AUDI Australia will waste no time getting its latest Q5 luxury SUV flagship,
the SQ5, to market next month, launching it at the same time as regular Q5
variants in the all-new range.
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This is unusual for the German car-maker, which usually settles the basic model
range into the market first before propelling its Audi Sport-fettled S, SQ and
RS variants into showrooms.
It speaks volumes about the importance of the SQ5 to the Q5 range, in which it
has been one of the top sellers since the high-performance variant was added in
2013, helping to lift the high-riding wagon to the top of the luxury mid-sized
SUV market a few years ago.
This time powered by a turbocharged V6 petrol engine instead of the
turbo-diesel V6 of the current model, the new SQ5 will be on the same boat from
the new factory in Mexico as the four-cylinder Q5s that will be priced between
$65,900 and $73,900 at launch.
The Q5 launch cannot come quickly enough for Audi in Australia. Overall Audi
sales are down 13.5 per cent this year, breaking a long run of year-on-year
Now in run-out, the Q5 has slumped by 33 per cent to the end of May, hampered
not only by its extreme age – the original was launched way back in 2009 before
a major facelift in 2015 – but also “dieselgate” which forced Audi Australia to
drop one of the most popular diesel-powered engines for a time until a new Euro
6-compliant engine became available last year.
It remains to be seen how customers who loved the deep well of torque and
thrifty 6.8-litres-per-100km fuel economy of the outgoing diesel SQ5 will take
to a petrol version that, while it is 20kW more powerful at 260kW, drops 150Nm
of torque and chews more fuel, at 8.3L/100km.
While pricing for the SQ5 is being held back until launch, it is destined to
cop an extra luxury car tax slug compared with the diesel version because it
will not qualify for tax breaks offered on vehicles with a fuel economy below
Audi Australia has not ruled out entirely a diesel SQ5 at some point, with
general manager corporate communications Anna Burgdorf telling GoAuto that no
such vehicle was planned “at this stage”.
The company has hinted a more modest V6 TDI Q5 variant could be added, perhaps
before the end of the year.
Ms Burgdorf said the company’s large SUV flagship, the SQ7 with its stonking V8
diesel, was in strong demand.
“We could sell twice as many of them is we could get our hands on them,” she
Audi is hoping that, apart from the new Q5, a slew of other new models on the
launch pad for Australia this year will help to reverse the company’s sales
fortunes in what Ms Burgdorf described as a challenging start to 2017.
Fresh from debuting its new A5 coupe, TT RS coupe and cabrio and – this week –
the first RS3 sedan, Audi is warming up to launch the RS5 Dynamic later this
month, Q5 in July, A5 cabrio in August, R8 Spyder also about August, followed
by the new RS5 coupe and revised RS3 Sportback in the final quarter.
The big worry for Audi is that its mass-selling models are struggling. This
year, the small A3 that was facelifted in the second half of last year is down
24 per cent, the A4 is down 9.7 per cent and even the Q3 – Audi’s top seller
since the Q5’s dieselgate dramas – has slipped 9.3 per cent.
Audi hopes the heavily revised RS3 sedan and Sportback with the all-new
aluminium five-cylinder turbo engine – the most powerful in the class with
294kW – will give the whole A3 line a lift through the remainder of this year.
An RS Q3 using the same engine is also said to be in the pipeline for
Australian launch at some point, but might be 2018.