Tested: Audi SQ5 Review – Highs and Lows of Today’s Technology

Driving the latest version of Audi’s sporting mid-sized SUV, it’s very soon that you will see the epic highs and miserable lows of automotive technology currently on our roads.

Let’s start with the highs which, ironically, includes the pinnacle of powertrain technology that most European nations will soon be submerging in an electronic version of the primordial slime only for future generations to dig it up and admire the fossilized remains of the excellence of past engineering. The 3.0-liter turbo-charged diesel powerplant has to be one of the best oil-burners I’ve ever tested.

This work of automotive art combines outrageous performance with creditable real-world fuel economy of at least 37mpg in mixed highspeed and urban use. I can visualize the collective throwing up of hands by the BEV brigade aghast but oblivious of the technology’s superior climate credentials for the bulk of the world’s nations producing electricity heavily dependent on burning fossil fuel in old inefficient power stations.

Microplastic emissions

True, the engine will never be as healthy for urban dwellers compared to BEVs albeit those heavier battery-boulders will be emitting much more microplastics from brakes and tires much of which can also be inhaled within 50-meters of a busy highway.

So, let’s start on that peach of a motor. It’s a 3.0 V6 TDI engine which, together with its electric compressor, allows a claimed acceleration for the Audi SQ5 of 0-62mph in just 5.1 seconds. That’s thanks to a claimed power output of 415bhp and torque of 516ft-lbs fed through an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox.

Nice stats but it’s on the road that all that instantaneous power really comes into play. The car can ‘bend’ time just as high-performance sports vehicles have a habit of doing. Journeys end much quicker than expected and over-take maneuvers lose any sense of stress because the driver knows the car will pass and return to its side of the road well before the on-coming vehicle gets anywhere close. Possibly the only sad thing about the engine is that it’s doomed to sit in a beefy SUV package when, where it really belongs, is in a rear-wheel drive sports sedan.

Naturally, the rest of the car is typically Audi and typically faultless in terms of quality of build and ergonomic design. Comfortable and airy, the cabin is a joy to be in for all of its occupants backed up by a ride that offers the choice of comfort, automatic or dynamic to tighten up the suspension for those wanting to exploit what they can from an SUV that shouldn’t be able to handle that well at speed.

Only one fly stubbornly paddles about in this ointment of excellence – the advanced adaptive cruise control system. I’ll hold my hand up and say that there are few of such systems that I’m much enamored of largely because I enjoy driving and do not want the technology interfering when I don’t want it.

Dangerous tech

I particularly object to systems that take over throttle and brake control, albeit that even some ABS can irritate the hell out of me! However, with the SQ5 my ire is reserved for one particular feature embedded in its Audi Pre-Sense suite – that of speed recognition and automated adjustment to meet the road’s current speed limit. To be fair some owners might like this feature although a quick look at SQ5 forums will reveal that many owners do not. Further, several also have experienced the irritating and even dangerous nature of this technology as I have myself.

Cruising through France returning from the Paris Motor Show 2022, several times the vehicle slowed down from its selected cruise speed because it mistook the off-ramp speed limit for the main carriageway’s higher speed limit. This became irritating in the extreme and it was only after the trip, and with the help of the forums, that I worked out how this feature can be turned off. However, to make things even more irksome, the driver has to repeatedly disable the function every time the car has been turned off – some, including myself, would see this as a total deal breaker in choosing a vehicle to buy. Why do I feel so strongly? For what ultimately happened on that trip through France.

Cruise control set just below the legal speed limit, my car was approaching two trucks in the inside drive lane as I indicated to pull into the overtake lane. Approaching the trucks, the first one pulled out to overtake the slower one in front.

My car gradually adjusted its speed to suit slowing to about 100kmh before accelerating to return to 130kmh as the truck pulled in after its overtake. Suddenly, the car slammed its brakes in an almost emergency braking maneuver with a car following behind mine having to brake hard too filling my rearview mirror with its proximity. I had to stamp on the accelerator to override the system and avoid a potential collision.

It was only then that I saw a small 60kmh sign, mimicking the legal road sign, stuck on the truck’s rear tailgate to advise others of its speed limit in certain situations. So, the car’s technology could not distinguish between that replica sign and the highway’s actual speed limit. This camera-based technology is obviously not fit-for-purpose with mission-critical automotive functions and owners must be allowed to disable it, if and when they want, without having to scroll through touchscreen display menus.

So, there we have it and, ironically, it’s a tragedy that the best technology on the SQ5 is the outgoing diesel ICE powertrain while the automated function above must be revised as a matter of urgency because it is simply too dangerous to trust in all situations.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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