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It is pretty apparent, the intent right here: With a new-generation SQ5, Audi expects to guard its turf within the face of proliferating competitors and perhaps gather some new prospects alongside the way in which.

The compact Q5 ‘ute was Audi’s best-selling car in 2016, even because it soldiered into its ninth mannequin yr. It accounted for roughly 25 p.c of Audi’s U.S. gross sales. The Q5 and SQ5 fashioned the best-selling Euro-badged line within the largest chunk of luxurious SUV actual property, and SUVs now comprise greater than half of all lux-brand car gross sales. The unique Q5 capsulized the enchantment that has pushed the crossover/SUV growth and roughly set the benchmark for compact luxurious SUVs that adopted. The SQ5 added some dynamic spice.

The 2018 SQ5 runs a tick faster than the 2017, provides rear seat quantity and boasts a 10 p.c improve in its mixed EPA mileage ranking. It’s higher, then, by some goal measures, however its core enchantment has hardly modified. The brand new SQ5 delivers practical, rational, all-purpose transport, in applicable fashion properly refined, with out concern of frequent discontent within the driver’s seat. And maybe, in some refined methods, it’s a hair much less interesting than its influential predecessor.

The 2018 SQ5 begins with the identical metal unibody as the brand new Q5. It’s basically the identical dimension as key opponents just like the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC — a bit smaller than Jaguar’s F-Tempo, a bit bigger than mainstream compacts just like the Ford Escape. As importantly, the new-gen Audi is 1.three inches longer than its predecessor, on a wheelbase unfold almost an inch. That accounts for the elevated house in its again seat, which now slides fore and aft, and a achieve of three.1 cubic ft in general cargo quantity (to 60.four). A slight re-proportioning, however, reduces cargo quantity behind the brand new SQ5’s rear seat by 2.three cubic ft (to 26.Eight).

The SQ5 provides typical S-Line styling touches, together with a platinum grey grill, normal LED headlights, aluminum mirror caps and a rear roof spoiler. Do you want these double-dual exhaust suggestions tucked into the corners of its rear valance? Properly, they’re pretend — not even minimize out. The actual pipes level down behind the bumper. Audi says the simulated suggestions allowed extra styling flexibility, however this reviewer remains to be scratching his head.

SQPIC 2

The S earlier than Q5 means styling spiffs inside, too, together with stainless-steel doorsills and a thick-rimmed, flat-bottom sport steering wheel. Then there’s the everyday vary of performance-enhancing goodies.

The largest information sits beneath the SQ5’s hood. The supercharged three.Zero-liter V6 that was the Audi S calling card for almost a decade is gone, changed by a turbocharged V6 advanced from the outdated Q5’s improve engine (the brand new Q5 comes solely with a 2.0T 4). The SQ5 engine displaces 2,995 cc, with 11.2:1 compression, a single twin-scroll turbo and max enhance of 20.1 PSI. Its 354 peak hp matches the supercharged V6 it replaces, however Audi says the turbo engine is 31 kilos lighter, and peak torque will increase 24 lb-ft to 369, delivered over a broader vary.

The SQ5 comes with an eight-speed torque-converter computerized, versus the seven-speed dual-clutch within the Q5. Its all-wheel-drive system skips the Q5’s fuel-saving “extremely’’ function, which disconnects the rear wheels in the suitable circumstances, and usually runs a heavier rearward torque bias (as much as 85 p.c). The SQ5 additionally gives an non-compulsory torque-vectoring rear differential.

SQPIC 3

To the Q5’s reworked five-link entrance and rear suspension, the SQ5 provides normal electronically managed adaptive shocks. It additionally gives an non-compulsory air suspension for the primary time. The air springs decrease default journey top greater than an inch and ship four inches of height-adjustment vary, including an off-road administration program to the SQ5’s repertoire.

The SQ5’s brake rotors are a half-inch bigger that the Q5’s, with six-piston calipers in entrance. The usual steering ratio (15.Eight:1) is an identical to the Q5, however the SQ gives a Dynamic Steering possibility with a variable-rate rack.

The primary 2018 SQ5s will attain Audi shops any minute now, retailing at $55,095 with the $795 vacation spot cost. That’s a $13,200 bump from the usual Q5. The rear sport diff, air suspension and Dynamic Steering can be packaged in a single sport possibility. Different key upgrades embody a colour head-up show and 19-speaker, 755-watt Bang & Olufsen audio. The best stage of SQ5 autonomous operation — adaptive cruise with full stop-and-go — consists of “steering steerage’’ as much as 40 mph.

The Q5 and SQ5 stay Audi’s best-selling product line, a prime vendor amongst compact luxury-brand SUVs on the finish of a nine-year mannequin run. That isn’t prone to change a lot with the all-new 2018s — even with the lately revamped Mercedes GLC at full stride and a brand new BMW X3 simply across the nook.

Execution

Audi engineers have crafted one thing that explains — perhaps defines — the ever-present enchantment of so-called crossovers or unibody SUVs. Like its predecessor, the brand new SQ5 fills a Swiss military knife position, in consolation, with glorious end and refinement. And it drives superbly. You would possibly discover some refined shortcomings in comparison with an Audi S4 sedan, for instance, however most drivers in all probability received’t and even fewer will care.

There’s nothing turbo-ish in regards to the SQ5’s new turbo V6, no less than within the standard sense. No considerable lag, no holy-cow! peaks or whoosh factors. Torque supply is sort of even from simply previous idle to the higher reaches of the tachometer, and whereas a large, flat torque curve definitely has its enchantment, it will possibly additionally wash some character out of an in any other case stable engine. The SQ5 truly advantages from the V6’s raspy prime finish, and also you’ll discover when there’s room to maintain the gasoline pedal flat for 2 or three upshifts. Horsepower peaks properly earlier than the redline, and the final 1,000 rpm really feel nearly static. However on the subsequent upshift, when the engine drops again into the fats a part of its torque vary, the SQ5 shoots ahead once more with a noticeable kick within the small of the again.

The eight-speed computerized is tuned properly. It shifts rapidly and exactly manually, with little throttle blips that increase the glee. In regular/econ mode, it takes a deeper jab on the gasoline to induce downshifts, and the transmission grabs the subsequent highest gear on the first affordable alternative. The easy resolution is to depart it in sport. There’s no hyperactivity if you happen to do, nothing jarring or annoying.

SQPIC 4

The SQ5 rides much more comfortably than earlier than, however due to the air suspension, it stays remarkably flat by way of bends. You’ll be able to induce a little bit of understeer at a average tempo, and in the course of the check drive on public roads throughout Vancouver Island, average was the very best there was. Given almost ideally suited floor circumstances, the worth of the rear sport differential was inconceivable to evaluate.

Nothing within the SQ5 bundle stands out as nice, however almost every little thing is good, and that’s what makes this automotive — er, crossover — so interesting, within the driving sense. As in most Audis today, in comparison with another competent, very succesful luxury-badged sedans or crossovers, the SQ5’s normal goodness appears much less obscured beneath a up to date muck of infinite adjustment, sophisticated driver/machine interfaces and obligatory security techniques or driving aids. Then there’s the inherent equipment worth in a crossover — the commanding view ahead, the extra spacious rear seat in comparison with sedans of comparable footprint, the thought (if solely a thought) which you could truly negotiate a logging path. It’s not obscure the SQ5’s enchantment to patrons.

It nonetheless has one of many better-executed cabins in its class, if not the very best. Change placement, change operation, the middle console — all glorious. Audi’s MMI operational interface remains to be among the many least annoying and best to study in luxury-badged automobiles. The Digital Cockpit show in entrance of the motive force gives plenty of choices, they usually’re straightforward to type. In contrast to new-age video screens in some opponents, it’s truly formed like a conventional gauge cluster fairly than a pill laptop.

SQPIC 5

What’s to not like? The brand new SQ5 feels a bit lighter than the outdated, perhaps, however not as clearly related. The brake pedal isn’t dangerous, and there’s loads of stopping pressure within the prime portion of journey, however it won’t be as sharp as Audi’s finest. Extra so the steering really feel, or energy help or suggestions. The steering is definitely fast sufficient. It is correct and nothing like mushy, however it’s much less viscerally or aesthetically pleasing than we bear in mind within the outdated SQ5. Possibly it’s extra numb — identical for the sounds. Mechanical noises from the turbo engine are extra muted than these from the earlier supercharged V6. There are apparent enhancements within the new SQ5, however it’s typically duller than the outdated one and fewer distinctively “S” like.

Which brings us again to these pretend exhausts suggestions. No massive deal on their very own — perhaps it’s time for a paradigm shift that features pretend exhaust suggestions strictly for the aesthetics. However within the context of the SQ5’s slight improve in numbness, the pretend suggestions get a bit of extra troubling. They really feel like a scarcity of authenticity from a model that promotes itself as genuine. There needs to be a greater approach.

SQPIC 6

Takeaway

The 2018 Audi SQ5 is sort of completely new, however its core attraction hasn’t modified a whit. You’ll look lengthy for a greater mixture of appliance-like performance, end, refinement and good, clear driving satisfaction among the many many compact luxurious SUVs sprouting throughout the land.

But the overhaul isn’t all heat fuzzies. What the SQ5 beneficial properties in house, extra subtle suspension know-how and a lighter, extra environment friendly engine, it loses with impassivity and perhaps a bit much less distinction. That’s not going to matter a lot within the market, however for the fanatic, it is barely troubling — and price looking forward to indicators of a bigger pattern.

On Sale: Rolling out now

Base Value: $55,095

Drivetrain: three.Zero-liter turbocharged V6, Eight-speed computerized, AWD

Output: 354 hp, 369 lb-ft torque

Curb Weight: four,398 lbs

Zero-60 MPH: 5.1 sec (mfr)

Gas Economic system: 19/24/21 mpg(EPA Metropolis/Hwy/Mixed)

Execs: A bit roomier, higher mileage rankings. Nonetheless a superb combo of rationality, lux appointments and an fulfilling drive

Cons: Much less participating than its predecessor

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