2013 Audi SQ5 TDI: Can a diesel crossover really be sporty?

2013 Audi SQ5 TDI front three-quarter motionAudi seems intent on turning its small crossovers into sports cars. First, there was the RS Q3. Unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show, this concept car combined the body of a Q3 with guts of a TT RS. Now it has a big brother: the SQ5 TDI, which was unveiled at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race over the weekend. Unlike, the RS Q3, this is a sporty crossover you can actually buy.

The name may not sound very sexy, but that’s because this little SUV is a bit of a hodgepodge. The Q5 is Audi’s intermediate crossover, sitting in the lineup between the smaller Q3 and the larger Q7. The “S” denotes Audi’s mainstream performance line (as opposed to the hardcore RS models); this is the first crossover to wear the S badge.

Then there’s the “TDI” bit, which means that this performance vehicle is a diesel. It may sound oxymoronic, but Audi has won Le Mans six times with diesel-powered cars. It’s about time a production model benefitted from that racing experience.

Under the SQ5 TDI’s hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged diesel V6 that produces 313 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque, the latter at an incredibly low 1,450 rpm. Audi says that will accelerate the SQ5 from zero to 62 mph (0-100 kph) in 5.1 seconds, and on to an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph. It will do all that while returning an estimated 33 mpg. It can also tow 5,291 lbs.

The diesel motor is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission, and Audi’s customary Quattro all-wheel drive system.2013 Audi SQ5 TDI rear three-quarter motion

To improve the SQ5 TDI’s handling, Audi lowered the car 1.18 inches and fitted electromechanical power steering, which can be adjusted using Audi’s drive select system.

Audi also made some minor styling changes to help bystanders distinguish the SQ5 TDI from lesser Q5s. The bumpers have a sportier look, and SQ5 gets a bigger roof spoiler, aluminum-capped mirrors, and a rear diffuser. The car also has 20-inch alloy wheels (21s are optional), and quad exhaust outlets. If you miss those cues, there are plenty of “S” badges too.

The interior also gets some upgrades. New sport seats are covered in Pearl Nappa leather and Alcantara, or full leather. Trim pieces finished in brushed aluminum, piano black, Carbon Atlas, or Beaufort wood accent the black interior. Aluminum-look pedals give the cabin a sportier feel, as do some additional “S” badges.

The Audi SQ5 TDI will go on sale in Europe early next year, priced at roughly $73,900. Audi did not say whether it plans to bring the SQ5 to the United States, but it seems like a good fit for this crossover-crazy country. Or maybe Audi could put that twin-turbo diesel in another, cheaper car.

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