Diesel power makes a full-time return to the 2022 Audi SQ5 range, and it's all the better for it.

You could easily be forgiven for thinking the 2022 Audi SQ5 Sportback TDI is a bit of a niche product. A diesel performance SUV – let alone one with a sloping coupé-like roofline that makes the boot smaller – doesn’t scream smash hit on paper, yet the SQ5 has fast become a cult classic that this country can’t get enough of.

Now in the second iteration of its second generation, this Sportback variant is one of the new additions to the facelifted Q5 range, while the diesel V6 that made this model popular makes a full-time return to the SQ5; it was petrol-power only for the pre-facelift model aside from a small run of TDI Special Edition models, but now the tables have turned back again.

However, the price of the SQ5 has now crept into six-figure territory, with it neatly sitting below the hundred-grand mark before. Now, you’re looking at $106,500 for the standard SQ5 and $110,900 for this Sportback variant. Factor in the OLED taillights of our tester – along with no-cost metallic paint – and you’re looking at $113,400 before on-road costs are factored in. Do keep in mind, though, that its closest rivals, the BMW X4 M40i and Mercedes-AMG GLC43, now cost five-digit figures more than it.

That might be a big price tag, but there’s no denying it feels every bit as premium as that figure suggests. Right from the outset, Audi’s smart, modern, and sharp design language means it makes a strong first impression. So good is Audi’s styling department at this point in time, it has even managed to make the sloping roofline look good on the SQ5 Sportback. Ordinarily, I’m no fan of these ‘coupé SUVs’, but here it just seems to work – although the 40-litre penalty on boot space, leaving 510 litres with the rear seats in place, is something parents and the like will want to think about.

One thing I’m not sure about with this facelift, however, are the exhausts. The old SQ5 was already engaging in some laughable fakery in this regard, but it’s even more egregious here. Those quad pipes look good from a distance, but they’re entirely fake; the real exhausts are small and downturned, hiding behind the bumper. At least the old model didn’t try to make them look too real.

The Navarra blue metallic and Rotor grey leather colour combination of the SQ5 tested here is an ideal combination for it – outside, the colour pops in the sun but looks subdued in the shade, while the interior looks light, fresh, and classy, rather than a tad cheap as stark white oftentimes can.

In terms of interior changes, the facelifted 2022 Audi SQ5 features a few subtle yet important ones. The old MMI touch infotainment system is finally gone and replaced by the newer Audi connect plus system that you’ll find in just about every Audi model now, which is displayed here on a 10.1-inch screen. It’s a slick and easy system to use, and it offers some nifty touches like a Google Earth overlay over the sat nav maps. The new system also does away with the old writing pad on the centre console, which is now simply replaced by a small storage cubby.

The virtual cockpit instrument cluster has also been upgraded slightly as well with a slightly larger display, although it has done away with – of all things – the fuel gauge. Of course, it’s not entirely gone and is now just among one of the system’s menus, but… really? Does a fuel gauge need to be reduced to that little? At least in the diesel it’ll be a long time between fuel stops, and there is still a range estimate provided at the top of the display. That one note aside, virtual cockpit remains a standout in the world of digital instrument clusters for its flexibility and legibility.

Of course, there’s no lack of standard equipment throughout the rest of the cabin as well. There’s quilted Nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats with electric adjustment, tri-zone climate control, a panoramic sunroof, tri-tone ambient interior lighting, auto-dimming interior and side mirrors, a wireless phone charger, a Bang & Olufsen 3D Sound System, head-up display, and a 360-degree camera.

Not only is this an utterly impressive array of equipment to be included as standard, it’s also an improvement on the pre-facelift model on which expensive items such as the sunroof weren’t included as standard.

But of course, it’s the engine that everyone is here for. All 2022 Audi SQ5 models come with a 3.0-litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine which makes 251kW from 3800-2950rpm and a monstrous 700Nm torque from 1750-3250rpm. From the second you fire it up and hear the deep burble from those (fake) exhausts, it’s clear that this is no ordinary oiler.

Despite the SQ5 Sportback’s heft of a not-inconsiderable 2085kg, it’s dispatched from 0-100km/h in just 5.1 seconds. Sure, that doesn’t sound that fast on paper in 2022, but that’s quick – not just for an SUV, but quick full-stop. That’s a second faster than a Subaru WRX, faster than any Hyundai N model, and mere tenths off the likes of the sporty BMW M235i and Kia Stinger. Talk about a sleeper…

Being a diesel, the power delivery is muscular but smoothly consistent – rather than feeling explosive at the right times, it simply feels ready and able all of the time. To use a footballing analogy, it’s like a hardworking central midfielder rather than a flashy forward – the engine room of the team that seems to have a third lung. (Any Park Ji-sung fans out there?)

In the case of the 2022 Audi SQ5, however, there actually is a third lung in the equation. Now fitted with a 48-volt mild-hybrid system which can shut off the engine while coasting to save fuel, this small electric system also powers an electric compressor that supplements the traditional exhaust-driven turbo. Without question, it adds to the responsiveness of this engine, making it audibly peppy the second you step on the throttle before the wave of torque from the big turbo crashes in.

This mild-hybrid system isn’t the only upgrade this engine has received since we last saw it deployed in the SQ5, with forged pistons, upgraded fuel injectors, and a water-to-air intercooler also now in the mix. It is, however, still connected to the same brilliant eight-speed ZF automatic transmission and backed by Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system. The latter is a rear-biased system, too, with it able to deliver up to 85 percent of the power to the rear axle, although it usually opts for a 40:60 split.

Although I found the ride in the pre-facelift SQ5 a bit terse at times, the standard S sport suspension of our tester rides beautifully thanks to its adaptive damper control. In Comfort it feels plush, in Dynamic it feels poised, and never does it feel in any way too firm. You can opt for air suspension if you want, but honestly, there’s no need for it as the standard setup is that good. If you want my advice, I’d save the $2250 it asks for – the OLED taillights are a bit of a gimmick you’ll never see for $2500, so I’d probably skip them as well – and put it towards the $2900 sport differential that was omitted from this car.

Add in the diff and you can really give it the full welly through the bends, but even in standard form it handles corners with confidence far greater than you’d expect from a car of this heft. The pre-facelift’s firmer suspension and 100kg-plus weight savings made it feel a tad more dialled in, but I think for all but the most eager drivers this will be the better car across all 365 days of the year, rather than the few idyllic ones for a backroad blast.

The best bit, of course, is that it’s nice and efficient being a diesel as well. I might have only managed 9.9L/100km during my 385km stint behind the wheel, but I was giving it the beans the majority of the time. On a longer freeway run, you’ll easily come closer to the 7.1L/100km claim. Compare it with the slower petrol engine of before that nudged 12L/100km in the real world, and the switch back to diesel power is a no-brainer.

As ever, then, the 2022 Audi SQ5 is a car that ticks all the right boxes. After all, how could a fast diesel SUV not tick those boxes in today’s age? A niche idea on paper, yes, but a brilliant idea in reality? Without a question. Factor in the extra kit and refinement over the pre-facelift model, and the fact it’s still cheaper than its rivals, and it is quite simply a brilliant buy.

2022 Audi SQ5 Sportback TDI List Price: $110,900 | As Tested: $113,400
  • 8.5/10
    Performance - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Ride & Handling - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Tech & Features - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Practicality - 8.5/10
  • 8.5/10
    Value for Money - 8.5/10

Pros: Incredibly torquey diesel engine, supple yet balanced ride, almost all the kit you need is standard, Sportback styling actually looks good
Cons: Fake exhausts are laughable on a performance SUV, slight penalty on boot space with this Sportback model, would be nice if the sport differential was standard

In a nutshell: With diesel power finally making a proper return, the 2022 Audi SQ5 is once again the perfect performance SUV. Stylish, well-equipped, fast, and cheaper than its rivals, it’s an easy car to recommend. 

Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Audi Australia for a week with a full tank of fuel.

Patrick Jackson
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