In all of us, there is always some reluctance to face the truth, particularly when it comes to age. It's why people dye their hair or wear youthful clothing that merely reinforces their lack of youth.
Of course, as the saying goes, there’s no fool like old fool. After all, no one ever got poor selling products that promise the illusion of youth. So it’s little wonder that automakers continue to endow their humble, practical crossover utility vehicles with sports car characteristics in an effort to appease buyers afflicted by the stigma of buying a family car.
But this does pay benefits.
These sportier renditions of mundane models usually get a bit more power, tires that add grip, a firmer suspension that challenges your vertebrae and a smattering of styling details. So this may not transform a vehicle like the Audi Q5 CUV into an Audi R8 sports car, but it does make a difference for those willing to pay the price. And it’s why cars like the 2021 Audi SQ5 exist: to soothe the psyche.
The SQ5 is the sportiest iteration of the Audi Q5 family, a line of compact luxury crossovers that accounts for a quarter of Audi’s U.S. sales. It’s their most popular line, one that can be had in a number of different iterations, starting at $43,300.
That nets you the base Q5, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and 12-volt mild hybrid system that generates 261 horsepower and goes from zero to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds, according to Audi. There’s also a plug-in electric hybrid that generates 362 horsepower and 0-60 mph sprints of 5 seconds. Finally, there’s today’s subject, the SQ5, the flagship of the Q5 line with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 that generates 349 horsepower and 0-60 mph times of 4.7 seconds. All Q5s are equipped with Quattro all-wheel drive.
As you’d expect of an Audi, the SQ5 exhibits an austere sobriety in its styling that possesses an elegant élan lacking in some German competitors. For 2021, it receives a number of minor trim updates that freshen its appearance, including a revised grille, side air intakes, side sills and rear trim details. The result lacks the overwrought juvenile add-ons of so many "performance-oriented" family wagons. It’s refreshing, and welcome.
The instrument panel is anchored by a large 10.1-inch MMI touchscreen that uses the newest version of Audi’s infotainment system software. Its graphics are clear and easy to read, proving intuitive to use The screen is accompanied by Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, which minimizes the instrument cluster’s gauges while maximizing its Google Maps navigation screen in front of the driver, where it’s far easier to glance at while driving. The test car also had a head-up display that proves invaluable in tracking speed.
Like the Audi styling, the SQ5’s performance lacks the theatricality that typifies too many sporty crossovers. It’s the consummate balance of power and refinement. Yes, it has plenty of power. No, it won’t induce whiplash from a standing start. Yes, body motions are well controlled and body lean is minimal through corners. No, it’s ride isn’t so firm that you’ll need a chiropractor.
Driver assistance features include standard blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, parking assist, rear cross traffic alert, and optional adaptive cruise control and 360-degree cameras.
While the 2021 Audi SQ5 is undeniably good, the 2021 Audi Q5 Hybrid starts at $1,000 less, is nearly as quick (will you miss three-tenths of a second?) and returns 27 mpg in mixed driving, compared with the SQ5’s 20 mpg. Best of all, the hybrid will run for 19 miles solely on electricity, returning an MPG-e of 50 mpg. That makes it a far more compelling choice over the pricier SQ5.
2021 Audi SQ5
Base price: $52,900
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6
Power: 349 hp., 369 pound-feet of torque
EPA fuel economy estimates: 18 mpg city, 24 highway
Bottom line: Sport and suave