If the Q5 were to be Audi's most popular model in Mzansi, then the Audi SQ5 Sportback is probably the aspirational upgrade for those wanting some extra sport in their SUV. Wielding two extra cylinders compared to the standard car, a more interesting and fierce design, and no shortage of cabin tech, it's punchy without forgetting about practicality.
Audi's 3.0-liter TFSI V6 petrol engine and 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox are familiar from elsewhere in the automaker's lineup; so, too, is the quattro all-wheel drive. That's no bad thing. Here, the 260 kW and 500 Nm of torque offer a welcome uptick over the standard Audi Q5 with its 2.0-litre four-cylinder – enough so for a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 5.4 seconds.
Here, Audi's aesthetic is holding up nicely. Ambient lighting helps lift what could otherwise be a fairly sober interior, the glitter of the Carbon Atlas trim inlays are a little subdued next to the black leather and Dynamica faux-suede surfaces. A 10.1” touchscreen is standard, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, plus the optional panoramic glass sunroof, rear privacy glass, Audi's pre-safety suite of active safety tech, and both blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warnings.
It's all very familiar if you've been in any other semi-recent Audi, though, I prefer it when the automaker integrates the infotainment screen into the dash: the Audi SQ5's panel looks a little like an afterthought.
The regular Q5 feels adequate, if not exactly bubbling over with enthusiasm. Think family stalwart – reassuringly steady and balanced – with suspension on the firm side. For the SQ5 SUV, the R19,200 S sport package adds adaptive air suspension and a rear differential, allowing for more flexibility in the dynamics. Comfort mode, as a result, actually feels more cosseting than in the standard Q5 because Audi can dial in some extra compliance.
On the flip side, Dynamic mode – Audi-speak for what other manufacturers might call Sport – tamps down on SUV body roll and leaves the Audi SQ5 far more poised and eager. This isn't one of Audi's most beastly RS-badged models, but there are definitely more opportunities for smiles as the combination of low-rev torque and compliant, predictable handling builds your confidence. Even the 21” wheels – part of the R30 500 wheel package, and replacing the standard 20” – don't take much of a toll, with the horrors of all but the most wretched asphalt kept at arm's reach.
Things, though, do get expensive if you want the best the SQ5 has to offer. Though it starts at R 1,208,000, the Prestige package, with niceties like the virtual cockpit, OLED taillights, 360-degree camera, heads-up display, navigation, adaptive cruise control, Matrix LED headlamps, City Assistance package, adaptive cruise control and Bang & Olufsen premium sound add more than R200,000.
At that point, you're in Porsche Macan S territory, and that's a sporting benchmark the SQ5 SUV can't quite match. Audi's SUV is definitely warmer and more enthusiastic than the standard Q5, but the Macan still best it both there and in badge prestige.
It comes standard with a five-year Audi Freeway Plan.
Audi's Q5 range is a little odd. Though the SQ5 SUV is undoubtedly the clearest vision of sportiness – and the most expensive.
Outright power and speed aren't everything, of course, and the SQ5 SUV’s charming design counts for a lot. Restrain yourself in the options and Audi's overall package feels more than the sum of its parts. Almost all of the practicality of an SUV, with enough to keep an enthusiast driver engaged. There's plenty here to like.