Car Reviews

2021 Audi SQ5 TDI Review

Audi’s SQ5 performance SUV has finally been reintroduced with diesel power but for those customers who avoided the petrol version in its last iteration and have been hanging for this new generation, has the walloping powerhouse been worth the wait?

How Much Does The 2021 Audi SQ5 Cost?

The new Audi SQ5 TDI is offered as a single diesel model specification at $104,900 plus on-road costs.

Powered by a mild-hybrid powertrain driven by a 251kW 3.0-litre turbocharged diesel V6 engine mated to an eight-speed Tiptronic transmission, the 2021 Audi SQ5 promises high levels of performance matched with technology and driver comforts.

Standard specification for the new SQ5 includes 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels, sports suspension with adaptive damper control, heated sports fronts seats with ventilated seats available as a no-cost option, trizone digital air-conditioning, hands-free electric tailgate and panoramic sunroof.

A suite of driver assistance systems and new advanced infotainment solutions including a 10.1-inch high-resolution touch display add to the Audi SQ5’s high-tech appeal.

What Does The Audi SQ5 Cost To Own?

Audi offers a 3 year/unlimited kilometre warranty on the 2021 Audi SQ5. If you choose to service your SQ5 at a dealership, Audi offers a five-year service plan which can be purchased within the first 15,000kms of ownership at an additional cost of $2940. This covers scheduled servicing items although consumables like wiper blades, brakes, tyres or additional filters required over and above the schedule are all charged extra.

What’s the Exterior Like?

The new Audi SQ5 is not fully redesigned from its most recent iteration, but it has been enhanced with a sportier design with vertical fins added to the front bumpers and greater use of aluminium finishes within the grille.

Matrix LED headlights are now standard and lamp units include signature dynamic turn signals and animations when locking and unlocking. To add extra interest, digital OLED rear lights are available for an additional $2500. They include actively changing graphics when in dynamic mode and when vehicles approach a stationary SQ5 from behind.

The new Audi SQ5 is available in nine exterior paint colours with metallic and pearl effect paints available at no price premium.

What’s the Interior Like?

The interior of the Audi SQ5 is fully luxe. Quilted Nappa leather upholstery is standard or you can plump for ventilated seats in leather without the fancy stitching as a no-cost option.

The driver’s seat is suitably cosseting and the heated function definitely welcomed on a cool Canberra drive.

There’s plenty of legroom in the second row and the convenience of second-row climate control will keep passengers comfortable. Proving its practicality as an SUV as well as a performance driving machine, second-row seats fold and can be split 40:20:40.

How safe is the Audi SQ5?

The Audi SQ5 has a five-star ANCAP safety rating and is fitted with eight airbags. It has a full suite of advanced driver assistance safety features including autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control with Stop and Go, lane keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring, 360 degree camera, park assist with steering assist, rear cross traffic alert.

What’s the Infotainment Like?

The centrepiece of the Audi SQ5’s infotainment system is a new 10.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen integrated into the dashboard.  Audio sound delivery is crisp thanks to the 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 755W sound system.

Apple CarPlay is available wirelessly and Android Auto is also compatible via cable, and navigation and other audio functions can be controlled through a mixture of touchscreen or voice control. Audi’s swish Virtual Cockpit is included as standard as is a head up display.

Wireless phone charging via Audi phone box light is available while two devices can be connected by Bluetooth simultaneously allowing driver and passenger to switch between connections. Four USB sockets include two in the second row ensure everyone in the vehicle can keep their device charged.

Added to the SQ5 for the first time is Audi connect plus which gives the driver real-time information, where available on traffic, weather conditions, parking information and fuel prices. The SQ5 can also be connected to the myAudi smartphone app for remote locking and unlocking, emergency calls and service requests via embedded SIM.

What engine is available in the 2021 Audi SQ5?

While the technology and vehicle smarts tick all the relevant boxes for buyers of the Audi SQ5, the real story in the refreshed 2021 model is its mild-hybrid powertrain.

This is an evolution of the engine offered in last year’s limited run of SQ5 TDIs and promises improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions while delivering the same performance Audi SQ5 owners love.

The new Audi SQ5 TDI has a 3.0-litre V6 engine with a single turbo in place of the twin turbos of the original SQ5 TDI. Its impressive power output of 251 kW is boosted by its rollicking 700 NM of torque.

Audi has made comprehensive changes to the engine and its construction. The pistons are now made from forged steel rather than aluminium to reduce heat loss but they’re no heavier. The intercooler has shifted from the bumper to inside the V of the engine, delivering boost power more quickly.

The single turbocharger has a lighter compressor wheel that Audi says delivers higher torque build-up more rapidly.

The 48-volt mild-hybrid system adds a belt alternator starter, lithium-ion battery and a 48/12-volt voltage converter. When the car slows its stores up to 8kW and can coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine off before the starter restarts the engine. Audi says this will recover 0.7 litres per 100 kilometres.

A further addition to the SQ5’s clever powertrain is an electric-powered compressor which supplements the turbocharger if exhaust gas flow is not sufficient. A small motor uses the same 48-volt system to drive the compressor, to support more rapid take-off and acceleration. The system combines to deliver an acceleration time from standstill to 100km/h in 5.1 secs.

Finally, twin catalytic converters which cover different operating situations and exhaust gas temperature windows use AdBlue from a 24-litre tank to bring the SQ5’s tailpipe emissions under the most stringent Euro 6d emissions standard.

How about the fuel economy?

Fuel Economy from the advanced mild-hybrid powertrain is just 7.0-litres per 100km and CO2 emissions are 182 g/km.

What’s it like to drive?

It’s been a while in between SQ5 TDI drives but the second I planted my right foot in the new model, I was reminded of the rampant grunt that a vehicle like this generates.

Power delivery is instant and immense. A confected exhaust note adds to the acceleration impact and reverberates around the cabin. The SQ5 is not a big SUV, but its power makes it feel like it punches well above its size. Having such an impressive power unit on speed-limited roads is not just a little overkill, it’s a lot overkill, but the drive is so exhilarating – heart rules overhead on this one!

The powerful engine is well matched to Audi’s eight-speed Tiptronic transmission which reacts quickly to throttle and braking inputs to match engine revs. Sports paddle shifters on the steering wheel are there for those drivers looking to engage further with the drive, but you’re unlikely to use them much given the auto gearbox acquits itself so well.

Rounding out the impressive drivetrain is Audi’s ubiquitous quattro drive system which gives ultimate confidence that you’re going to be able to get the substantial power down without breaking traction and spearing off into a ditch. The quattro system offers permanent all-wheel drive and the self-locking centre diff can divert up to 85 per cent of the drive to the rear wheels if the road conditions allow.

During our test drive through heavy rain and then damp road conditions, the SQ5 didn’t miss a beat. It was able to take advantage of limited overtaking opportunities during a break in a painfully long section of roadworks, a short jab on the throttle sufficient to power ahead with assured grip.

What are the alternatives?

While the Audi SQ5 arguably established a market for performance SUVs, that market is now saturated with some very capable Euros.

The Mercedes GLC 43 while petrol-powered, offers a similar driving experience as does the BMW X3 M40i and both are equipped with great technology too.

Another big diesel performance SUV that might be worth throwing into the mix is the twin-turbo V6 diesel Maserati Levante. It’s not an obvious choice and the base model is still $20,000 more but it’s an interesting SUV with plenty of personality.

The Bottom Line

It may have taken several years for the diesel Audi SQ5 to return to the permanent Audi portfolio, but for those owners who were reluctant to swap into a petrol version in the interim, the new Audi SQ5 TDI has been well worth the wait.

It offers life-affirming performance which is well packaged in an SUV frame that meets the needs of a wide range of buyers. Add its technology, high-quality finish and attention to detail and the SQ5 is a powerhouse that packs an all-round punch.

Editor's Rating

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Ben Tate
Ben Tate
11 months ago

AdBlue you say? Sounds like the active ingredient is urea. I guess Audi might not be overly impressed if they catch owners peeing into the AdBlue tank to avoid paying $50 for a 10L? 😉

If AdBlue overcomes DPF issues it sounds like a good idea.

Nice torque from a sensibly sized 3L diesel engine. Not sure about massive grunt from 2L engines and how that might affect longevity.

Andrea Matthews

Andrea Matthews