2018 Audi SQ5 first drive review: practicality with a dash of performance

Vancouver Island is one of the most beautiful places in North America. An old-growth temperate rain forest, it is impossibly green, and it offers spectacular views of mountains, streams, inlets, and even fjords…at least when the fog lifts enough to see them. It’s the perfect place for a well-heeled family to take a vacation, and the roads are more interesting than the open highways of the American west. They consist mostly of gentle sweeping bends that carve through thick forests and run parallel to coastlines.

The 2018 Audi SQ5 is the ideal vehicle for this kind of trek. It’s not a pudgy family truckster that will flop into corners and make the wife and kids nauseous as you see the sights. It’s also not a track star meant for slaying the Nürburgring and liquifying your kidneys on city streets. Instead, it’s a well controlled, somewhat roomy crossover that can carry a family of five and their luggage, too. It’s practicality with a touch of performance, but not too much of either.

Maybe that’s why Audi invited Motor Authority to Vancouver Island to test the all-new 2018 SQ5.

A dash of pepper in your Q5

The SQ5 turns the newly redesigned Q5 up a few notches, but there is still room on the dial. This amplifier goes to 7; no need to worry about 11. A possible future RS Q5 would handle that duty.

First and foremost, it gets the turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that it shares with the S4/S5. This engine produces 354 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. It replaces a supercharged V-6 of the same size that made an equal 354 horses but was down on torque at 346 lb-ft. Audi says the new engine catapults this 4,400-pound crossover from 0 to 60 mph in a spritely 5.1 seconds, which is about as fast as the last model despite the uptick in torque.

That V-6 sends its thrust through an upgraded 8-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels via Audi’s new Quattro Ultra all-wheel-drive system. Quattro Ultra can disconnect the rear axle completely and send all of the available power to either axle. Also offered for the SQ5 exclusively is a mechanical torque vectoring rear differential that can route all of the available power at the rear axle to the outside wheel in a turn to help the vehicle rotate through corners; it’s part of the $3,000 S Sport package that also includes red brake calipers and an adaptive air suspension.

Audi gives that air suspension five modes–Lift/Off-road, Allroad, Comfort, Auto, and Dynamic–and each has it’s own ride height. Lift/Off-road raises the vehicle 2 inches to 9 inches overall to help the vehicle clear off-road obstacles; it automatically returns to standard ride height at 15 mph. Allroad raises the suspension 1.2 inches. Comfort and Auto keep the standard 7-inch ride height. Dynamic lowers the SQ5 0.6 inch to lower the center of gravity and improve handling.

Without the air suspension, the SQ5 has the Allroad setting’s 8.2-inch ride height, so the air suspension drops the standard ride height 1.2 inches from the get go. All SQ5s also have the adaptive dampers, which are optional on the Q5, as standard equipment. They come with Comfort, Normal, and Sport settings, and these settings are also adjusted based on which air suspension mode is chosen. In addition, the SQ5 comes with 20-inch wheels and larger brakes, featuring 13.8-inch front rotors with 6-piston fixed calipers.

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