► Fastest new Audi Q5
► New 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine
► Much more spritely than the outgoing model
Put the 2017 Audi SQ5 we drove earlier this week next to the previous version, and you’d be forgiven for confusing the two. From the outside at least, the new SQ5 hasn’t changed, and still looks like the smart – if not unassuming – crossover it started off as.
However, Audi has been busy under the bodywork, and get past that hexagonal grille and you’ll find the latest 2018 SUV has had a serious overhaul. First off, it’s fractionally narrower and taller – and it’s all slightly longer, too. The new SQ5’s aluminium and steel structure is lower-slung, more car-like than its predecessor's, but it does carve a huge 130kg from the car's weight – and that's particularly useful in something as agile as the SQ5.
Read CAR's review of the regular new Audi Q5
New Audi SQ5 review: engine and performance
That 130kg diet trick is important, and that weight-saving is made even more noticeable by the new SQ5’s new V6 TFI 3.0-litre turbocharged engine. Producing just a little less than 350bhp at 5400-6400 rpm, the SQ5 also produces 369lb ft between 1370-4500rpm.
As you’d expect from a jack-of-all-trades like the new Audi SQ5, performance is strong, but not earth-shattering. The benchmark 0-62mph appears in a respectable 5.4 seconds, while top speed is an electronically limited 155mph. As for the mpg? Audi is quoting 28.8mpg on the NEDC cycle.
That's what happens when you hoik out the SUV's staple diesel engine and pop in a V6 petrol...
What's the 2018 Audi SQ5 like to drive?
If you want a performance car, you're best off with something like an RS3 or RS5, and if you’re after a car that can handle seven passengers and still give a fair amount of poke – you’ll need to get an SQ7. If, however, you want something somewhere in between, the SQ5 slots into the range perfectly.
It's spacious inside, and looks handsomely proportioned on the outside – but it feels far smaller to drive. Lower down to the ground and considerably more powerful than the outgoing SQ5, the 2018 model's ride is only a little on the firm side when in Comfort mode – even on 20-inch rims.
But the new SQ5 is bordering on lively in Dynamic mode. Sure, it can’t offer the feedback you’d get from a proper Audi RS car, but the SQ5 does deliver a dollop more agility and fun than the ‘foot to the floor and boot it’ SQ7. Gut feel says Porsche’s Macan still has the edge on ultimate dynamic ability, however.
The only issue? Over-assisted steering is one of the SQ5’s few weak points, feeling overly light and sensitive.
And one of our testers found the ride just too jittery. This is not an especially comfortable way to get about.
New Audi SQ5 review: road noise
In an Audi? No way. There’s very little road or wind noise, even at high speeds, allowing the V6’s throaty exhaust note to come to the fore.
Quality of cabin materials and their fit and finish are predictably millimetre-precise, although we remain unconvinced about the need for three navigation aids: in the centre screen, the Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster, and in the head-up display.
Not a lot to fault in this latest crossover from Audi. Neither the remote-feeling steering nor the £50k+ asking price will stop many from beating a path to their nearest Audi dealer. For many, this will be the new benchmark in the sporty middleweight SUV sector.