April 21, 2014
2014 Audi SQ5. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Brendan McAleer
Here’s your first piece of useful consumer advice: never, ever, ever buy a dark blue car. Don’t get me wrong – it’s my favourite shade to drool over in the sales brochure, but it’s just the worst to keep clean.
Still, for the 3.5 seconds this Estoril Blue Audi wasn’t swathed in what the news channels are calling The Pollen Vortex, or Pollengate, or Pollenocalypse 2014, or what-have-you, it did look pretty neat. But buy a silver, white, or grey one instead; trust me on this, dark blue is even worse than black when it comes to the dirt and scratches of everyday life.
Everyday life is, of course, what this little crossover was designed for, and with the number of them on the road today, you’re virtually guaranteed to see one of them every single day of your life. The Q5 might not look particularly stunning, but the public appears to find it irresistible and is snapping ‘em up by the boatload. To date for 2014, it’s outperforming entry level luxury stalwarts like the Mercedes-Benz C-class and the BMW 3-series. There’s a thrifty diesel, a workaday four-cylinder turbo, and Audi’s ubiquitous supercharged six-cylinder. Now, there’s also this.
Let us briefly pause here in silent remembrance of the fallen S4 Avant, equipped with a glorious 4.2L V8 that sounded like the Norse god of thunder and drank high-octane like some sort of internal-combustion-powered Dionysus. What a great car that was, albeit cramped and thirsty. If you ever come across a stick-shift one with decent mileage, snap it up – they don’t really depreciate.
However, the S4 Avant’s been dead since 2008 in North America and fast Audi fans who need to haul cargo have either had to buy an S4 sedan and a trailer, or get an S7 and a second mortgage.
Happily, now there’s an S-version of Audi’s hot-selling compact crossover, and isn’t it quite… hmm. Boring? This week’s tester arrived shod with 19-inch alloys and snow tires despite the warming weather, and they rob the SQ5 of much of its factory-infused aggression. What with the way the offset fails to fill the wheel arches, it looks like Ichabod Crane wearing a pair of board shorts.
I absolutely love this sort of thing. Wagons are a dying breed, but luxury crossovers are everywhere, particularly Audi’s version. Despite the quad exhausts out back and MiG-21-sized radiator grille up front, that makes this particular machine something of a sleeper; five minutes with a heat gun and some dental floss to get the badges off and it’d be absolutely perfect.
On the inside, the SQ5 is basically a Q5 with all the goodies out of an S4 sedan. Thus you get lovely leather sport buckets embossed with the SQ5 logo up front, a small-diameter, flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle-shifters, and a melange of brushed aluminum and carbon-fibre-look trim throughout the cabin.
The trunk is decently spacious at 824L, and as the power liftgate incorporates the rear taillights, there’s a large opening. The low loading height is suitable for the family pet to scramble in, although you may want to get 3M film applied to the rear bumper.
2014 Audi SQ5. Click image to enlarge
Rear passenger accommodation is a bit more of a mixed bag. While there’s plenty of space for a rear-facing child seat and/or enough room to make sure little legs aren’t “massaging” the bejesus out of your spleen, there’s also a colossal central transmission tunnel. Whomever gets crammed in the stiff, flat middle seat is going to be doing hard time.
Back up front, driver or passenger has the usual suite of Audi tech to play with. The satellite navigation is straightforward to use, although I would prefer a larger touchscreen display here, and the voice-recognition worked for programming in addresses with only a hiccup or two. I always feel like I’m having a conversation with a Speak N’ Spell with these things, but at least in this case it wasn’t an argument.
Infotainment functions are controlled through Audi’s central scroller and four-button arrangement. If you’re upgrading from a previous Audi product, this setup with be familiar and easy-to-use, but if you’re jumping ship from BMW or Mercedes, it’ll take a bit of getting used-to for hands-free operation.
Parking this car in my own personal garage would require two immediate fixes. First, I would have to actually build a garage – I currently just have a driveway. Second, I’d have to buy a $40 cable from the local Audi dealership because this car requires a special connector to attach your iPod. You could, of course, just default to Bluetooth streaming for audio.