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2018 Audi SQ5 Overview
Geared toward driving enthusiasts who don't want to give up their sporty rides for more cargo space and family-oriented practicality, the Audi SQ5 midsize crossover offers the best of both worlds, combining the power and handling of a sport sedan with the versatility and functionality of an SUV. For 2018, the SQ5 gets even better with a second-generation redesign, as it receives more athletic exterior styling, a new turbocharged powerplant, an upgraded interior, new driver-assistance options, and an available adaptive air suspension.
Now in its fifth year of production, the performance-oriented SQ5 receives the same generational makeover as the Audi Q5, upon which it's based. The Q5 has been in showrooms for over a decade, some good half-dozen years longer than the SQ5, so it was overdue for a full redesign. For 2018, both models display a restyled exterior highlighted by a rounded clamshell-shaped hood, wavy sidelines, a low roofline, concave scoops along the lower doors, and prominent wheel wells for a more fluid look. But the most noticeable changes occur up front with the reshaped Singleframe grille that now widens at a higher point, on a line even with the bottoms of the headlights, before tapering down toward the bumper. At the rear, new features include a thinner bumper with integrated trapezoidal dual exhaust pipes, and aluminum roof rails and a power tailgate complete the look.
As the high-performance, sporty variant of the Q5, the SQ5 takes everything the standard Q5 has to offer and then builds on it. Up front, that means the 2018 SQ5 receives such unique features as new, narrower three-dimensional LED headlights, which angle out from the sides of the grille, and revised lower air intakes with horizontal slats that match the platinum gray grille. In addition, the SQ5 gets aluminum optic exterior trim on the grille frame, slats, side mirrors, and S-model rear roof spoiler. Other special items include LED taillights with dynamic turn signals and larger, sportier aluminum wheels, which help give the SQ5 a more dashing appearance.
While the Q5 relies on a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the 2018 SQ5 gets a new turbocharged 3.0-liter TFSI V6 engine to replace the previous supercharged V6. Output remains the same at 354 hp, but torque increases to 369 lb-ft (up from 346 lb-ft), with peak torque available in a broader 1,370- to 4,500-rpm range. As a result, the updated SQ5 jumps off the line quicker than its predecessor, making the jaunt to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Audi pairs the V6 with a smooth-shifting 8-speed Tiptronic transmission, which was tweaked to optimize low-end torque.
The powerplant sends torque to the wheels through Audi's quattro all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, which continues to come standard on the SQ5. Updated for 2018, it boasts a new fuel-saving Ultra feature that automatically decouples the rear axle and sends power to just the front wheels during driving situations where AWD is not required. It works in conjunction with the SQ5's updated suspension, with a new lightweight 5-link configuration at the front for more precise steering and improved handling. Drivers can adjust the SQ5's ride and handling via a drive-mode selector with Auto, Comfort, Dynamic, and Individual settings.
Buyers looking for even more dynamic handling and performance can opt for the SQ5’s new S Sport package. Among other features, it adds a sport rear differential that can actively split rear-axle torque between the 2 rear wheels, improving stability and driving dynamics. When required, it can send nearly all torque to a single wheel. The S Sport package adds a sport adaptive air suspension to the SQ5's equipment list, which allows drivers to adjust damper firmness or lower the ride height by up to 30 mm (1.2 inches) to improve efficiency and fuel economy. The adaptive air suspension includes 2 additional drive mode settings (Allroad and Lift/Offroad) that raise the ride height for extra ground clearance on difficult terrain. Also available for 2018 is dynamic steering with a variable steering ratio, which improves straight-line stability at higher speeds and steering response at lower speeds.
Overall, the redesigned SQ5 stretches slightly longer and weighs slightly less than its predecessor. It now measures 15.3 feet long from bumper to bumper, an increase of 1 inch, and sits on a wheelbase measuring 9.25 feet, up by 0.5 inches. Width remains the same at 6.2 feet, but the SQ5 does shed about 77 pounds of weight—thanks in part to the use of high-strength aluminum in the body, chassis, hood, and rear tailgate and lighter-weight components like the new front suspension.
Inside the SQ5, the longer wheelbase and length translate to a marginal increase in space, with more shoulder width, headroom, and legroom for the second row. Cargo space is similar to that of the previous-generation model, with 28.7 cubic feet when the 40/20/40-split rear seats are up and a total of 60.1 cubic feet (an increase of 2.8) with the rear seats folded.
The SQ5 continues to seat 5 passengers comfortably, with good ergonomics and an abundance of luxury-oriented materials. The seats, center console, air-conditioning system, and infotainment display were all updated for 2018, and unique interior styling includes a 3-spoke flat-bottom sport steering wheel, sport front seats, brushed aluminum inlays, and stainless steel door sills with S badging. Audi will once again offer the SQ5 in Premium Plus and Prestige trims, with such standard features as leather upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats, 3-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic moonroof, ambient lighting, and a 9-speaker audio system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Prestige trim adds such features as a navigation, a head-up display, and a 13-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system with HD radio. Diamond stitching on the seats, premium leather upholstery, and carbon atlas inlays are available as add-ons.
High-tech offerings for the 2018 SQ5 include a new virtual cockpit, which replaces the analog gauges and readouts with a digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster. The virtual cockpit comes with a unique sport mode that emphasizes the tachometer and speedometer and adds a boost gauge and lap timer, and drivers can change the screen view at the touch of a button to display Google Earth-powered navigation. The automaker has also updated the SQ5's MMI infotainment system to include touch handwriting-recognition technology, so drivers can write entries and inquiries directly on the screen in the center console for easier access. Bluetooth, an SD card slot, and iPod connectivity are among the standard tech features.
Finally, Audi introduces a number of new optional driver assistance systems for the 2018 SQ5, including adaptive cruise control, front-end collision warning, traffic-jam assist with autonomous steering, and a new Pre-Sense system, which monitors the area in front of the vehicle for pedestrians and obstacles and will brake if necessary. A full range of airbags, electronic stability control, antilock brakes (ABS) with brake assist, a reversing camera, and blind-spot monitoring all come standard on the Premium Plus trim, and the Prestige trim adds a surround-view camera.
As in previous years, the SQ5 runs in a somewhat exclusive and competitive field, facing off against such high-end crossovers as the BMW X3, the Porsche Macan, the Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, and the new Jaguar F-Pace. Critics have slotted the SQ5 about mid-range in that class, but the new second-generation redesign might just give it a leg up on the competition.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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