For most automakers, the idea of a high-performance crossover or SUV makes little sense: just like the acronym suggests, these are utility vehicles, designed for practicality over performance.
It's a different story in Germany. That country's love of high-speed driving means that just about every vehicle in a German automaker's lineup gets a variant engineered for Autobahn speeds -- even SUVs like Audi's SQ5, a speedier version of the compact utility vehicle that has become the brand's best-selling model in Canada since its introduction as a 2009 model.
The SQ5, along with its more pedestrian Q5 sibling, is all-new for 2018, with styling cues linking it to the latest Q7 mid-sizer and the rest of Audi's handsome lineup. Other news includes the 3.0L V6 under the hood, which makes the same 354 hp as before, but adds 22 lb-ft of torque, for a total of 369, thanks to a new turbocharging setup that replaces last year's supercharger. That extra torque is available at lower engine speeds, peaking at just 1,370 rpm, to give this new SQ5 more immediate acceleration.
The new motor is also 14 kg lighter, contributing to a curb weight 35 kg less than the 2017 SQ5. Fuel consumption has been rated yet for Canada, but expect the new engine to be a bit more efficient than the outgoing model's estimates of 14.1/9.9 L/100 km (city/highway).
As before, Audi's Quattro AWD system is standard, along with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Other new standard stuff includes standard LED exterior lighting all around, including the headlights, which were xenon HIDs in the outgoing car.
SQ5's trim levels get a refresh for 2018 too, with the elimination of the top-end Dynamic edition, leaving the familiar Audi Progressiv and Technik trims. The standard Progressiv package ($61,300) includes 20-inch wheels, passive keyless entry and engine start, Audi drive select, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, three-zone automatic climate control, hands-free power tailgate, 10-speaker stereo with Audi music interface, backup camera, auto engine stop/start, front and rear parking sensors, heated steering wheel, power front seats with lumbar and navigation with MMI touch.
Options include a comfort package ($1,100) of leather seating, ventilated front seats and rear door subshades. A driver assistance group ($1,500) brings blind spot monitoring, top-view camera, rear cross traffic alert and Audi pre-sense rear.
Technik trim ($65,900) gets the Audi virtual cockpit (a slick digital customizable gauge cluster), Bang & Olufsen stereo, ambient interior lighting, heated rear seats, heated and cooled cupholders, and all of the items the driver assistance package adds to the Progressiv model.
Extras here include the same comfort package offered in the base model, and an urban driver assistance group ($1,600) that brings adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, traffic sign recognition, audi pre sense front and pre sense city.
The SQ5 doesn't come with many comfort and convenience features you can't get in the less-expensive, four-cylinder Q5, so that's the way to go if you want a nice-driving small crossover that returns decent fuel economy. But this sportier model is an alluring proposition, especially in Technik trim, where the price premium is smallest compared to the Q5.