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SUV S stands alone

19.02.2014

AUDI’s local product portfolio became even more impressive this past week with the introduction of two new S models. While both are exciting, the standout of the two has to be the new SQ5. The other model launched was the S3 Sportback, which we have already sampled, albeit in three-door guise.

I say this because the SQ5 is powered by a TDI engine, making it the first Audi S model to receive an oil-burning heart. The engine is the familiar 3.0-litre twin-turbo unit that we experienced in the A7 earlier this year. It is a torque monster, with 650Nm on tap to go along with its 230kW. This means that this mid-size sports SUV does not have any direct competitors. Yet another niche busted.

The performance figures are impressive for an SUV: the 0-100km/h sprint takes just 5.1 seconds while the top speed is restricted to 250km/h. Having driven the vehicle, I can say with confidence that these figures are entirely achievable - the acceleration pulls you back into your seat and is relentless. It emits a very throaty V6 sound thanks to the inclusion of a sound actuator, making it a sporty sounding diesel.

The gearbox is an eight-speed Tiptronic, which - while not as fast as the S tronic - is better suited to the SQ5 as the shifts are quick enough and the eight gears coupled with the mountain of torque allow for effortless cruising. Claimed fuel consumption is 6.8 litres/100km, which one should be able to match. However, with all this power on tap, I don’t envision anyone trying to drive one of these with frugality in mind.

No true S model would be complete without a revised suspension and in that department the SUV gets 30mm chopped off of its ride height as part of its sports suspension upgrade. Having taken the vehicle through a few twisty passes that were quite bumpy and even uneven in some parts, I can repost that the suspension has been well sorted. While it doesn’t feel like a sports car, there is enough feedback through the electromechanical power steering unit for the driver to be able to push the car further with confidence. There is also the marque’s Quattro all-wheel drive in place to keep you glued to the road.

The exterior gets a sporty makeover, with restyled front and rear bumpers along with 20-inch RS 4-style wheels and four exhaust pipes. The electric sport seats come as standard in Alcantara leather with SQ5 embossing and black headliner. There is S badging everywhere - on the flat-bottomed steering wheel , in the instrument cluster, on the gear knob and on the door sills, while the foot pedals are finished in an aluminium look. There is also the superb MMI 3G Navigation system with Audi connect online. You still get 1 560 litres of boot space with the rear seats down and can tow up to 2.4 tonnes.

We also had the opportunity to test the new S3 Sportback at the legendary Aldo Scribante racing circuit. It is mechanically identical to the three-door model launched late last year. That means that you get 206kW and 380Nm and the desirable S tronic transmission as the only option locally. The new S3 Sportback is truly such a well-sorted car - around the track, the handling and straight-line shove really make it a difficult car to fault, especially considering that its performance is so closely matched to that of the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, which is nearly R150 000 dearer.

The Audi SQ5 TDI will retail for R794 500 and the S3 Sportback for R500 500 with both having Audi’s 5-year/100 000km Freeway Plan included.

Article written by Sean Nurse
19.02.2014
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