Audi SQ5 Sportback: long-term test review

First report: Audi’s sleeker version of the SQ5 joins our fleet in ‘Distinct Green’


  • 4.0 out of 5

    Verdict

    Audi is one of a rare breed of car makers to place its faith in diesel power for its performance models, and the SQ5 is proof that there’s life in the fuel for a while yet. And the Sportback shows you don’t have to take a hit on practicality when you want a curvier SUV.

    • Mileage: 2,562
    • Economy: 37.6mpg (on test)
    • I'm torn when it comes to the colour of my Audi SQ5 Sportback fleet car. You see, I quite like the ‘camo green’ look, as evidenced by my hoodie and trainers. I wouldn’t say I’m stylish, though, so I’m not sure what that says about the Audi’s colour choice – especially because the green it’s painted in reminds me of my wheelie bins. I’m not convinced that’s the idea the German firm’s designers were aiming for.

      The colour is called Distinct Green – it’s a metallic shade that costs £675 – and I do like how Audi has branched out from the usual black/grey/silver/white monochromatic shades that premium SUVs such as this usually come in. It certainly adds a bit of character, even if it seems to be a divisive point for many of my friends and family who see the car for the first time. Some love its modern look; some really don’t.

      • Fastest SUVs in the world 2022

      There are a few more of these divisive points on the move too, unfortunately. Rear-seat passengers have complained
      of a choppy ride, even with the adaptive dampers in their Comfort setting. This is on the standard 20-inch wheels, too; 21-inch rims are available as an option.

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      What’s not up for debate is just how good the SQ5’s powertrain is. As brands move towards plug-in hybrid petrol or fully electric propulsion, even for sporty models, a 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel V6 might seem like an odd choice. But with 336bhp and, crucially, 700Nm of torque from just 1,750rpm, the SQ5 proves that when diesel is done right, it can still make sense. Performance is effortless, helped by the smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox. 

      What I don’t like is the fake note that’s piped through the speakers in Dynamic mode. It’s meant to make the SQ5 sound like a V8. It seems needless to me given that the V6 actually has a nice, natural roar – plus when the fake quad tailpipes are so obvious, it just jars. Maybe this is Audi practising for when its line-up goes fully electric?

      Initially, I wasn’t sold on the Sportback bodystyle either (but let me remind you, I’m clearly not one to comment on matters of style). Compared with the regular SQ5 SUV, this swoopier model loses 20 litres of boot space and costs £2,450 more, weighing in with a pretty hefty price tag of £62,695. 

      I’m warming to its arcing roofline a little, though, and at least it doesn’t prevent me from getting my golf clubs in the boot. That means I don’t have to lay them across the back seats and test the longevity of the upholstery. This is a major plus point.

      When Audi refreshed its Q5 model line, it removed the central click-and-scroll wheel in favour of a pure touchscreen set-up. At the time I thought this was a mistake, and in some ways I still believe as much. But spending more time with the car and using the fantastic voice control system has meant this isn’t as much of an issue any more. I simply say “Hey Audi” and tell it what I want, from a destination for the sat-nav to the radio station I want to listen to. The Virtual Cockpit ahead of the driver – first seen on the TT in 2014 – is as good as ever and Audi is still right at the sharp end of the class when it comes to this tech.

      Dynamically, the Audi is also pretty solid. The steering provides little feedback, although it’s sharp, and the SQ5 handles fairly well. But is it worthy of hot S-model status? I’m undecided. I’ve not really needed to call upon the car’s quattro four-wheel drive system so far, but with winter conditions incoming and a trip to Scotland beckoning, I’m glad of the reassurance.

      On that subject, with a range of around 600 miles from a full tank, not having to stop every 250 miles like I did in my previous fleet car – the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio – is a welcome treat.

      Model:Audi SQ5 Sportback
      On fleet since:October 2022
      Price new:£62,695
      Engine:3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel, 336bhp
      CO2/tax:214g/km/£1,420
      Options:Distinct Green metallic paint (£645), matrix LED headlights (£1,050), Comfort and Sound pack (£1,395), Park Assist Plus (£300), Storage pack (£225) 
      Insurance*:Group: 45 Quote: £1,376
      Mileage:2,562
      Economy:37.6mpg (on test)
      Any problems?None so far

      *Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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