The last-generation Audi SQ5 was an interesting take on the sports four-wheel drive. Rather than trying to mimc small, lightweight sports cars with a high-revving petrol engine, it ran with a diesel that delivered effortless pull from almost zero revs. Rather than stick with this likeable formula for the second-generation SQ5, Audi has decided to shake things up. Sure, the new car looks the same as before, but it swaps diesel power for a turbocharged petrol engine. Smart move, or big mistake?

Although it's not a diesel, the engine in the new SQ5 promises effortless performance from almost idle. Peak torque – all 500 Nm (369 lb ft) of it – is available from just 1,370 RPM and runs all the way to 4,500 RPM. Mated with a quick shifting eight-speed dual clutch, there should be plenty of poke on tap, regardless of how many kids you load into the back. Peak power remains at 264 kW (354 hp), and the car should hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in the same 5.1 seconds as before.

The new engine might not be any more powerful than before, but it does have 35 kg (77 lb) less weight to shift, thanks to a clever new body. Even though it has grown taller, wider and longer, the new car uses a clever mix of materials like ultra high-tensile steel and aluminum for greater stiffness without a penalty on the scales. As well as improving crash safety and fuel efficiency, the diet should also help make the car more enjoyable on a nice road.

Also working to improve the driving experience is a revised suspension setup at all four corners. The front wheels are dealt with by a new five-link system, and air suspension capable of lowering ride height 30 mm (1.2 in) in sport mode is optional. Dynamic steering is also optional, but given the inconsistent nature of previous Audi systems, we'll need to spend some time behind the wheel before giving it the tick of approval.

From the outside, there isn't all that much to set the SQ5 apart from more mundane models, but that approach has suited fast-Audi buyers just fine up until now. Up front, there are bigger air intakes under the standard grille, and the wing mirrors are finished in matte chrome. There's also a new rear diffuser and wheel designs, but you'd need to be a diehard to spot them.

The changes are more pronounced inside, where the standard seats have been replaced by quilted buckets, and there's a range of new trim options on offer as well. The car shown off in Detroit was finished with gorgeous red-tinged carbon fiber on the dash, chosen to match the contrast stitched seats. As usual, you can expect to pay handsomely for the high-end finishes.

Pricing for the new SQ5 hasn't been released. It's on show at the North American International Auto Show, where New Atlas is on the ground covering all the action.

Source: Audi

View gallery - 8 images