Review: Audi SQ5

Be warned, we are on a slippery slope of sound manipulation.

It started with those tubes running from the engine bay to the cabin that exacerbate good mechanical noises.

Now speakers are actually fitted in the mufflers of vehicles like the super-fast Audi SQ5.

These are not part of some ghetto-shaking sound systems – their sole purpose is to make a diesel engine sound like it burns petrol.

If this unnatural aural evolution continues, and I’m betting a slab it will, exhaust tunes will be downloaded like smart-phone ring tones and city cars with shot-glass cylinders will take on the visceral fury of thumping V8 muscle cars.

Still, even though I’m aware of the fraud being carried out, I can’t help but enjoy the rich note the SQ5 makes as it accelerates furiously along a road deep in the Tasmanian wilderness.

It’s not as overtly lumpy as the same engine and exhaust in the A6 sedan, but it adds some mongrel, changing the pulses enough to imply a V8 could be lurking under the bonnet.

Instead, a 3.0-litre diesel V6 with two turbochargers is nestled in between the suspension towers, generating sufficient force to make this the fastest diesel SUV on the planet (unless a secret jungle tribe in the Amazon forest has developed something faster we don’t know about).

The engine is linked to a ZF eight-speed torque convertor type transmission that sends power to all four wheels. The twin-turbo diesel's 230kW and 650Nm is enough to send 1920kg of stationary Audi SUV to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds.

Think what you will about the merits of making an overly heavy wagon accelerate at such a pace; you can’t help but be impressed by the achievement.

Even more remarkable is the official combined fuel-economy figure of 6.8 litres per 100km, which defies comprehension and dodges part of the luxury-car tax due to its efficiency (denying the feds around $3700).

To achieve this figure you must be extremely judicious with your throttle application and put up with the intrusive stop-start system, which is not easy.

Audi spent a lot of time on the SQ5’s suspension, keen to make its first-ever S version of an SUV something more than a straight- line missile.

New and stiffer springs lower the ride height by 30mm, firmer dampers are installed and 20-inch rims with 255/45 tyres are fitted. This is quite a jump up from the 18-inch alloys that come as standard with other Q5 models.

Our test SQ5 ran 21-inch wheels – part of a sold-out launch pack ($14,720) – along with a speed-sensitive variable-steering ratio and a range of other features. Judging from our drive, the SQ5 handles far better than it should, and while it can never fully shake free its bulk, it is able to remain stable and change direction in a way that builds confidence.

The downside is that, when running on less-than-perfect Australian roads, the SQ5 has an overly harsh ride. Adding to the discomfort is louder-than-expected tyre rumble on coarse-chip tarmac, which spoils a generally quiet cabin experience. Here’s hoping it passes on less of the jolts to the cabin when fitted with the regular 20-inch wheels.

The SQ5 sits clear atop the Q5 range and, along with a hot engine, firm suspension and new wheels, it inherits a unique grille, deeper front and rear bumpers, oval quad exhaust tips, alloy-look wing mirrors, a chunky steering wheel, sports seats and a special instrument cluster. Larger front brake discs (380mm) are a wise inclusion.

The SQ5 will set you back $89,400, which is $13,900 more than the 180kW/580Nm 3.0 TDI version. Sounds good? Careful – don’t get me started.

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