The impressive Audi SQ5 marks the expansion of the brand’s popular SUV family.

SINGAPORE (April 9): When I was first asked whether I wanted to try out the SQ5, I thought I was being invited on a foreign trip, SQ being the code for Singapore Airlines flights. Then I realised it was in fact the latest offering in Audi’s popular SUV range. I was already familiar with the Q5, and so assumed the SQ5 must be a sportier version of the popular SUV. I’m glad to say I was right.

SUVs have come a long way in the last few years and many are now as powerful as the average sports car. Take, for example, the Porsche Macan and Cayenne, two very powerful SUVs that come in thrilling sports and turbo variants. Audi is actually in the same family as Porsche, with VW as their parent.

The Audi virtual cockpit displays information in razor-sharp graphics on its 12.3-inch monitor

But then again, Audi does very well on its own with some very sporty models. This time, its German engineers have decided to inject a little sportiness into its SUVs, choosing its mid-sized Q5 as the guinea pig. The 3-litre, turbocharged V6 engine that powers the SQ5 is borrowed from the Audi S4 and the S5 Sportback, and produces 354bhp and a warping 500Nm of torque.

Even with its larger proportions and heftier weight, the SQ5 takes only 5.4 seconds to get from 0 to 100kph, just 0.7 seconds slower than the S5 Sportback. But what may come as a surprise is that the SQ5’s “century sprint” of 5.4 seconds is actually one second faster than that of the updated Volkswagen Golf GTI.

That is a very telling statistic and hammers home the fact that this is one very sporty SUV. This power and speed is very smooth, courtesy of a sublime eight-speed transmission. If you are feeling more adventurous, then engage the paddle shifters on the steering wheel and change gears yourself. I, however, prefer to let the car do the thinking and just enjoy the ride.

The driving experience is enhanced by a sumptuous cabin, in true Audi premium fashion. This means everywhere you look and touch, you will find high-quality materials. Carbon-fibre trims, chrome and soft black leather make this a comfortable ride for driver and passengers alike. The steering wheel feels soft yet chunky and adds to the overall feeling of comfort, driver-friendliness and sportiness. There is a sense of familiarity about driving the SQ5, despite its being the new kid on the block. You know it is a different beast but it is still very much part of the Q family, inside and out.

Driving around town, ferrying kids between classes and hurtling down the expressway allowed me to experience the SQ5 in a range of environments. It comes with quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which makes it agile and responsive at all speeds. And given the elevated height of the SUV, visibility is great. Not many SUVs leave the tarmac and experience the off-road terrain they were designed for, but I feel their real home is in the city.

With congested roads and traffic dangers in mind, Audi has added plenty of technology to keep drivers safe. Adaptive cruise control, which includes traffic jam assist, takes on some of the steering work in slow-moving traffic.

Audi’s active lane assist makes it easier to stay in lane. Adding to the safety technology, distance warning alerts the driver when the distance between the Audi and the car in front is too close. On top of that, cross traffic assist rear, the exit warning system, collision avoidance assist and turn assist provide the driver with a very impressive arsenal of safety features.

One new and very smart addition is Audi’s pre-sense city technology, perfect for a busy and built-up city such as Singapore. The system warns the driver about pedestrians and vehicles, and initiates automatic emergency braking when required. Given what is already available in its cars, no wonder Audi is making such progress in autonomous driving.

The cool technology is not just reserved for safety. The Audi virtual cockpit displays information in razor-sharp graphics on its 12.3-inch monitor. You can toggle between different displays depending on your preference. It is only a matter of time before all Audis have virtual cockpits.

This modern feel tops off the SQ5’s attraction as a good-looking, beefy and powerful addition to the already popular SUV range. Same, same but different, as some might say.

Audi SQ5 3.0
$316,080 including COE
Engine: 2,995cc, V6, turbocharged
Power/torque: 354bhp/500Nm
0-100 kph: 5.4 seconds
Top speed: 250kph
Fuel consumption: 8.7l/100km

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast