Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Goodwood Revival for the first time. If you’re not familiar with the Revival, it’s essentially a three-day celebration of motorsport from the 40s, 50s and 60s. A celebration of motorsport and, well, tweed.
Alongside the spectacular on-the-limit racing, where little Austin A40s square up against Mk2 Jaguars, families dress up in vintage gear for one of the biggest timewarp events in the country.
Even if, like me, you’re not particularly into motorsport, it’s worth the trek down to West Sussex to enjoy a snapshot of what life was like more than 50 years ago. Everyone tries so hard for the event: while dressing up isn’t compulsory, you’d stand out if you didn’t, and attention has been paid to every little detail to make it feel like you’ve stepped into the past.
Talking of trying hard, I drove to the event in a brand new Audi SQ5 from the manufacturer’s press fleet. It was gleaming, boasting optional 21-inch alloys and a rorty exhaust note from its overstyled tailpipes. It’s the sort of car that, peculiarly, looks right at home in central London but, take it out into the country, and it begins to appear slightly ostentatious. Especially at an event where visitors are encouraged to travel by classic car.
You should never judge a book by its cover, though, and that’s even true for a brash Audi SUV with supercar-baiting intentions.
You should never judge a book by its cover, though, and that’s even true for a brash Audi SUV with supercar-baiting intentions. When the previous Audi SQ5 was launched in 2013, it was a diesel-guzzling SUV that could out-perform an olympic athlete and emit more nasty emissions than a steam train.
Launched in the midst of the emissions scandal, the latest SQ5 is, for now at least, only available with a petrol engine. And if the current anti-diesel sentiment is to be believed, that makes this thirsty SUV better for the environment than most black taxis.
While it’s easy to loathe the SQ5 and all it stands for based on its exterior, it’s harder to resist falling for its interior. Audi does some of the best cabins in the business, and the SQ5’s won’t leave even the fussiest customer feeling shortchanged. You sit higher up than in an equivalent estate car, obviously, but not as high as in some SUVs. It’s not exactly a sports car driving position, but you don’t feel like you’re driving a bus, either.
Talking of which, the SQ5 is rather a pleasant car to drive. Stick it in Comfort mode and it’s almost effortless, while flicking Audi’s DriveSelect to Dynamic tightens everything up, from the air suspension to the throttle response.
It becomes almost anti-socially noisy, but it does, at least, have the performance to match. There aren’t many SUVs on the road that can keep up with an Audi SQ5.
While this isn’t really an off roader – and nor does it try to be – the Drive Select button does hold another trick up its sleeve. There’s an ‘Off Road’ mode that, despite the SQ5’s rubber band tyres, proved to be very useful when negotiating the quagmire that was Goodwood’s car park after a whole weekend of rain. Handy, really, as I’m sure many visitors would have loved to see an idiot in a £60,000 (with options) Audi SUV get bogged down in the mud.
A lot of people won’t like this car, and that’s fine. But, on purely objective terms, it really is an excellent all-rounder. It’ll get through petrol, particularly if you regularly make use of its 3.0-litre V6 engine, and introverts should probably look elsewhere. Its interior, though, is frankly unbeatable, and it’s such an easy car to get along with. Perhaps it isn’t one for a vintage car festival, but it’s perfect for a city poseur.