TEST DRIVE: 2021 Audi SQ5 — Maybe I’m Getting Old

Last I drove the Audi SQ5 was right around the time it first debuted. I remember it being a car that I liked but not one that I loved. It had a lot of good ingredients but failed to use them in the right way to create a great recipe. It was a fine do-it-all sort of daily driver. Audi recently facelifted the SQ5, giving it some new exterior tweaks and a couple of interior updates, but is that enough to make it more interesting?


The problem with do-it-all, well-rounded daily drivers is that they often times lack character or intrigue. They’re pretty good at everything but not special at anything. That was how I felt about the pre-facelift Audi SQ5. Now that I’ve driven the newly facelifted SQ5, though, I’m starting to really dig it. Maybe I’m getting old.


The New Face Works


Being a “facelift”, the SQ5’s recent mid-cycle update mostly changed its face. The new grille is slimmer, sleeker, and a bit sportier. It also now features a honeycomb pattern grille insert, similar to most Audi RS cars. Flanking that grille are new headlights, which are sleeker and cleaner than before.


The entire front end looks significantly better now, with a sportier, more aggressive vibe than the first-gen car. Out back, new LED lighting elements give the taillights more pop, too. Though, Audi didn’t fix our biggest design complaint — fake exhausts. In fact, the fakery is more egregious this time around, as Audi put four fake pips at the back end of the car, rather than just a black plastic panel. It will trick most people at a passing glace but, up close, you can easily spot the lie.

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On the whole, though, the Audi SQ5 is a much improved looking SUV. It’s sharper and sportier than before while retaining the same handsome proportions. My test car’s District Green Metallic helped, too. It’s the best color option for the SQ5 and it looked killer, making me smile each and every time I approached it and making me look back at it every time I walked away.


Tech Upgrade


The pre-facelift Audi SQ5 was feeling old inside. Its old-school rotary-wheel MMI system felt ancient and it lacked the latest-generation of Virtual Cockpit. Now, though, the new touchscreen MMI setup, with its all new screen, brings the Audi SQ5 out of the stone age and it’s all the better for it. Just that simple upgrade makes the SQ5 feel far more modern than its pre-facelift predecessor.


As for the rest of the cabin, it’s mostly the same and pretty standard Audi but that’s not a bad thing. Material quality is top notch, seats are great, and the design is smart and modern. It’s a lovely place to spend some time.


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Hot-Hatch Quick, Not Hot-Hatch Fun


Under the hood is a familiar 3.0 liter turbocharged V6, making 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, and it’s fine. When paired with its ubiquitous ZF eight-speed auto and Quattro all-wheel drive, the SQ5’s blown-six scoots it from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds. That’s about Volkswagen Golf R-speed, which is great in an SUV.


The problem is that it’s not as fun as a Golf R when you push it through twisty bends. Not to say the Audi SQ5 isn’t capable or impressive, it’s both of those things. But it isn’t actually much fun. Its steering is numb and it rolls a bit too much through corners, which isn’t entirely surprising given its size and weight.


Its engine also lacks charisma. The SQ5 has two main competitors in the segment; the BMW X3 M40i and the Genesis GV70 3.5T. Both of which are excellent and both of which have better engines. Pure performance isn’t the only metric by which we judge engines; sound, feel, throttle response, and character all factor in and both the Genesis and BMW engines are superior in those areas.


However, I’m not overly concerned with any of those issue because the SQ5 has something that many of its competitors don’t — comfort.


Maybe I’m just getting old but I really enjoyed the ride of the Audi SQ5. It’s supple and really rounds out bumps well, without every feeling floaty or sloppy. It’s always taut and composed but there’s a compliance to it that makes everyday driving so pleasant. It’s also shockingly quiet inside the cabin. Both of which combine to make the Audi SQ5 a more comfortable cruiser than its two main competitors.

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Can it Still Compete?


Does that mean I’d buy or even recommend the Audi SQ5 over the GV70 or X3 M40i? No and no, unless ride comfort and cabin quietness are your two main priorities. Personally, I’d take either the Bimmer or the Genesis instead but that’s mostly because I can’t quiet my inner sports car enthusiast. Even still, I had to admit to how much I appreciated the SQ5’s comfort and daily livability. It’s a wonderful thing to drive everyday if handling and fun aren’t on your main priority list.


There are a lot of things the SQ5 does right and many boxes it checks: it’s fast, looks great (especially in green), has a fabulous interior, is practical, rides beautifully, and has one of the quietest cabins in the segment. If you’re looking for a do-it-all SUV with some extra pep and prioritize style and comfort over performance and handling, the Audi SQ5 is for you.


CategoriesSQ5 Test Drives
Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.