Somebody has to be first, and when it comes to high-performance compact luxury crossover SUVs, that distinction belongs to the Audi SQ5. It arrived in the United States back in 2014, bringing elevated performance and handling to the already commendable Q5. If you wanted to go really fast in this segment, it was an easy pick. For 2017, though, there are new rivals from BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz to also consider. Does the old kid on the block still have a chance?
Well, the 2017 Audi SQ5 isn't bringing much in the way of new dance moves to the party. Sure, the range-topping Prestige model includes a few extra standard features this year, but otherwise it's business as usual. In certain respects, that puts it at a distinct disadvantage compared to those new competitors. This is especially true in regards to the SQ5's in-car technology features and controls, which are one or two generations behind Audi's other models.
The bigger wheels, silver mirrors and special badging are key differentiators between the SQ5 and regular Q5.
Then again, the SQ5 looks just as classy and generally excellent as it always has, while its supercharged V6 provides the sort of solid thwack to the backside that'll leave many a sport sedan behind in its dust. Indeed, there's a good chance those new competitors -- the BMW X4 M40i, Jaguar F-Pace 35t R-Sport and Mercedes-Benz GLC43 AMG -- will only be able to match the SQ5's straight-line thrust. The Porsche Macan S is slower, and it's only the substantially more expensive Macan Turbo that we expect to remain king of the hill in terms of go-fast bragging rights.
So, yes, the SQ5 is getting a little long in the tooth, but there's still plenty to like about this pioneer. If you're in the hunt for a compact crossover SUV with the performance of a sport sedan, we still think it's worth a shot.
Standard safety equipment for the Audi SQ5 includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. Rear side airbags are optional on both trim levels. The Technology package (optional on Premium Plus, standard on Prestige) adds a blind-spot monitor, front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera. There are no active accident avoidance technologies available.
In Edmunds brake testing, an SQ5 with summer tires stopped from 60 mph in a superb 103 feet, putting it on par with some very capable performance cars.
In government crash tests, the SQ5 earned four out of five stars for overall crash protection, with four stars for total frontal-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has given the standard Q5 its highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The Q5's seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Audi SQ5 is a compact luxury SUV offered in two trim levels: Premium Plus and Prestige.
Standard equipment on the Premium Plus includes 20-inch alloy wheels, summer tires, high-performance brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, aluminum roof rails, heated/auto-dimming/power-folding mirrors, automatic wipers, a panoramic sunroof and a power liftgate.
There's also keyless ignition and entry, heated eight-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar adjustment), a flat-bottom tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather and simulated suede upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, adjustable drive settings (covering gas pedal responsiveness, transmission programming and steering assist), a 40/20/40-split rear seat (sliding, reclining and folding), Bluetooth phone connectivity, the base Multi Media Interface (MMI) infotainment system with a dash-mounted controller and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, a CD player, an SD card slot, an auxiliary audio jack and Audi's proprietary digital music interface. There is no USB port.
The optional Technology package adds front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, a blind-spot monitor, a color driver information display, voice controls, Bluetooth audio connectivity, HD radio, Audi Connect online services, mobile WiFi capability, a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system and an upgraded version of MMI with a navigation system, integrated Google services and an MMI controller mounted more conveniently on the center console.
The Prestige gets the Technology package as standard, and it also boasts adaptive cruise control, variable-ratio "dynamic steering," adaptive headlights, heated and cooled cupholders, and rear door sunshades.
Optional on both models is the Luxury package, which adds ventilated front seats and premium leather to the seats and various other interior surfaces. Also available on both is the Black Optic package, which gets you gloss-black exterior trim, body-color mirrors and matte-black roof rails. Unique to the Prestige is the Black Optic Plus package, which has a matte black rear diffuser and high-gloss black rear spoiler, door handles and exterior mirror housings. Other options include 21-inch wheels, red brake calipers, diamond-stitched leather upholstery, rear side airbags and the "Audi Exclusive" range of customized paint choices.
Quad tailpipes are special to the SQ5, but are tastefully applied, maintaining the Q5's handsome look.
The 2017 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 from zero to 60 mph in just 5.0 seconds. For context, the Q5 3.0T took 5.8 seconds with its less powerful version of the same engine. It's also quicker than a Porsche Macan S.
EPA fuel economy estimates were not available at the time of this writing, but we expect them to be similar to last year's numbers of 19 mpg combined (17 city/24 highway). On the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation route, we averaged about 21 mpg.
The 2017 Audi SQ5's supercharged V6 engine is just a pumped-up variant of the regular Q5 3.0T's V6, but it's hard to dismiss the results. By the numbers, it cranks out an extra 82 hp and 51 lb-ft of torque, and that's a difference you'll feel every time you plant your right foot. The SQ5 moves out with a unique sense of urgency, lunging ahead like a finely tuned sports car. The substantially cheaper Q5 3.0T is a quick crossover in its own right, but its acceleration just isn't in the same league.
Not many crossovers inspire you to take the long and twisty route, but the SQ5 constantly entices with its sport-tuned suspension and performance tires. There's ample grip and stability, with little of the body roll that crossovers generally exhibit. The SQ5's main dynamic drawback is its steering, which feels artificial and provides little feedback or communication to the driver; it's the kind of thing you can forgive on the regular Q5, but on the high-performance version, it's a little disappointing. The Porsche Macan, Jaguar F-Pace and BMW X3/X4 are more involving to drive. As for ride quality, typical Q5 customers will probably find it overly firm, but if you're drawn to the elevated performance of Audi's S lineup, the slight drop in comfort is well within the realm of acceptability.
The SQ5 has all the classy cabin elements you expect from Audi, along with sport-themed additions like a flat-bottom steering wheel with shift paddles, simulated suede trim and an exquisite leather/aluminum shift knob. You'll also find aluminum pedals, plenty of "SQ5" badges and the S lineup's trademark gray instrument faces, plus exclusive options like diamond-stitched premium leather upholstery and trim. It's a well-executed makeover of what is already a very nice interior in the regular Audi Q5.
Less impressive is the SQ5's MMI system. The screen is small compared to those in rival SUVs, and both of the available control interfaces are two generations behind those found in the most recently redesigned Audi models (A4, Q7, TT). The SQ5's standard MMI controller is on the dash, which might make sense for those who like their radio controls in the normal place, but it requires an awkward reach from the driver seat. The upgraded controller, included with the Technology package, is located more ergonomically on the center console. As such, it's just one more reason to opt for that package that also includes a rearview camera and Bluetooth audio -- two features that should be standard. Sadly, there's no way to get a USB port, a feature found in even the lowliest subcompact cars. Instead, the SQ5 utilizes a proprietary cable for its media player interface and an auxiliary audio jack.
Although the SQ5 is considered a compact crossover, it has plenty of room for four adults. The front sport seats provide excellent support and adjustability, while the rear seats offer respectable legroom as well as slide-and-recline functionality. Cargo space suffers, however, topping out at 57.3 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded, a low number compared to many other compact crossovers (though the Porsche Macan is even worse off).
Want to go fast in a compact SUV? The SQ5 remains one of the best ways to do it.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.