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The new SQ5 is the first Audi diesel to wear the 'S' badging that marks out the firm's performance versions, and it sits at the very top of the Q5 small off-roader range.
Power comes from the 313hp 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 diesel engine already used to great effect in the A6 model. The SQ5 is styled to subtly show itself as the quick version, with the main hints being a rear spoiler and fairly discreet S badging. Unlike the Q5, the tailgate and bonnet are made from aluminium, with the tailgate alone reducing the new model's weight by 8kg, making the car the lightest in its class according to Audi. It is also 30mm lower than the Q5, sits on sports suspension and has interior tweaks such as a leather door armrest to mark it out to the expert eye.
Audi thinks uptake could be as high as 15-20% of Q5 registrations, with a spokesman explaining that price sensitivity is not quite so prevalent at the top end of this range - the step from the top-spec S-line 245hp 3.0-litre Q5 to the SQ model is only just over £1000, making it "a lot of bang for the buck" and potentially a "substantial part of the mix".
It's certainly rapid, offering addictive levels of performance and acceleration, although there's enough body roll to make sure a degree of caution is retained for roundabouts and bends.
The only real rival to the SQ5 is BMW's X3 Xdrive 35d M-sport, which has identical power figures but is slightly slower and significantly cleaner than the Audi. The SQ is 0.7secs quicker to accelerate to 62mph, and is electronically limited to 155mph compared with the BMW's 149mph top speed, but the X3 is 4.8mpg more economical and 17g/km cleaner, while the BMW is also £995 cheaper, meaning a 40% tax payer's benefit-in-kind bills will be £53 per month lower. The BMW is also 4.3p per mile cheaper to run.
But the Audi's twin-turbo engine is finally a match for the outstanding BMW version that has pretty much had things its own way in performance diesel terms for a number of years. The SQ5 is a very appealing and rapid small off-roader that combines the performance with reasonable efficiency.