when you’ve not switched on the exhaust’s subwoofer the SQ5 Plus still sounds peachy. Better than the standard SQ5 though? No, unfortunately not, it's the same in this respect, too.

Does the SQ5 Plus handle differently then? I'm afraid not; but that's not to say the Plus is bad. The rack is on the slow side at nearly three turns between locks, but that helps keep it calm on motorways, and it weights up progressively giving it a natural fluency along B-roads roads. What it doesn’t have is much in the way of feel.

There are pros and cons to the chassis set-up, too. The relationship between the springs and dampers is delightfully harmonious as they manage to control the hefty body through turns without it swaying violently like a teenager who's downed a bottle of Diamond White. It’s also able to keep it’s composure even on beaten-up roads, which not only aids mid-corner stability, but also means it rides nicely; it's firm, with some fidget over ripples, but never crashy or harsh.

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However, it isn't playful, even with that new rear diff. Explore its limits and you'll discover understeer, and try as you might, you can’t induce any playfulness at the rear. Yes, I know it’s an SUV, but these days cars like the Porsche Porsche Macan are so good you can’t completely ignore such qualities.

Should I buy one?

Despite the facelift, there’s no hiding the age of the SQ5 Plus compared with more up-to-date Audis, which makes it surprising it feels quite as good as it does.

Yes, the infotainment system looks a bit archaic, but it still functions pretty well. Okay, the bulbous transmission tunnel robs your left leg of space and the offset pedals are mildly irksome. Agreed, there are cars with better rear cabin space in the class. Oh, and those silly optional side steps put pay to any notion that this car might go off road – they're so low they even risk getting scuffed by a mildly high kerb.

However, it's quick but won't cost the earth to run, it is a decent steer - as long as you accept it’s not the last word in on-limit finesse - and it rides and cruises well enough to keep you happy when you need to relax. All of which is true of the standard car, so save yourself the £6000 and enjoy that one instead. 

Audi SQ5 Plus

Location Surrey; On sale now; Price £51,845; Engine 6 cyls, 2967cc, bi-turbo, diesel; Power 335bhp at 4100-4300rpm; Torque 347lb ft at 1500-2250rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerb weight 2000kg; 0-62mph 5.1sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 42.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 174g/km, 34%

John Howell

John Howell
Title: Senior reviewer

John is a freelance automotive journalist with more than a decade of experience in the game. He’s written for most of the big car mags, not least as a road tester for Autocar and as deputy reviews editor for our sister brand, What Car?. He was also the features editor at PistonHeads and headed its YouTube channel.

Cars, driving and machines are in his blood. When he was barely a teenager he was creating race-bale racetracks on his family’s farm – to thrash an old Humber Sceptre around. It broke regularly, of course, which meant he got a taste (and love) for repairing cars. That’s why he eschewed university, choosing instead to do an apprenticeship with a Jaguar dealer. That’s where he built up his technical understanding.  

After that he moved into high-end car sales, selling Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and Maseratis through the franchised network. But it was a love of writing and appraising cars that, eventually, led him to use his industry experience to prise open the door of motoring journalism. He loves cars that exceed their brief in some way. So he finds as much pleasure in testing a great, but humble, hatchback as he does sampling the latest Ferrari on track. Honest.

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ralphsmall 14 March 2017

Audi SQ5. Update

Update FYI on my SQ5 saga Audi Aus have now had my car 4 months They flew. Tech out to try to sort out the rough running. That now have 12 or so cars one or two almost undrivable apparently Latest news is it will be May before a fix!!!!!! Testing !! A new ECU programme that will go into ALL SQ 5 s in our region This is essentially bull with a capital B because if Audi can't fix it in 7 months and in the previous 3 years god help them. There are no lemon laws down under so I'm stuffed and that's it. The SQ5 plus I was driving was taken back at 7500 km as I was wearing it out so now have a beaut black ordinary SQ5 to drive. Interestingly at 1000k seems just as quick down low as the plus. presumably the shape of the torque curve ?? But the torque sensing diff in thee plus is special when pressing on . If I ever get my car back fixed I am out of the four circle mob in a flash
ralphsmall 20 December 2016

SQ 5 plus

Have been driving an SQ5 for 3 years and 40 k miles. Have loan car SQ5 plus for last 3 weeks and 1500 miles definitely a better car same performance and 38 mpg on commute and town.Handling a definite improvement better turn in and less understeer . ride has never been a problem even on rubbish Aus roads . Put 265/40 21 p zeros on my truck when needed new rubber played with tire pressures and definitely improved handling, but plus version much better, Have driven X4 35d and X6 50d and not convinced they are better , Audi interior may be old but they are better finished than bimmers, daughter has Macan diesel sharper but slow. presumably the gearbox wont take the torque Good interior but dark !
ralphsmall 20 December 2016

SQ 5 plus

Been driving an SQ5 for 3 years and 40 k miles Currently driving an SQ5 plus for 1000 miles as my truck is in dock for ECU problem . New plus is definitely better same performance and economy 38 mpg around town and on commute. Definite improvement in handling with less understeer and better turn in when having a go in loan car ,so not my tires ! put 265/40 21 on my truck and played with tire pressures to good effect. Have driven X4 35d and X6 50d and SQ is better truck. Macan diesel sharper,my daughter has one. but poke not in same league presumably the gearbox wont take the torque,also more oppressive but classy interior.I like the Q plus a lot and doubt the new car will be much better with the AWD set up changed.