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2014 Audi SQ5 First Drive

The 2014 Audi SQ5 blasts ahead of the luxury compact crossover segment

What It Is
The SQ5 is a luxury compact crossover that dials up performance.
Best Thing
The SQ5 may be the most fun crossover to drive.
Worst Thing
The 2014 Audi SQ5's added performance and polish will cost you.
Snap Judgment
If you're in need of compact crossover utility, but enjoy sports car performance, the 2014 Audi SQ5 is calling.


The 2014 Audi SQ5 is a performance-inspired luxury crossover, and represents an automotive inevitability, one likely to be closely watched by Audi's primary German competition, and those looking to emulate the automaker's recent success. The compact crossover market is booming in the U.S. and China, and the spectrum of luxury compact crossovers offer no shortage of choice for those shopping the market. The SQ5 however--currently on sale and arriving in dealerships across the country--wears the performance crown. The 2014 SQ5 builds upon the Audi Q5, a crossover that while popular, actually underwhelmed us on the performance side. The 2014 SQ5 however, adds refinement and offers a level of performance-- one that certainly piqued our interest--currently not seen in the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class, or BMW X3 family. The range-topping Mercedes GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V-6, one good for 302 hp; the BMW xDrive35i similarly gets 300 hp from its 3.0-liter V-6. The 2014 Audi SQ5? It cranks up power to 354 horses, and the segment-best 5.1 seconds it takes to hit 60 mph would make many sports cars envious.

For those interested in the SQ5, Audi is making things easy: the supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 is the only engine option, paired exclusively to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, and sends power to all four wheels with its superb quattro all-wheel drive system. The SQ5 gets the usual complement of S-Line badges, and even the $52,795 entry-level model (includes delivery) offers a generous array of standard equipment. Audi sent us to Colorado to test its performance crossover against the dramatic backdrop of the Rockies. With the first snows having fallen in the mountains the night before, and the trees just beginning to change color, you might think it would be hard to focus on Audi's new performance crossover. But all it took was that first step on the accelerator pedal, and your attention was quickly redirected. And what did we think of the 2014 Audi SQ5? Read on for more of our first drive impressions.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Walkaround

Walking up to the SQ5, immediately you sense this crossover is sporty: a large grille, air intakes, and quad-exhaust pipes confirm this. 20-inch wheels are standard, and our model is sporting attractive 21s. A beautiful paint application gives the crossover a polished, refined air. The SQ5 looks like the sportier, fancier Q5 that it is. Even if the large four-rings weren't on the grille, you'd be able to tell this was an Audi in an instant. The automaker's attractive headlight applications have thankfully found their way on its new performance compact crossover, with Xenon headlights standard, and LED daytime running lights outlining the headlights and featured on the taillights. At night, the SQ5's LEDs beckon the eyes, the results are simply striking. With its attractive, polished good looks on the outside, you'll be intrigued to check out the inside, as well.

Sitting Down

Just opening the door to the SQ5, you can see several distinguishing characteristics that signal a pricier S-Line model; Most obvious, are the copious S-Line badges featured on the door sills, steering wheel, instrument control panel, headrests, and shifter. A flat-bottom wheel transfers a sports car feel to this crossover cabin, and a gray backsplash on the instrument gauges is complemented by sporty white needles and hashes. Our model was fitted with Audi's newest MMI media system, and navigation featuring Google Earth satellite imagery. If you've driven with the Google Earth navigation, other systems will seem antiquated, if still functional. The downside is I've never found Audi's MMI or navigation as intuitive and hassle-free as some other systems; I still prefer using Google Maps excellent turn-by-turn voice directions on my smartphone. On our model, the new MMI with navigation came as part of a $7,500 Prestige trim, which included such niceties as a Bang and Olufsen sound system, Audi parking system with rearview camera, a heated and cooled cupholder, adaptive headlights, a manual sunshade for the rear doors, and more.

Soft leather and Alcantara sport seats were both comfortable, featured adjustable lumbar support, and were still sporty. I hopped out to sit behind myself (or my driver's seat settings, anyhow), and found ample room for both my head and feet. Even a couple of taller rear passengers should managereasonably well. Like the Audi Q5, cargo is ample, and if you need more room, the seats fold and offer a convenient 40-20-40 split. A small touch I personally enjoyed were the dual rotary HVAC controls. There's a satisfaction to turning the dials and feeling the clicking, one that I prefer to some of the sleeker systems where you tap the buttons. Sometimes, old school is better, and can work in harmony surrounded by a bevy of technology. Needless to say, I'm happy to see the knobs survive on in Audi's top compact crossover. Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the $1,100 layered aluminum and black wood inlays that our model featured. There wasn't a time where my driving partner and I could hop back in the car after a stop, and not remark at how attractive they were. There are several options I'd skip, but this one adds an immediate level of sophistication and beauty to the cabin, and is one luxury I'd recommend shelling out for.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

Click thumbnails for detailed view

Driving

All around us, Mother Nature was putting on a visual feast for the eyes: alpine-like snow capped mountains; colorful forests taking on the colors of autumn; gorges and valleys and rivers; and seemingly at once, we found ourselves in the red rock canyons of the high desert. With all this stimuli, you'd think it'd be hard to focus on this crossover. It only took that first good dip onto the acceleration pedal, that first time getting the SQ5 up to speed in Dynamic mode, to hear the glorious exhaust sounds as we clipped effortlessly through the gears. There's an especially satisfying exhaust burble when you let off the gas that would seem out of place on another crossover, but not on this one.

With 354 hp, and a lot of low-end power, the 2014 Audi SQ5's acceleration won't leave anything to be desired. Braking is sharp, and the sport-tuned suspension, while stiff, has some give. There's a nice balance, one that will leave you confidently taking on both canyon roads, and highways that can sometimes be rough and loud at speed for sports cars and crossovers alike. Paddle-shifters on a crossover ordinarily seem silly to me, but here I almost used them exclusively, downshifting and upshifting as needed, the SQ5 a happy accomplice. Even after a long, full day of driving, we were excited to get behind the wheel again the following day on a drive that would take us to the airport.

Summary

The 2014 Audi SQ5 bookends an increasingly popular luxury compact crossover segment with a performance champion that currently has no equal. Fellow Volkswagen Group automaker Porsche will soon debut the Macan crossover that will likely slot just above the SQ5, but at present, there is nothing to match the SQ5 in performance. The model we drove was extremely well equipped, and priced at $64,770, about $12,000 more than an entry-level model. Some options we absolutely adored, such as the layered aluminum with black wood inlays ($1,100), and special Estoril Blue crystal effect paint ($1,075) that really begged further inspection. Standard 20-inch wheels are a nice way to go, but at only $800, we quite liked the 21-inch five-double-spoke Star-design wheels. Less necessary--but a nice luxury if you don't mind the $7,500 extra--were the features of the Prestige model described earlier. If you're looking for compact crossover utility, but still long for the performance aspects of your sports car, the 2014 Audi SQ5 is a must consider.

Basic Specs

3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, AWD standard, 354-hp, starting at $52,725 after delivery, $64,770 as tested. 16 mpg city/ 23 mpg hwy

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