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2013 Audi Q5 : First Drive
But the real deal here is the SQ5. But before we get to the drive bit let's delve a little into the past. The SQ5 was previewed three years ago in Austria as the Q5 Custom concept. Wider and lower than a standard Q5 and powered by a 410PS, 3.0-litre supercharged V6 petrol engine, it was the starting point for an upcoming family of high-powered SQ models. But once engineering commenced, Audi decided to focus on a diesel version instead. It’s also the first time Audi’s high-performance group has worked on a diesel vehicle. The production SQ5 uses a twin-turbo 313PS, 3.0-litre V6 TDI; it’s the same engine that’s in Europe’s A6 Avant (which is a very fast estate version of the A6). The engine is aggressive and impressive and simply transforms the Q5’s character.
The transformation is particularly noticeable when you select dynamic mode, which sharpens the responses of the engine, chassis, and steering. There is far less turbo lag in the SQ5, and it delivers significantly more grunt across the entire powerband. The regular Q5’s 3.0 TDI already produces 580Nm of torque; the SQ5 engine increases that figure to 650Nm and it’s available from a lowly 1450 to 2800rpm. And thanks to the artificially enhanced sound of the SQ5, there is no mistaking the two engines, the hi-po version is accompanied by a sharp, V8-like growl that’s audible even from outside the vehicle.
Although the European and the Indian Q5 3.0 TDI uses Audi’s DL501 seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the SQ5 features the ZF-sourced 8HP eight-speed torque-converter automatic. The conventional auto choice might be a bit surprising, since dual-clutch transmissions are considered to be sportier than regular automatics, but the DL501 couldn’t handle the twin-turbo’s extra torque without massive internal changes. Moreover, Audi insists there is no weight penalty for the eight-speed.
Expect the SQ5 to scorch through the 100km/h barrier in less than five seconds (which means your family will be waving goodbye to most 2-seat sportscars and then some) and then go on to hit a limited top speed of 250km/h should you find the space for it. Now we already love the way the Q5 handles, but the SQ5 is in a different league altogether thanks to the stiffer suspension that’s lowered by 1.2 inches and the 20-inch wheels wrapped in fat 255/45 rubber.
Turn-in is exceptionally sharp, and the steering is very direct. With a rear-biased 40/60 power distribution, the SQ5 remains neutral up to insane speeds and thanks to the quattro system, grip levels are huge. And it looks fast too. The massive wheels, aluminium finish exterior mirrors, the dark glossy grille and the quad exhaust outlets tell you that the SQ5 is pretty much the Darth Vader amongst other SUVs.
While we can expect the updated Q5 on Indian shores soon, the Hybrid and the SQ5 might pretty much be a distant dream thanks to the massive price that they will sport. But considering that Audi is already hiking up prices of its cars, expect the new Q5 to command a slight premium more over the current car since it’s offering more equipment as well. However, with Audi already bringing in the S-line variants in India, how about a slightly hopped up version of the new Q5 in India as well? Here’s hoping.