The good: Effortless power, great economy and excellent package efficiency.
The bad: Substantial price premium over a Q5, no spare wheel, no left foot rest.
The ugly: Buy disposable latex gloves for filling up at the diesel pump.
Diesel engines have always been more efficient than petrols and it’s mostly because diesel fuel packs more energy than petrol. And just lately diesel motors have been getting really good. Instead of being noisy, dirty and slow they’ve become clean, quiet and, now, fast.
The V6 diesel in Audi’s SQ5 is one of the most delicious diesels around. It’s more than the power and responsiveness; it’s all about the motor’s prodigious torque. You’ll fall in love with this motor as soon as you hit the starter.
From idle through to the red line it has massive amounts of torque available and that’s what makes it so compelling. You don’t have to wind this motor up, there’s no need to think about where it will be after you change gears, there are always great gobs of fuss-free energy on hand.
This makes the SQ5 not only interesting and rewarding to drive, but completely effortless. One begins to understand how Audi keeps on winning the Le Mans 24-hour race with a diesel race car – the beautiful blend of power and ease is all down to lots of torque.
And then there’s the fuel economy. When did you last hear of an SUV that runs comfortable seven-second zero to 100 kmh times and still manages to use less than 10 litres over every 100 kilometres?
Okay, it has auto start/stop which lots of people don’t like and which is far more relevant to crowded Europe than this wide, brown land, but given the transmission is an eight-speed automatic (rather than an electronic manual without a clutch pedal) it becomes almost seamless, only catching you out when you’re trying to get off the mark quickly.
The Q5 has always been a good thing, for my money the pick of the smaller SUVs. It’s nice looking and it has excellent space, but most of all it’s a lovely thing to drive. There’s also that air of understated elegance in the cabin that the Germans do so nicely.
The SQ5’s handling is surprisingly sporty for a vehicle of this nature, the price being ride quality that borders on firm. You won’t notice this on the freeway (where noise levels are pretty good despite high performance tyres) but you will on second class bitumen and dirt roads.
All in all this is a terrific package. And, by the way, if you opt for the conventional 180-kilowatt V6 diesel model without the sporty bits you’ll save 15 grand. And the two-litre diesel is around $70k. Awfully tempting.
Vehicle: Audi SQ5.
Competitors: BMW X5M, Land Rover Discovery, Infiniti FX.
Power: 230-kilowatt 3-litre turbo diesel V6.
Gears: Eight-speed auto.
Economy: On test 9 litres per 100 km city, 7 country. Officially 6.8.
Drive away price: $98,922 (2000 postcode) $99,614 (3000 postcode).