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Audi SQ5

Click to view picture gallery“What car does 0-62mph in 5.1
  seconds, weighs two tonnes, goes
  off-road and yet averages 41.5mpg?
  Only one car
s face fits this
Audis awesome SQ5...

THE STATS GO SOME WAY to explaining why the SQ5 is one of the best cars I've driven this year. Add in another stat the fact that it costs a surprisingly reasonable 43,075 and I'm going to hazard some hyperbole and say it deserves to sweep all before it.

So what exactly is the SQ5? At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, it's a Q5 with 'S' badging. However, it's the first Audi SUV to carry an S' badge which, in Audi terms, means it comes with a winning hand of performance-orientated talents.

Let's start with the engine. Audi has transplanted the 3.0-litre V6 BiTDi diesel unit already seen in the A6 and A7 into the Q5, with brilliant results. Make no mistake, this is a mighty powerplant. The power output of 308bhp isn't the headline-grabber, beefy though it is — it's the phenomenal torque figure of 479lb ft.

The SQ5 is perfectly
capable of despatching
Porsches, AMG-badged
Mercs and many other
so-called sports cars...”
Mated to Audi's eight-speed tiptronic auto gearbox, it deploys that torque with extraordinary panache. Using two turbos in sequence, any semblance of lag is banished: the instant you press the accelerator, the SQ5 leaps into action.

The remarkable thing is, it just keeps going. The peak may be delivered between 1,450rpm and 2,800rpm, but from rest right up to big motorway speeds, it's a phenomenal bit of kit. And it's perfectly capable of despatching Porsches, AMG-badged Mercs and many other so-called sports cars.

But surely a big SUV like this is going to bury itself barge-like into the first corner? Again, the SQ5 totally confounds expectations. There are four selectable driving modes (five if you spend lots of money on options); toggle it to Dynamic and you'll be in for a delicious surprise.

Yes, as you first turn in, you get the usual — and none too encouraging — SUV signals: a little too much body roll, a feeling that the car is top-heavy and liable to become wayward. Expecting the car to wash-out around the bend, I tame the throttle — but the car doesn't seem upset.

On the next corner, a little more power again sounds the understeer alarms but get this — there's a kind of 'second phase' to the handling that hunkers the SQ5 down and keeps it resolutely on track. Okay, this is no RS3, but the fact that you can confidently maintain speed in corners counts for a lot when it comes to outright pace, which the SQ5 has in spades.

The lowered suspension has much to do with this (the SQ5 squats 30mm closer to the tarmac than a regular Q5). Combining this with 20-inch wheels, another worry for me was ride comfort. Since the normal Q5 doesn't have the waftiest ride on the planet, the SQ5 has the potential to be a real bone-shaker. But again, it confounds expectations with a surprisingly supple ride that can be optimised by selecting 'Comfort' mode from the extensive control menu.

“Im quite taken with the
SQ5. In fact, I
tempted to say it
s the
perfect all-round vehicle:
fast, fun, functional yet
frugal. What else for
43K comes anywhere
Speaking of which, the SQ5's controls are all clear and mostly well laid-out and the huge touchscreen one of the best in the business.

On the downside, there's a mishmash of switches dotted around the dash, which can be confusing for a while.

The cabin finish is, not unexpectedly, superb, with 'lunar silver' headlining and some striking coloured trim insert options. Nappa leather is standard, as are grey instrument dials, an 'S' gearknob and a very racy 'S' design steering wheel.

Looks-wise, you can spot an SQ5 by its black brake callipers (branded with SQ5 logos), a special grille with aluminium-look double bars (same finish for the door mirrors, too), a roof spoiler, unique bumpers and quadruple exhaust tailpipes.

If you haven't realised by now, I'm quite taken with the Audi SQ5. In fact, I'm tempted to say it's the perfect all-round vehicle: fast, fun, functional yet frugal. Really, what else for 43K comes anywhere close? — Chris Rees

Audi SQ5 3.0 V6 BiTDI quattro | 43,075
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5.1 seconds | Average test MPG: 41.5mpg
Power: 308bhp | Torque: 479lb ft | CO2 179g/km