2021 Audi SQ5 Sportback Review: The Absolute Smoothest Ride Up Highway One

2021 Audi SQ5 Review

At this very moment, the Pacific Coast Highway just looks and feels different.

Perhaps it’s the fires, or maybe even the mud slides that took out a chunk of Highway One a few months back. It could even be the unprecedented times that we’re currently living through, but I’ve been up this way since the onset of the pandemic, so I know it’s something else.

I know it’s the 2021 Audi SQ5 Sportback that’s making the world of difference on this latest drive up the coast.

The Engine of the Audi SQ5 Sportback

Traveling this road at least a dozen times before, trekking from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay, and vice versa, I know the stunning views and vantage points along the Pacific Coast Highway. From towns like Morro Bay, Cayucos, and San Simeon, to the deep forest reaches of Ragged Point and Big Sur, I know the magnificent, world class beauty.

And today, behind the wheel of the SQ5, everything looks more vivid than it ever has before. Perhaps it the dynamic steering and sport adaptive air suspension. Of course, the powerful S sport package, complete with Audi’s 3.0 TFSI V6 engine and 8-speed Tiptronic transmission with quattro all-wheel drive system, certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Seriously, with a ride this smooth, it feels more like gliding up Highway One’s steep climbs and sharp drops, carving turns into America’s western edge along a seemingly endless series of switchbacks.

Don’t get me wrong. It still feels like driving, but in a way that I’ve never previously experienced. It almost feels like driving a hovercraft or some sort of autonomous flying vehicle.

2021 Audi SQ5 Review

The Look of the Audi SQ5 Sportback

Before I even depart on this 700-mile round trip from LA, up the coast to Monterey, and back, I’m instantly struck by the Audi SQ5’s sharp District Green Metallic color, along with the red brake calipers. Sure, color has zero impact on the actual handle of the vehicle, but when paired with the model’s slick, aerodynamic design, the SQ5 is an instant showstopper on the road.

Beyond the fine design details of the body and the exterior, the SQ5 Sportback has heaps of bells and whistles inside the cabin. Decked out with Audi’s Prestige Package, this model comes complete with a top of the line Bang & Olufsen sound system, Audi’s virtual cockpit, a leatherette covered center console, and a heated steering wheel and seats. There’s also the digital center console, which acts as the de facto and center of operations of the SQ5 … because what is more important than the car stereo, after all?

The fine Napa leather seats and 21-inch black optic wheel package are just a few more of the SQ5’s stunning design elements, and from a practical standpoint the three-zone automatic climate control with digital rear display, along with the power adjustable steering column provide the driver with maximum comfort behind the wheel.

2021 Audi SQ5 Review

The Handle of the Audi SQ5 Sportback

Once on the road, I’m instantly impressed with how the SQ5 handles city traffic. The low profile and buttery smooth acceleration combine to give the SQ5 Sportback the feel of a luxury sedan, which comes in handy for the first portion of the voyage.

Weaving through tightly packed lanes on U.S. 101, I escape LA and head north through Ventura County. It’s there that I’m able to really feel the SQ5’s 261 horsepower and 5.7-second acceleration from zero to 60 miles per hour.

Tearing up the fast lane, the SQ5 moves brilliantly from Ventura County into Santa Barbara. And, next it’s on to the San Marcos Pass (Rt. 154), a scenic shortcut near the Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, where the Audi SQ5 demonstrates its 273 lb-ft torque, effortlessly scaling up to 2,225 feet in elevation. This will definitely come in handy in a few hours, when I’m weaving along the many switchbacks on the PCH.

Rejoining the 101 near Los Olivos, I’m greeted with an empty highway, where I open up the 3.0 TFSI V6 engine. According to Audi, the SQ5 Sportback reaches its top speed at 130 mph. I can’t confirm hitting that number, but I can accurately report that the vehicle handles wonderfully in the low triple digits.

A Car for Every Occasion

Just past San Luis Obispo, I trade the high-speed lanes of U.S. 101 for the slower pace of Highway One. Out here, on this quaint coastal road that just so happens to have one of the most amazing views in the world, there’s no need to travel so fast. In fact, the slower the better.

Rather than racing up the coast, as I have done several times before, I’ve decided to take my time on this trip, stopping along the way in charming seaside towns like Morro Bay and Cambria, before venturing into the mysterious woods of Big Sur.

Through every different terrain and micro-climate, the SQ5 Sportback handles every element, and never feels out of place. Whether crossing the Bixby Bridge or driving down to sea level to witness the purple sands at Pfeiffer State Beach, the Audi SQ5 glides up and down the Pacific Coast like a dream.

Audi SQ5 Review

From the mountains to the sea, and from the big city to the quaint coastal towns of California’s west coast, the Audi SQ5 Sportback is an ideal road warrior. Sleek and sophisticated, yet tough enough to handle the steeps, drops, and bumps along the way, the SQ5 seamlessly manages to fill the gap between SUV and luxury sedan, offering an exceptional and unforgettable driving experience.

More Car Reviews and Road Trip Tales From Dan Shapiro

Audi SQ5 Review

Dan Shapiro is a writer, editor, musician, and producer currently based in Los Angeles. In addition to covering some of the biggest fights in combat sports history, he’s also hunted down the world’s best sushi, skied the northern hemisphere in July, and chronicled Chinese underground music for publications like CNN, the New York Daily News, VICE, and Time Out. Dan also conjured up a ghost at the Chateau Marmont while out on assignment for RoadTrippers.

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