The "S" in the 2018 Audi SQ5 presumably means "sporty." Although there’s nothing official on that. It could also stand for "special," because any S vehicle from Audi has certain attributes that make it rise above the regular non-S versions.
In this instance, it’s the Q5 premium compact crossover that provides the base, starting out with polished Audi styling, SUV practicality and the elevated driving position that so many people love. Underpinning both versions (and several other Audi vehicles) is the new-generation A4 sedan platform, which has won acclaim for its space, refinement and sophistication.
Whenever Audi makes an S model, it doesn’t go for huge power, but there’s easily enough in the SQ5 for most people and situations. This is complemented by strong brakes, S-specific front and rear aerodynamic treatments, and a dedicated suspension setup, while technology and luxury levels also receive a boost. As a complete package, the SQ5 works exceptionally well.
What’s New for 2018?
Just like its regular sibling, the SQ5 is brand-new for this model year, marking the start of its second generation.
What We Like
Truly enjoyable to drive, regardless of the fact that it’s a crossover; high-quality interior; excellent V6
What We Don’t
Advanced driver aids are only available as options in the top trim
The SQ5 has a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 developing 354 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. This goes to all four wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission (with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles).
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 24 mpg on the highway and 21 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 5-seater 2018 Audi SQ5 luxury/performance compact crossover comes in Premium Plus and Prestige trim levels.
The Premium Plus ($55,275) has 20-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, aluminum roof rails, a panoramic sunroof, heated/self-dimming/power-folding mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield-washer nozzles, full LED exterior lighting, keyless entry/ignition, hands-free tailgate release, a tilt-telescopic flat-bottom steering wheel, a self-dimming rearview mirror with a digital compass, heated/12-way power-adjustable front seats with driver’s-side memory settings, tri-zone automatic climate control, ambient LED cabin lighting, leather/Alcantara (synthetic suede) seating surfaces, a leather-wrapped shift knob, Drive Select (providing adjustment for steering, transmission and throttle responses), slide/recline/split/fold (40/20/40) rear seats, forward-collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and Exit Assist, a garage door opener, parking sensors front and rear, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone connectivity/music streaming, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, the MMI infotainment system with a 7-in display, voice control, a 10-speaker/180-watt audio setup, a CD/MP3 player, two USB ports, two SD card slots, AM/FM/satellite radio and HD Radio.
The Prestige ($59,475) adds the Virtual Cockpit (a 12.3-in configurable driver information display, including a Sport mode), navigation, a touchpad with handwriting recognition, a head-up display, Wi-Fi, a top-view camera system and a Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker/755-watt audio upgrade.
Some standard features in the Prestige model are optional in the Premium Plus.
An S Sport package brings a sport rear differential and an adaptive air suspension.
The Prestige trim is eligible for a Driver Assistance package that features adaptive cruise control with traffic-jam assist (a partially autonomous system that steers and brakes in stop/go conditions up to 40 mph), active lane keeping, automatic high beams and road-sign recognition.
Other options include 21-in alloy wheels, variable-ratio steering, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, Nappa leather upholstery and manual sunshades for the rear side windows.
Maximum cargo space is 60.4 cu ft. With the rear seats in place, the luggage area measures 26.8 cu ft. That’s OK, but not as good as in the BMW X3, for example (62.7/28.7 cu ft.).
The SQ5 features standard stability control, 4-wheel antilock brakes, hill-descent control and six airbags (front, front side, full-length side curtain). Rear side airbags are optional.
The SQ5 has not been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the regular 2018 Q5 has. NHTSA gave it a maximum 5-star overall rating, with top scores for front- and side-impact protection. The IIHS made the 2018 Q5 a Top Safety Pick after the vehicle took the top score of Good in all major categories.
Behind the Wheel
The SQ5 performs almost like a sports car, sprinting from a standstill to 60 mph in just 5.1 seconds. Maximum torque comes in at a low 1,370 rpm, providing substantial thrust whenever the need arises.
The quattro all-wheel-drive system is calibrated to direct 60 percent of available muscle to the rear wheels for a well-balanced feel. However, this intelligent system can send 85 percent of torque to either axle if conditions demand.
The optional sport differential can also route all torque from one rear wheel to the other, bringing even more capability to the SQ5’s already impressive cornering talents. The sport front seats provide superb lateral support, making the driver feel even more confident through the turns.
The optional adaptive air suspension, meanwhile, also has an off-road mode and can adjust ride height as well as suppleness.
Cabin materials and interior design are of Audi’s typical top-notch quality. And the new model is bigger than the previous generation, bringing benefits in rear passenger space and cargo volume. The SQ5 makes the most of its rear compartment by providing slide and recline functions for the back seat, along with the luxury of separate rear temperature controls.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43— Available as a regular crossover or in fastback "coupe" style, the GLC 43 enjoys 362 hp.
2018 Jaguar F-PACE 35t R Sport — Has a sublime suspension, a great supercharged 3.0-liter V6 engine making 380 hp, and plenty of space.
2018 Porsche Macan S — This 340-hp Porsche is not quite as roomy as the SQ5 (the roof slopes more), but it’s a thrill to drive and the interior is beautiful.
If your heart is set on the larger 21-in wheels, take a test drive first to make sure they don’t affect ride quality too adversely for your tastes. It might be an idea to add the adaptive air suspension for the broader spectrum of sportiness and comfort it provides. The Virtual Cockpit is also worth the extra expense.