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?

Our Verdict

Audi SQ5

The Audi SQ5, the range-topping Q5, makes a fast and desirable family car, but can’t seduce and delight like a performance great

  • First Drive

    2016 Audi SQ5 Plus review

    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?
21 April 2016

What is it?

Audi has tweaked the 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 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.

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%

Join the debate

Comments
9

21 April 2016
Not very impressed with VW / Audi lies on the mpg n specified, my wife has a golf diesel latest version gets 41 to 44mpg official 64mpg .

21 April 2016
Thats cos the official figures are done under laboratory conditions so all cars go through the exact same test to make it fair and balanced, theyre meant as a guide, nothing else. That your wife doesnt achieve them is to be expected, if VW/Audi has cheated with mpg figs the only way to tell is to run the exact same test on your car under the exact same laboratory conditions.

22 April 2016
The Audi interior used to be a selling point. But on the evidence of this and other recent Audi models, Audi has totally lost its design flair. Of the premium brands and in terms of interior design Mercedes and Lexus now lead. Nothing to look at on the outside of this Q5 either. I think as a brand Audi has already past its peak. I don't find any of its recent models remotely desirable.

tlb

22 April 2016
You'll get mid-30s driving it reasonably hard - at least for the non-plus version I did, which I think is excellent given the outrageous performance. It's on a par with the X3 35d which also claims over 40 and has similar performance.

Agree the Q5 interior is getting tired now but it is a very old car underneath. It's very subjective but I've found the interiors on the brand new Audis pretty good - with the virtual cockpit option way ahead of what the competition are offering. Merc are decent as well these days but I still think their dash mounted displays look horribly cheap.

22 April 2016
Not that I will be given the choice, sadly, but I'd rather have a Jaguar F-Pace or shell out just a bit more for a Macan than go for this ageing Audi. And I suspect many others will too, so Audi will need to come up with something new soon.

tlb

22 April 2016
Yep this is very much the run-out model - think the new Q5 is due next year. Macan and F-Pace are way ahead but so they should be given this car is basically 8 years old - although the bi-turbo engine in this car is a glorious unit. What it doesn't state here is that you will easily get a 12% discount at the dealer for this car which will take it under 40k and it's decently spec'd in it's basic format. You'll get very little change out of 60k for the equivalent Macan or F-Pace.

25 April 2016
Cars for idiots with more money than sense...and the writer mentioning understeer...anyone that knows the meaning of understeer would likely not have bought this vehicle.

10 May 2016
PCP mummies will buy these by the gated-community load. Not really a car, more a lifestye choice. I'm surprised Autocar even bother to review it, more a West London Living product?
  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

14 March 2017
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

Lanman

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