Full 2014 Audi SQ5 Review
What's New for 2014
The SQ5 is a new high-performance variant of the existing Q5 crossover.
The 2014 Audi SQ5 isn't one of those high-performance vehicles that immediately had us at "Hello." Based on Audi's regular Q5 small luxury crossover SUV, the SQ5 has only subtle styling revisions, and for power, it has a version of the automaker's supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine, just like the regular Q5 3.0T. Yet, the SQ5 costs considerably more. Of course, the SQ5 does give you 82 extra horsepower, but those are some expensive horses. Unlike, say, the Audi S4 sedan, which has an alluring performance advantage over its A4 sibling, the SQ5's superiority isn't immediately apparent. But if you're the kind of driver who appreciates the little things, the 2014 SQ5 might win you over.
Plop down into the Audi SQ5's aggressively bolstered driver seat and you're greeted by a saucy flat-bottom steering wheel. That's kind of cool. Fire up that 354-horsepower supercharged V6 engine and there's a spirited blat from the quad tailpipes. Also cool. Plant your right foot on the gas pedal to merge onto the expressway and the SQ5 lunges forward, showing noticeably more verve than even the supercharged Q5 3.0T. Drive it around a turn at a brisk clip and the S-specific sport suspension carves a tighter line than you ever thought a Q5 could manage.
In short, the 2014 SQ5 feels genuinely special from behind the wheel, and that's what Audi's S lineup is all about. It also gives you most of the regular Q5's goodness, including superb interior materials and an adult-friendly backseat. Plus, if a sport-biased crossover SUV is what you desire, this Audi is one of only a few models in this segment. That said, you generally won't pay as much for alternatives like the 300-horsepower 2014 BMW X3 xDrive 35i, the 325-hp 2014 Infiniti QX70 or the 240-hp Land Rover Evoque. But from our standpoint, the charming 2014 Audi SQ5 is worth the price.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Audi SQ5 is a compact, five-passenger luxury crossover offered in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
Standard equipment for the Premium Plus starts off with 20-inch wheels with summer tires, performance brakes (compared to the regular Q5), a lowered sport-tuned suspension, xenon headlights, LED running lights, S-specific body trim (including the signature metal-look mirror housings), auto-dimming/power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof, a rear roof spoiler, a power liftgate and quad exhaust tips.
There's also keyless ignition/entry, heated eight-way power front sport seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), a flat-bottom tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather/faux-suede upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, adjustable drive settings (covering throttle response, transmission programming and steering assist), a sliding and reclining 40/20/40-split rear seat, Bluetooth connectivity, Audi's base Multi Media Interface (MMI) with a dash-mounted controller, and a 10-speaker sound system with a CD player, an iPod/USB input, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio.
The Prestige adds adaptive headlights, a blind-spot monitoring system,a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system, a heated/cooled cupholder, rear door sunshades and the Audi MMI Navigation Plus package, which includes rear parking sensors, a navigation system, a color driver information display, digital music storage, voice controls, a rearview camera, HD radio, "Audi Connect" online services (with mobile WiFi capability), and a more ergonomic MMI controller that's mounted on the center console.
Some of the Prestige's standard features are available on the Premium Plus as options, including the upgraded MMI package. The Prestige is additionally eligible for two packages: the Driver Assist package adds adaptive cruise control and variable-ratio steering, while the Comfort package comes with upgraded leather trim and ventilated front seats.
Optional on both models (but not on the Prestige with the Comfort package) is extended leather trim. Other standalone options include 21-inch wheels, a rear-seat entertainment system with twin display screens, sunroof delete, rear side airbags and layered aluminum/wood inlays.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Audi SQ5 is powered by a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine rated at 354 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission are standard. In Edmunds performance testing, the SQ5 hustled to 60 mph from a dead stop in just 5.0 seconds. For comparison, the less powerful Q5 3.0T needed 5.8 seconds.
Fuel economy, according to the EPA, is 19 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway). On Edmunds' standard 120-mile evaluation loop, which favors highway travel, we averaged 21 mpg.
The SQ5's standard safety equipmentmirrors that of the regular Q5, comprising stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags.Rear side airbags are optional on both models, while a blind-spot monitoring system is optional on the Premium Plus and standard on Prestige. The Audi MMI Navigation package includes rear parking sensors and a rearview camera.
We thought our simulated panic-stop test of a Q5 3.0T was impressive when it stopped in a very short 109 feet from 60 mph. However, the SQ5's lower stance and beefier hardware shortened the distance to just 103 feet, or sports car territory.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the regular Q5 earned a highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
The SQ5 sees the regular Q5's classy cabin and raises it a smattering of neat sport-themed touches. For the most part, the same luxurious materials are used, but the SQ5 gets extras like the flat-bottom steering wheel with shift paddles, simulated suede trim, an exquisite leather/aluminum shift knob and of course plenty of "SQ5" badges. You'll also find aluminum-trimmed pedals and the S lineup's trademark gray instrument faces. All told, it's a well-executed makeover of what was already a very nice interior.
Unfortunately, the SQ5's standard MMI system borrows its dash-mounted controller from the base Q5, and it's equally frustrating here. The controller and its associated buttons require an uncomfortable reach for longer-legged drivers, while the MMI software itself is an earlier, less intuitive version. Conversely, navigation-equipped models get the latest MMI system with a convenient console-mounted controller that's easier to use. Also included are an additional joystick button for enhanced control, Google Maps satellite imagery and Audi Connect online services with mobile Wi-Fi capability.
Although the Q5 is considered a compact crossover, it has plenty of room for four good-sized adults. The front sport seats provide excellent support and adjustability, while the rear seats offer ample default legroom as well as slide-and-recline functionality -- not a given in this segment.
With the rear seatbacks folded, the SQ5 can haul up to 57.3 cubic feet of cargo, which is on the low side compared to other small luxury crossovers. The cargo area behind the rear seats measures a more standard 29.1 cubic feet.
The SQ5's supercharged V6 engine is basically a juiced-up version of the regular Q5's "3.0T" V6, but that doesn't mean it's not special. The SQ5 boasts an extra 82 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque, and that's a difference you can feel. Acceleration is rapid at practically any speed. That said, the Q5 3.0T is a quick crossover in its own right (and it's significantly cheaper), but its acceleration and presence just aren't as exuberant.
The SQ5 sits about an inch lower than its less sporty counterparts, and its sport-tuned suspension and tires give it plenty of grip and stability when you're driving enthusiastically around turns. It's a marvel, then, that the ride quality remains tolerable, even with the standard 20-inch wheels and tires (though all bets are off with the optional 21s). We can see how the SQ5's firmness might turn off typical Q5 customers, but if you're drawn to the elevated performance of Audi's S lineup, you likely won't be disappointed. The SQ5's main dynamic drawback is its steering, which provides little feedback or communication to the driver -- it's the kind of the thing you can forgive on the regular Q5, but on the high-performance version, it's a little disappointing.