Audi SQ5 Sportback 2022 Review : Packing Heat
Singapore - Subtle, isn’t it? It’s the fastest, most powerful car in Audi’s Q5 range. But the under-the-radar looks of this Audi SQ5 Sportback endow it with an element of stealthiness that belies its performance-oriented characteristics.
We’ve always appreciated how the range of Audi Sport vehicles could toe the middle ground between Audi’s base model cars and the top-tier Audi RS badged vehicles, offering customers a practical mix of performance and usability like we’ve seen in the stellar e-tron S Sportback and S3 Sedan. All that, whilst retaining their low-key appearances.
In that regard, the SQ5 Sportback does embody the attributes of a Q car or a sleeper. Subtle and inconspicuous one moment, brash and bonkers the next.
Audi SQ5 Sportback - Subtlety at its finest?
It goes without saying, we like Q cars. We love the idea of something that so looks pedestrian shrouding the ability to give some sportscar owners a run for their (undoubtedly) hard-earned money. Fact is, Audi isn’t the only manufacturer that does the whole subtlety thing well, BMW’s MPA (M Performance Automobiles) cars and the lower rung of Mercedes-AMG vehicles are no strangers to this sort of thing.
But while those cars often tend to hint at their performance attributes with numerous badges, more aggressive air dams or lashings of carbon fibre, the 3.0-litre SQ5 Sportback looks damn near identical to its 2.0-litre counterpart. Ergo, low-key.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to say it looks ordinary, it isn’t shouty in the way that its competition is. The performance upgrades are, for the most part, hidden from sight.
Apart from the stylish 21-inch rims, red S badges and satin chrome wing mirrors, there’s little to no hint that this swoopy SUV packs a hell of a wallop. Round the tail end, those four chrome tips sticking out of the rear fascia aren’t linked to the actual exhaust, but rather a plastic facsimile that gives the SQ5 Sportback a touch more aggression.
Audi SQ5 Sportback - Bringing Sport-back?
Clamber into the cabin and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a standard Q5, albeit with some extra bits of carbon fibre. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Every touch point feels robust and solidly built, with nary a creak or rattle when you slam those massively heavy doors. The lovely quilted sport seats offer a ton of support and adjustability, and the cabin is still a lovely place to be in. If you could look past inevitable fingerprint marks on the gloss lacquer.
However, where it deviates from the Q5 SUV is in the rear cab, with a roofline that is significantly lower than you’d find in the Q5 crossover. This is where the “Sportback” comes into the equation. It is still a crossover, and I mean that in every sense of the word because it is a literal crossover between an SUV and a Coupe. Or coupe SUV, as we’ve grown accustomed to calling them. But it still rides higher off the ground so you shouldn’t expect people to think you’re in a stylish coupe.
Now, I’m not the first to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of coupe SUVs. But truthfully, this isn’t the worst execution of a coupe roofline on a crossover. Rear trunk space is a rather generous 500 litres, which is just 20 litres shy of the regular Q5’s luggage capacity. Rear headroom isn’t horrendous either if you’re under 6 feet.
All sounds good and proper, doesn’t it? However, one only has to take a peek under the hood to find out that the SQ5 Sportback is packing some serious heat.
Audi SQ5 Sportback - Bringing the heat
While it isn’t as scintillating or evocative as Audi’s inline-5 (put to good use in the RS 3 Sedan and RS 3 Sportback), the 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 under the hood of the SQ5 produces 354 horsepower and 500Nm of torque. It’s still a seriously potent engine, mated to an 8-speed ZF tiptronic gearbox. Like most of Audi’s top-tier models, power is sent to all four wheels via Audi’s quattro system, which allows the 255-section rubber on all four corners to bite down on the tarmac and propel the car from 0-100km/h in 5 seconds flat. Brisk pace for an SUV that weighs a shade under 1.9 tons.
Audi SQ5 Sportback - Putting the hammer down
Impressive performance figures then, and it feels just as quick on the road as those on paper numbers suggest. The V6 rumbles to life in a less than conspicuous manner on cold starts, but peters out as the engine warms up and you set off on your commute. Select ‘Dynamic’ mode however, and you’re met with a deep baritone growl under power and hissing turbo wastegates when you lift off the throttle. Subtlety be damned.
The SQ5 Sportback picks up the pace and builds boost quickly when you gun the throttle, propelling you to triple digit speeds quicker than one might expect. It’s a quick car this, but it's not only in a straight line where the SQ5 Sportback performs well.
More often than not, SUVs do have a tendency to lean a little more around the bends when you put the hammer down. To combat that, the SQ5 comes fitted with adaptive suspension. But our test car takes it a step further with adaptive air suspension that’s been fettled for better cornering performance, effectively lowering the car’s centre of gravity so you stay planted to the road. That, coupled with the tried-and-tested quattro AWD system inspires a little more confidence in the car’s dynamic abilities when you're giving it the beans.
You could quickly outpace most hot hatchbacks and even give some sports cars a run for their money. But don’t expect to outrun any supercars or super saloons though. This is still an S badged car after all. If it’s bonkers pace you’re looking for, you’d have to look at the Audi RS fleet instead.
But when you decide to take things slow, the car behaves not unlike the regular Q5 or Q5 Sportback. The air springs soften and take on more load to turn the SQ5 into a comfortable, refined cruiser that’s perfectly suitable for families. As an added bonus, the optional air suspension even lowers the back end of the car with the tailgate open so you’d struggle less on those IKEA furniture runs.
Admittedly, that S-tuned air suspension is a rather pricey bit of kit at $4,768. But in the grand scheme of things, shelling out that amount is a small price to pay when you factor in the SQ5 Sportback’s starting price of $417,877. It's a box we'd tick on the options list.
As a matter of fact, there are plenty of boxes we left blank while faffing about on the Audi configurator. The $7,473 panoramic sunroof for instance, or the $3,392 heated seats in the front and rear (we REALLY wouldn’t need that), or the Carbon Style Package which costs a hefty $8,555. That latter option only serves to make this Q car a little less inconspicuous, and we'd rather save our dollars for the good stuff.
PHOTOS Jay Tee
Audi SQ5 Sportback
Engine 2995cc, V6, turbocharged
Transmission 8-speed tiptronic automatic
Top Speed 250km/h (electronically limited)
Fuel Consumption 9.2l/100km