Audi has already proven itself in a world of cars and CUVs, a staple of premium qualities and engaging performance. The SQ5 Sportback attempts to blur the lines between their sporty sedans and capable crossovers, and dare I say they’ve done it.
Out of Spec Score 84/100
The Sportback in the title brings a coupe-like roof-line to their extremely popular mid-size CUV. Personally, I might like the standard SQ5 better, but it’s objectively a beautiful design. Adorned in this District Green metallic paints, it certainly grabs attention, and it’s a green that’s hard to describe. It’s definitely not muted, nor is it deep or too light, but rather an almost forest-like green at sunset. Which is interesting given its urban paint color name.
The grill is a beautiful statement, adorned with the ever-favorite Audi logo. I appreciated the different style in grill elements, where most of the other options in the market stick with standard and simply-shaped designs. One knock might be the fake vents around the fog lights, which are also fake. Well, they’re real, but not fog lights, but rather part of the radar for cruise control.
Around back the faux nature continues, with the beautiful quad-tip exhaust. Beautiful, until you discover its purely aesthetic nature. They’re plugged with black plastic, instead having the dual exhaust dump out the bottom just in front of it. Then there’s the wheels, 20” ten-spoke in titanium finish. Again, not my favorite color, but it does work with the District Green and even the OEM wheel design is just fine. As a whole, it’s a gorgeous CUV with a respectable 8 out of 10.
Audi’s attention to detail and quality proliferates through the interior as well. Mine was equipped with the Premium Plus and S sport packages, so not fully maxed out, but certainly close enough. The black interior was a nice pairing with the green exterior color, and quilted nappa leather seats were a beautiful feature for both front and back cabin spaces. The fit and finish is quite good, though there’s certainly a subjective taste for the buttons. They’re existentially… click-y. I know some people love it, but personally I’m much more appreciative of subtle-sounding clicks when I use buttons in a car.
My SQ5 example was equipped with carbon fiber adorning many interior elements, perhaps a bit too much. I’m not opposed to carbon fiber, but I much prefer the matte finish, and this was entirely glossy. Still an improvement over the dreaded piano gloss black, but not by leaps nor bounds. The steering wheel design itself is one of my favorite I’ve experienced in a passenger car, feeling sporty and light, while retaining the full-size nature of what you’d expect in a CUV.
The center console make a strange creaking noise when opening it, but I quickly realized it’s one of those mechanisms that lets you set it whatever height you want, which is actually brilliant. There isn’t a lot of storage, but enough for most situations. The shifter is large but very nice to use, and the center console has other small storage cubbies. I’m not entirely sure what all they would be used for, but I supposed variety is welcome. There is very little to pick apart in the interior, being comfortable and minimalist, but still giving you nearly everything you would want. 8.5 out of 10 is well deserved.
Audi’s S notation undoubtedly stands for “Sport”, and it absolutely delivers. Mine was equipped with the S sport package, providing a Sport-tuned adaptive air suspension and quattro sport rear differential. Of course I would be remiss to not mention the red brake calipers it adds, for “potent performance credibility” as Audi says. There is also available dynamic steering, adjusting the ratio to the vehicle’s speed, and I find it invaluable once you get used to it. The suspension setup provided ample cornering capability in the canyons and around corners. But let’s discuss the elephant in the room, or engine bay.
The SQ5 is powered by a 3.0L 6-cylinder turbo engine, outputting 349 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque. To say it’s a riot is an understatement. Even at more than a mile in altitude where we test our cars, it never left me wanting more. The power is sent to the infamous Audi quattro all-wheel drive via an 8-speed tiptronic automatic transmission. The shifts are quick and it does quite well picking a gear. They’re not lightning-quick shifts, per se, but I found very little time to complain by the time the turbo spooled up and launched me forwards. It was nearly impossible to drive it without smiling constantly, and it was hard to give it back. 9 out of 10 for its absolutely impressive performance, on paper and in practice.
Unlike performance, the practicality wasn’t entirely impressive on paper. But it went far beyond expectations. I typically discuss practicality as a combination of fuel economy and storage capacity, and let me first mention our standardized fuel economy test and the results therein. It boasts an EPA estimated 18 mpg city, 23 highway, 20 combined. But we test most of our vehicles on a standardized highway route at 70 mph in a loop test, negating wind and elevation. It achieved nearly 35 mpg, a stunning achievement for something so capably powerful.
As for cargo capacity and general “usefulness”, it gives 24.7 cu ft in the trunk, or 51.9 with seats down. Fairly average for a mid-size CUV, but impressive given the sportback style element not compromising anything too much. Towing capacity is 4,400 pounds, so nothing too impressive but still adequate for most. All in all, 8 out of 10 for practicality.
Audi excels in comfort, there’s no getting around that. From the soft-touch leather of the steering wheel, to the quilted Napa leather of the seats, I was quite cozy to say the least. Climate control was efficient and effective, with heated seats and steering wheel to accommodate cold days. I was provided with the Premium Plus trim, slotted between Premium and Prestige. Prestige would have provided me with ventilated seats and heated rear seats, icing on the cake.
Seats themselves were comfortable and supportive, including the rear. The sportback roof line did not inflict into the rear head room that I could note, with ample room sitting behind myself at 6’0”. Any of the seats would be easy accommodation for a road trip. Over all, I’m happy to grant it 8.5 out of 10 for comfort.
Another exceptional score for the SQ5, the technology consistently impressed me. Wireless CarPlay, Android Auto, and a fairly intuitive user interface await you inside the cabin. The screens are very high quality, with excellent pixel density and brightness. The center main screen features capacitive touch, and is at an optimal angle to prevent too much glare. Upon starting your Audi, it will actually let you select a custom user profile or continue as a guest. CarPlay is displayed beautifully, and I enjoyed the customization with the gauge cluster. Speaking of, the available “Virtual Cockpit” as Audi calls it, is also a stunning visual component. 12.3” of screen real estate provides ample space for tachometer, maps, speedometer, and other information. There are many options for various views and customization therein, which I always advocate for. The buttons are still a bit polarizing, and Wireless CarPlay was a bit finicky at times. But it is overall a very impressive tech suite, providing the score of 9 out of 10.
Connected Services 8.5/10
Between CarPlay, Android Auto, Sirius XM (albeit just a free trial), and the fantastic Bang & Olufsen sound system, I felt like my needs were covered from an audible connected services standpoint. Audi also has an app for your phone, where you can view information such as trip monitoring, fuel and range, and security features. Granted, nearly every manufacturer has an app nowadays, but Audi’s certainly looks to be top-of-the-line, aesthetically speaking. For a connected world, the SQ5 certainly doesn’t disappoint. Wireless CarPlay was a bit buggy at times, but I can’t necessarily blame Audi for that. 8.5 out of 10 for connected services.
Active Safety 8.5/10
Audi has an arsenal of safety features available on nearly every model in their lineup. Audi Pre Sense will intervene in preparing the vehicle for impact, such as closing windows and sunroof and pre-tensioning the seatbelts. It can also apply brakes and even prevent accidents if within its limits. Park assist utilizes ultrasonic sensors on all sides, and lane-departure warning keeps the driver in the lane with corrective steering intervention and wheel vibration. There is also the adaptive cruise control system and 360 cameras, one of the highest quality 360 views I have seen. Cars are safer than ever, but Audi exists near the bleeding edge, with excellent ratings from the NHTSA. 8.5 out of 10, close to perfect but the need to pay for certain features is a bummer, to put it bluntly.
It’s sometimes hard to evaluate when it comes to value. Audi provides excellent quality, in materials and craftsmanship, build quality, and driving feel. That being said, I don’t know if every driver will notice or appreciate everything therein. At $66,000 priced as tested, not even the highest trim, it’s hard to recommend to those who don’t place high value in fit and finish or dynamic driving. There are many other 5-seat CUVs with the same or more features for considerably less money, but they simply won’t be executed as well. It’s not outrageously overpriced, but it’s also not exactly attainable for what is received, 7 out of 10.
Editors Influence 9/10
Perhaps it’s the honeymoon phase talking, but I am still in love. This was one of my first dedicated segments of time with an Audi, and I struggled to give it back. The performance never ceased to amaze me, especially given its size. It was exceptionally comfortable, and a beautiful spec. I personally may have chosen the higher Prestige package, just to bring it to the maximum possible comfort and feature set, but even a base model would not bring disappointment. The minor qualms I had with the buttons design and a few touch points don’t hold a candle to the rest of the experience. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but it’s also heaps of fun and even practical if it needs such justification. 9 out of 10 in my book.