Official Long Term 2018 Audi SQ5 Review by Rob Eckaus
A tall sports wagon in a pinstripe suit
By Rob Eckaus
San Francisco Bureau THE AUTO CHANNEL
Reinforcing the SUV decision, prepping for a move meant numerous trips for donations and not having to lift over a sill plus the increased vertical room was so convenient. It became clear the coupe, an Infiniti G37, had to go. An old, somewhat tired Ford Edge certainly motivated us to upgrade to a modern vehicle as well. The shopping began for the SUV.
In the price range being considered, there’s no losers. The BMW X5 was too familiar from the interior of the sedan and the overall shape was too common having been around for many years. My wife didn’t want all the buttons along the center console in the Porsche Macan although that would have been my choice. The Jaguar is somewhat striking in appearance but just didn’t have the appeal. The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio wasn’t available yet and the looks didn’t capture her eye. Infiniti was too familiar after the coupe and didn’t have the power I wanted. Mercedes had the GLC 43 AMG which sounded great, there was a V8 twin turbo 63 model as well, but the interior didn’t sell her. But the 2018 Audi SQ5 interior did.
I knew it was a great vehicle performance wise. Mid-13 second quarter mile, which I verified one warm night, 13.6 @ 100mph. Car and Driver tested it to .93g on the skipad on the 21” Pirelli summer tires, which I approached while following and giggling behind a Porsche 911 GT2 RS on an on-ramp for a review after a photo shoot, and the braking distance from 70mph in an absurdly low 148ft. These are fairly serious sport sedan numbers from a tall, heavy vehicle. The disadvantages have faded with technology.
Adjustable and adaptive air suspension is very comfortable in Comfort mode of course, but for good roads its usually found in Dynamic mode. Offroad/Lift for going to the lake or even better, cleaning the wheel wells which are lined with a black velvet-like material. The Auto mode does something, we don’t care what it is, it is never left in Auto mode. There is also an in-between all-road height. The rear will squat down further for easier loading and unloading as well. It looks a little odd though when left in that tail dragger mode when parked and automatically rises at start-up. Total adjustability is about 4 inches.
The throttle response has too much lag in Dynamic mode, but pulling the shift lever back activates Sport mode. Then it responds properly but it also holds a lower gear while cruising and raises the idle rpm. If only Dynamic had the same throttle response as Sport mode it would be perfect. The shifts are soft, and accompanied by a nice pop from the exhaust. By the way, you should hear it at start-up, very throaty and burbles. But Sport mode needs firmer shifts.
The mileage penalty of being an SUV just doesn’t exist enough to care whatsoever. Mid 20s at 85mph cruising speeds and Car and Driver reported 28mpg at a steady 75mph. And it’s quiet, loafing along at 2200rpm or so at 85mph. The 18.5 gallon fuel tank adds further to the convenience. All this performance and efficiency magic from a 3.0 liter, single-turbo, hot-vee (the exhaust is in the inside of the V-6 configuration) making 354hp at 6400rpm and 369lbs ft torque at a diesel-like 1370rpm to the ubiquitous ZF 8-speed automatic.
Now in its second generation, its based on the MLB Evo platform which also underpins the A4 sedan. The previous generation SQ5 has a supercharged V-6 that made 23lbs ft less torque and that peak was 3000rpm higher. It’s AWD system has a 60% rearward bias but can send 85% of the power to the rear wheels depending. A very solid and quiet vehicle, equipped with the optional acoustic glass, it is a very quiet and comfortable highway cruiser and the wife’s choice versus the sport sedan for road trips anywhere.
Exterior styling is pretty safe with that general appeal of classy and sporty. The 21” wheels are painted gray between the spokes and look great. The red brake calipers with S line branding give it that performance hint. We don’t run front plates on the cars and Audi offers an aluminum snap-in trim piece that matches the grill to fill in the gap that was left. Apparently, there’s a black-out package that looks pretty good, others have replaced the grills with an all-black piece. The roof rack rails are a brushed metallic as well as the side view mirrors. It looks good, classy, but not the aggressive blacked-out style. My wife says it reminds her of a pinstripe suit.
The most annoying thing about the car is the auto shut-off and start. To the point that’s the first thing we do after starting the car is pressing the off button. Its so intrusive when the engine does shut-off, not to mention the ridiculousness of shutting off at a stop-sign. The car hasn’t even rocked back on its air springs and the shudder is felt. We’ve literally begged the dealer to change the default to off. I’ll gladly keep it on at long traffic lights, trains and the drive-through but that’s it. If it wasn’t so intrusive and noticeable it wouldn’t even be an issue.
A few times at very low speeds the Audi Pre-Sense will slam on the brakes thinking there is an object in the way. The epoxied border feature in the garage has caused it to activate when backing out. Sensors have a long way to go but these are minor complaints.
Surprisingly the steering wheel is a manual tilt and telescope for a vehicle with an MSRP of $66,000. However the purchase price was 10% off during a Penske sale. The 2019 model has a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel. I wanted the ventilated seats but my wife chose the beautiful Nappa leather quilted seats with red stitching. They are firm yet comfortable and the leather is spectacularly soft and showing no sign of wear.
Due to an object striking the windshield a replacement was a $1700 repair due to the heads up display and calibration needed for the electronics, a Quantum Grey 2019 model was provided for a comparison. It had the Black Optic package which meant 20” all season tires, the wheels, grill, and roof rails are black along with the side mirrors. Lacking the air suspension, it was a softer ride in Dynamic mode, doesn’t have the All-Road ride selection and of course, no change in ride height. Throttle tip-in is improved as well. An inductive charging phone pad is also a convenient addition.
We aren’t sure if the protruding wheel well molding on the 2018 is for the 21” wheels or eliminated for 2019. A second recall has been issued to have the dealer secure the rear trim piece after a recall for the first. Again, minor annoyances and dealer service is top notch.
Other neat aspects comes to mind. The huge panoramic sunroof is a joy to have, and we had it tinted to offset the heat. The windshield also has a clear tint to prevent heat build-up and it makes a noticeable difference driving and less build-up when parked. The optional electronic rear differential works it’s magic, a full-throttle, 90-degree turn is stupidly quick and it remains composed and neutral. The four rings projected on the ground is cool, and got favorable comments at the dragstrip one night. The 360 degree camera and visual parking assist is particularly handy.
That overly sensitive sensor mentioned does work well for an audible warning of approaching vehicles when backing out of a parking space, but the sudden pre-sense braking can also be a bit much in its warning, unless of course you’re not paying attention.
We’re thrilled with our choice. A capable performer, efficient, quiet, and wonderfully comfortable. It’s seen the dragstrip, was in a couple Cars & Coffee events, lots of excursions with the nephews and granddaughter and is a joy to drive. The phrase that comes to mind is there are bigger SUVs and faster SUVs, but no better SUVs. Now that is what you call owner satisfaction.