You don’t have to be boring if you want a crossover, and Audi provides a quick one.
Crossovers. We all see them everywhere. Mostly in grayscale shades, boring as ever, and driven to do the most basic tasks, while having little to no personality. From time to time, manufacturers decide to inject some personality and performance, offering more enjoyment for those who want a practical crossover’s functionality but crave the twisties on the weekend. Even as mild upgrades, the fun crossover looks to entertain those drivers who need a car that ticks several boxes.
No stranger to pepped-up variants, Audi has slapped its “S” badge on several models in its lineup for decades, offering subtle styling upgrades to match reasonable performance improvements. Competing with the quicker forms of the BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, the Audi SQ5 provides clean styling, loads of good features, and more fun in its crossover package. Now offered in a sportback body, Audi gives its popular mid-sized crossover a coupe-like roofline to appear slightly cooler.
The Key Specs
Shared with several Audi S models, the SQ5 gets Ingolstadt’s 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. While it’s down on power versus the BMW X3 M40i and AMG GLC 43, the SQ5 sportback pushes those figures through an 8-speed automatic and quattro all-wheel-drive to sprint from 0-60 MPH in 4.7 seconds (matching the Benz, and 0.3s slower than the BMW) on its way to a limited top track speed of 155 MPH (when fitted with summer tires). Take it easy on the accelerator, and you’ll likely hit the EPA’s fuel economy estimates of 19/24/21 MPGs.
Audi’s pricing with most of its models is smart, with three distinct trim levels offered–Premium, Premium Plus, and Prestige–for the SQ5 Sportback. The Premium model starts reasonably-equipped at $59,200, the Premium Plus adds more features at its $63,300 starting figure, and the Prestige model starts at $68,500 (adding Bang & Olufsen audio, Audi’s virtual cockpit instrument cluster, OLED headlights, acoustic glass for the windscreen and front two windows, top-view parking cameras, heated steering wheel, and heated and chilled front cupholders).
This Prestige SQ5 Sportback I tested added Florett Silver Metallic paint, S Sport Package (sport adaptive air suspension, sport rear differential, red brake calipers), 21-inch wheels and summer tires, Nappa leather seats, and the black optic package that gives the exterior gloss black details to hit a total price of $76,515.
Upmarket Daily Functionality
More engaging than your typical crossover, the Audi SQ5 Sportback is an enjoyable place to spend your commutes and errand runs. You’ll definitely be the cool parent in the school pickup line, but without looking like you’re trying too hard. Your kids and coworkers alike will appreciate that you opted for the more fun variant of the people hauler when you take them along, thanks to plenty of punch underneath, even when you’re being somewhat tame behind the wheel. In the comfort drive mode, the SQ5 is composed without feeling too disconnected, a reminder that you opted for the fun crossover model. Even with 21-inch wheels opted, the SQ5 was reasonable over Austin’s poorly maintained city streets.
The exterior lines of the SQ5 Sportback are clean yet stylish, which is a refreshing change compared to many crossovers that are overly angular while pretending to have more character. More subtle than sporty, the shade of silver selected for this SQ5 Sportback was of high quality, but I’d suggest picking one of Audi’s cooler paints (like the lovely District Green I tested a while back on both the SQ5 crossover and S5 Cabriolet).
Anyone who slides into the SQ5’s cabin will appreciate the extra lateral support that doesn’t feel too forceful, and I love the red leather option detailed with quilted stitching. Just give me a ventilated seat option for hot Texas days. Four adults can comfortably fit inside the SQ5’s cabin, with room for five occupants if there are kids in the back seat. If you really need more space to spread out, you’ll need to step up to a three-row Audi Q7.
Because it has the coupe-like roofline, the SQ5 loses a hint of cargo volume. Down to 25 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 52 with them folded flat, rather than the standard SQ5’s 26 and 54, respectively. I couldn’t identify a meaningful drop in headroom in the back seat versus the conventional SQ5 I drove previously. This Audi finds itself with a bit more space than the GLC, and less than the X3’s volume. There’s plenty of practical storage nicely placed throughout the cockpit, and I love how the wireless charging tray slides forward and back to either give you quick access to your phone or hiding away when you want to use the heated and cooled front cupholders.
Audi neatly balances sportiness, luxury, and a cool factor within its cabin, with the SQ5 Sportback getting a familiar look and feel to other models in the lineup. The SQ5’s cool ensemble of leather, alcantara, and carbon fiber is fantastic. I’m praising Audi for sticking with a theme that has worked for years, thankfully continuing to employ physical buttons, knobs, and switches throughout its interior, with exceedingly intuitive placement. The screen on the climate control knob displaying the temperature is a smart touch too.
The MMI display has high resolution too, making it easier to read while looking like it belongs in a much more expensive car, supplemented by wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The BMW X3’s cabin is a bit bland, and the Mercedes GLC’s layout might be too space age for some. The Audi virtual cockpit allows drivers to tweak the instrument cluster to their liking, and I went with the minimized display that only showed the digital tachometer and speedometer while hiding the side displays.
Hauls More Than Groceries
With a longer than usual coffee run or any escape from reality, the SQ5 is a decent performer. It’s no RS6 Avant (which is my favorite fast four-door or wagon I’ve reviewed), but that’s nearly double the cash to throw in your driveway. As a performance crossover with all sorts of cool tech features and an extremely comfortable cabin, the SQ5 Sportback gets the job done. Over some fun Central Texas roads, the SQ5 Sportback was certainly fun to toss around, I didn’t go into this test expecting it to be a top-notch sport sedan, so I give it good marks in the fun department.
As is fitted to many Audis, the drive select system provides three default drive modes, with one individual mode to suit your tastes. Similarly to my other reviews of fun Audi models, I do wish there was a bigger spread in the feel and behavior of the drive modes, particularly in the dynamic one. I did make sure to have the sport engine and exhaust sounds enabled in my individual setup, to make the SQ5 have a bit more grunt than the usual crossover I’d encounter during my drive. I have to poke fun at the fake quad exhaust pipes molded into the SQ5 Sportback’s rear bumper, with the real ones more basic and concealed behind there.
The optional sport differential definitely gives this SQ5 Sportback more effective rotation in the bends, but there’s a bit too much boost with artificial sensations and electric assistance felt trough the perfectly thick steering wheel. I found that putting the steering in sport through the individual drive mode actually gave the SQ5 more realistic feedback in any driving condition. While not as fast and precise as the PDK in the Porsche Macan, the SQ5’s 8-speed automatic offers shifts that are still quick and smooth while helping propel this crossover ahead.
Managing the SQ5’s weight transfer is easy, thanks to the adaptive air suspension, but giving it the beans on a demanding stretch of road will make the brakes and average performance Pirelli P Zero rubber remind you that this crossover coupe is carrying around 4,300 pounds of German metal. When I evaluated the traditional crossover-bodied SQ5 two summers ago, I flogged it along the Angeles Crest Highway in Southern California, and aside from the brakes getting a bit hot during longer stints, it performed well in a demanding environment. Your weekend escape to a backroad should be just fine.
Quick Crossover Coupes Can Be Good
Sporty crossovers are all the rage these days, allowing drivers more grateful ingress and egress while boasting more cargo space than a quick sedan. I can appreciate enthusiast drivers that previously opted for fast four-doors or coupes wanting the flexibility of a one-car solution found in the SQ5. It’s comfortable for longer hauls, looks great, packs plenty of tech features, and provides enough fun for the weekly back road sprint.
Should you want more fun from a fast crossover, the Porsche Macan S or GTS might be your best bet versus the AMG GLC 63 or BMW X3M Competition, but expect to spend a lot more cash over the SQ5. If you’re not hot on the SQ5’s crossover shape, but still want some extra storage practicality, Audi’s S5 Sportback (and quicker RS5 that I tested) hits the sweet spot with a more subtle sedan-like body. Against the BMW X3 M40i or Mercedes-Benz GLC 43, the Audi SQ5 definitely gets my pick.