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 Renaultsport 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.
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 Macan are so good you can’t completely ignore such qualities.