What is it?

This is the new Audi SQ5, the fast, sporty version of the brand’s sensible, mid-size SUV. The old SQ5 was met with quite a lot of fanfare, largely because it broke so much from the regular car’s sensible image with extreme, pedal-to-the-metal driving thrills.

The new one sets out to do much the same. It’s powered by a 3.0-litre, turbocharged V6 very closely related to the engine seen in the excellent S5. Here, it develops 354 bhp to deliver a 0-100 km/h time of 5.1 seconds. It’s also draped in much chrome and sporty S badges, and it has quad-exhausts, so you know it’s the fun one of the range.

How does it drive?

The experience is dominated by that V6 engine, which is a masterpiece. On paper, the 0-100 km/h time and power output aren’t really that extreme by modern-day performance SUV standards, but on the road, the SQ5 is plenty exciting enough. The exhaust pops and crackles and the engine growls and snorts – it feels and sounds more like a hot-hatch than it does a sensible SUV. It feels naughty, and that’s something to be celebrated in a car like this.

The throttle response is mega, especially if you stick the drive selector into ‘dynamic’ mode. But even if you’re in straight-up ‘automatic’, the way the SQ5 hauls its weight towards the horizon is astonishing. You stick your foot down, and power is instantly available. And then you’re doing the speed limit and you need to slam on the (very good) brakes.

Our test car had the adaptive air suspension option box ticked and we’d recommend it. It makes the ride as supple as a Range Rover’s, but it also keeps you flat and planted when you’re being silly through the bends. There’s decent feel through the steering, too, meaning you can place the car pretty accurately when you’re hooning around corners. Don’t expect to be pulling any drifts in this thing, but the SQ5 grips well at unsafe speeds – you’d have to be going stupidly fast to see a hint of understeer.

The SQ5 is also adorned with plenty of off-road tech. In fact, for its regional launch, Audi had SQ5s driving through the harsh, mountainous terrain of Oman. Most of the off-road stuff is electronic, meaning the car probably won’t respond well to being taken dune-bashing. But you should certainly be able to throw your SQ5 at some of the rough stuff. Just don’t catch those lovely, 21-inch, cast-aluminium alloy rims on any rocks.

And when you’re done messing around, the SQ5 is much like the regular Q5 – quiet, comfortable, refined. It’s a very pleasant thing to pootle around in. There’s more space than the outgoing model, meaning that, with the back seats folded flat, the car could easily swallow a big IKEA shop.

Interior quality and tech

The SQ5’s interior is lifted pretty much wholesale from the S5’s, which in turn is basically the same as the A4’s – but with a few sporty touches added in here and there. That’s no bad thing at all – the interiors on this generation of Audis are beyond reproach. There aren’t many non-man-made materials, but seriously high-quality plastics, supple leather and flashes of alumunium combine to create a stunning overall design. The quilted leather seats deserve a special mention; they contribute to a feeling of being in something very expensive. Which we like.

Tech-wise, the SQ5 is pretty much at the top of the game. The MMI infotainment system is feature-packed and easy to navigate, and the Virtual Cockpit (which comes as standard on the SQ5) allows you to pick and choose what information you want directly in front of you. It’s been around for a while now, that system, and it’s still fabulous. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto now come as standard, too.

There’s one gimmick in the ‘all-in-touch’ handwriting pad on the centre console, which allows you to write in numbers or letters to search instead of scrolling for them using the control wheel. And you can use it as a mouse trackpad for selecting things on the screen. Sounds cool, but it’s actually more distracting and more difficult to use than the standard method.

Our test car had an optional Band & Olufsen sound system fitted. If you’re into your sound quality on the move, it’s an option worth ticking. There’s an ambient lighting option, too, and while it does give the interior a cool, funky nightclub vibe, it’s pretty non-essential.

Running costs

The previous Q5 was, according to Audi, the best-selling car in its class, and there’s no reason to think that the current-gen car will be any less popular. Residuals are strong for the old car, even despite the fact the new one is out, and the S models tend to hold their value just as well. Fuel-wise, you’re looking at 10.8 litres / 100 km – not bad for a car with over 350 bhp. And for insurance, budget around AED 7,000 for fully comprehensive cover.

Our verdict

It’s unclear exactly who the SQ5 is aimed at. Its problem is that the regular Q5, with a totally respectable 254 bhp engine, is so good. All of that said, the SQ5’s V6 is an unending source of entertainment, and its driving dynamics do allow you to treat it as something of a big hot hatchback. It may cost AED 269,000, but if you want a luxury family car that’ll also go big on fun, the SQ5 is well worth a look. And if you aren’t up for paying that much, take comfort in the fact that the cars lower down the range are very capable indeed.