Audi’s latest SQ5 sport ute and Richard Gere have a lot in common. Both have been around a while; 10 years for the Audi, 69 for the American Gigolo heartthrob. Both are still looking fit and, dare I say, quietly sexy. And both, naturally, come in silver-gray.
Interestingly, a new poll by the Swedish wellness brand FOREO – their facial scrubs sells at Neiman Marcus – just voted Gere the actor who looks the best for his age. In case you’re wondering, Dame Helen Mirren got the vote for best age-defying actress.
Of course the Q5 follows Mr. Gere’s lead by recently having a couple of mild nip-tuck-and-Botox facelifts to keep it looking fresh.
Last year’s Q5 makeover definitely increased the Audi’s appeal; this tall-riding five-door is now by far the German auto maker’s best-seller, accounting for around one in three new Audis sold.
For me, it is still the standout in this hard-fought compact luxury sport-ute segment. And right now, that’s a pretty crowded playing field, packed with Mercedes GLCs, Volvo XC60s, BMW X3s, Cadillac XT5s and Lexus RXs.
Where the Q5 still scores big is through its hard-to-beat formula of being just the right size – not too big, not too small; being beautifully-built and engineered; and being a true joy to drive.
I’ve just spent a blissful week piloting the sporty SQ5 model. This flagship of the Q5 fleet comes with a Teflon-smooth turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 under the hood, quattro all-wheel-drive as standard, a sexy, leather-lined interior, and more toys than FAO Schwarz during the holidays.
Stickers for the S start at around $52,400 though a nicely-loaded Prestige version like our tester will hoist the price tag to a non-trivial $68,000.
But to drive it is to love it. From the moment you slide behind that sporty, flat-bottom wheel and settle into that diamond-quilted Nappa leather front seat, the Q5 just feels right.
Part of last year’s makeover included the addition of Audi’s 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster. It’s like having a hi-def Sony Bravia in your sight-line displaying Google Earth imagery to show the road ahead.
Need some cool tunes? The Bang & Olufsen mega-sound system that comes with the Prestige package features 755 watts of power pumped through 19 speakers. New York’s Studio 54 in its day never cranked-out this much volume.
Yet the constant appeal of the Q remains its versatility and practicality. Rear seat space is surprisingly plentiful for lanky adults, while flipping forward the 40/20/40-split folding rear seats gives you 53 cubic feet of load space. There are PODS storage units that are less accommodating.
Caressing that shiny stop-start button on the dash ignites the Audi’s V6. It’s truly a jewel of an engine with 354 horseys on tap which, if you’re in the mood, will catapult you from standstill to 60mph in a speedy 5.1 seconds. Trust me, that’s quick.
Through the twisties, or in and out of rush-hour Howard Frankland traffic, the Audi feels nimble and athletic, its electric-assist steering as precise as McDreamy’s scalpel.
But unlike so many rival sport-utes that put too much emphasis on a firm, sporty, teeth-rattling ride, the Q5’s suspension absorbs lumps and bumps like Mr. Brawny soaks-up kitchen spills.
Yes, there’s no shortage of choice in this compact luxury SUV section of the market. But just like Mr. Gere, in the ‘Final Analysis’ the SQ5 should make you ‘Breathless’ with excitement.