We’ve road-tested the SQ5 TDI on a couple of occasions in the pages of Audi Driver, in the August 2013 and April 2015 issues, and it was impressive enough, even in its standard specification. With its combination of high-powered twin-turbo 3.0-litre (2967cc) V6 TDI diesel engine, 8-speed Tiptronic auto transmission, quattro drivetrain and sporting chassis upgrades, this medium-sized SUV was a hugely competent all-rounder in original factory form.
In those days the engine was rated at 313 PS and 650 Nm, which was good enough for 0-60 mph in just over 5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph along with a genuine real-world fuel economy figure of 32 mpg and over 40 mpg on a cruising run. Since then it has been uprated to 326 PS / 650 Nm in its standard form, and to 340 PS and 700 Nm for the Plus version introduced in September 2015, while there is also a 354 PS / 470 Nm 3.0-litre TFSI petrolengined version for the US market.
But no matter how well defined a sporting vehicle is from the Audi range, the aftermarket tuning industry always seem to regard it as a challenge to go bigger and better and faster. Perhaps none more so than leading German tuning house ABT Sportsline, based in Kempten in the heart of Bavaria.
With a long history that can be traced right back to the late 1890s, when it was a blacksmith’s shop run by the Abt family, the company really began to make its name in the performance tuning industry during the 1950s and 1960s and ABT Tuning was founded in 1967 when Johann Abt was very successful in hill climbs with a Fiat Abarth. But things really took off from 1978 when ABT became one of the first companies to catch on to the burgeoning Golf GTI tuning industry and subsequently became heavily involved in modifying the Volkswagen Group product range, as well as motorsport with success campaigns in Formula 3, ST W and the DT M series, ADA C GT Masters, GP-3 and most recently with Formula E, with a car driven by Daniel Abt, the son of ABT Sportsline managing director Hans-Jürgen Abt.
Alongside all the high-profile front line motorsport activity, ABT Sportsline has also developed a huge presence in the aftermarket styling and performance tuning market and it now offers a whole range of body kits, alloy wheels and suspension upgrades and performance conversions for virtually the whole Volkswagen Group model range including, of course, the Audi SQ5 TDI…
Their main challenge here was to make sure that the ABT modified car was faster than an SQ5 TDI Plus and with some skillful manipulation of the engine management software the new ABT Super-Q5 conversion for the 3.0-litre bi-turbo TDI provides 365 PS (268 kW) and an optimised torque of 710 Nm.
But this is no simple ECU re-map flashed through the OBD port, over-writing the original software program. Today, with the protection protocols applied by the OE manufacturers making it very difficult, if not nigh on impossible, to flash software upgrades through the OBD port, many in the aftermarket tuning industry are using an external electronic module – essentially an auxiliary ECU – that fits into the wiring harness between the factory ECU and the engine.
The auxiliary module modifies the signals from the original ECU and transmits the altered data for fuelling, ignition and turbo boost to the engine, which then produces more power and torque as a result of the optimised injection timing, advanced ignition and increased boost levels.
The ABT Engine Control (AEC) module combines the auxiliary ECU concept with bespoke mapping. Instead of being installed in series with the factory ECU to modify its signals, it is mounted in parallel and has bespoke programming that is specifically written for the engine and transmission of the actual car it is installed in. Because no two engines from the production line are exactly identical, ABT’s engineers can finetune it specifically for each individual car.
As an expedient and effective means of enhancing the power output of a modern turbocharged diesel engine, this is the perfect solution because these ABT Engine Control units can be sent to ABT agents all around the world who can easily fit them in minutes using the wiring harness extension provided, and just as easily reverse the process when the car is sold.
The ABT Engine Control module is also much more lenient on the engine than normal re-mapping systems, because the car still uses its original engine management mapping and is running in standard specification for much of the time, with normal performance, fuel economy and emissions levels. Only when the driver demands full power does the module take over to produce the extra power and torque required, but even then it remains with the limits of the standard safety protocols.
Indeed, the module is also programmed to default to the original protocols if the water or oil temperatures reach the maximum recommended level, such as might occur when running hard in high ambient temperatures. At that point, the OE protection takes over and cuts back the power and ignition advance to minimise thermal load and protect the engine. ABT Sportsline even offers a full two-year or 100,000-km warranty against any engine damage that might result from use of the module. All good news for the longevity and reliability of the engine, something that is a major concern to many, but even better news is the improvement in power and torque that is achieved by what is essentially a simple bolt-on device.
The final result is an increase in power of 39 PS, from 326 to 365 PS, at the same engine speed (4000-4500 rpm) and an improvement in torque of 60 Nm (+44.2 lb.ft) from 650 to 710 Nm (479.4 to 523.7 lb.ft) also over the same range of engine speed (1400-2800 rpm). That point about the engine speed is an important one, because it makes a huge difference to the characteristic response and tractability of the engine, with more power and torque at exactly the same engine speed, rather than having to rev it higher up the range to extract the extra performance.
Worth noting is that if you start with the older engine with the 313 PS (230 kW) / 650 Nm engine, the ABT engine upgrade raises the power output almost to the same level, to 360 PS (265 kW) and 700 Nm. ABT Sportsline modestly claims an improvement in the 0 to 100 kph (0 to 62 mph) acceleration time from 5.1 to 4.9 seconds and an increase in top speed from 250 kph (155 mph) to 260 kph (161 mph). ‘From nought to 100 kph in less than five seconds and a new top speed of 260 kph’ says ABT Sportsline CEO Hans-Jürgen Abt, while adding ‘But that is not all. We also provide quality, which finds expression in our extensive warranty and the most thorough tests, on both the dynamometer and on public roads.’
An important point to bear in mind is that CO2 emissions remain at the same level with the higher power output, which means that the ABT conversion makes the SQ5 effectively cleaner in terms of emissions. While the standard SQ5 engine emits 0.53 g/km per PS, the improved combustion of the ABT tuned engine drops this to just 0.48 g/km per PS, effectively reducing CO2 emissions.
You could, of course, leave the modifications there, but ABT Sportsline also offers a range of other enhancements from body styling and alternative alloy wheels, to suspension upgrades and wheel spacers. ABT’s Aero body package includes the front skirt and a new grille, door strip attachments and a rear wing. There is also a set of wheelarch extensions for that ‘wide body’ look. No cheap fibreglass parts here, though, with ABT using only high-quality PU almost exclusively for the new body panels – the same material that is employed by the manufacturers of the OEM parts.
To make full use of the wider arches, various wheel spacers of between 30 to 70 mm per axle can be used to increase the track width with the standard wheels, filling out the arches, or ABT can provide one of its many aftermarket wheel options which increase both the width and diameter of the wheel. For this set-up, ABT Sportsline wheels in 20, 21 and 22-inch diameters are available and you can choose between several different styles: CR, DR , ER -C and FR, some of which are also available in different colour schemes.
The rims on the demo car pictured here are the DR style in size 10.0 x 22-inch with an ET (negative offset) of 52 mm, finished in Mystic black and wrapped with a set of Continental Sport Contact 5P high-performance tyres in size 295/30 ZR 22, although the best overall compromise of ride quality and handling may well be achieved with the smaller diameter 20-inch forged wheels, with their lower unsprung weight and slightly taller tyre sidewall. Although the SQ5 already rides slightly lower than the standard Q5, the finishing touch to the ABT conversion is the use of a set of adjustable lowered coil springs that can be adjusted to reduce the ride height between –5 and –30 mm on the front axle and of between –10 and –35 mm on the rear, in conjunction with the standard dampers, or alternatively a fully height- and damping-adjustable coilover suspension kit can provide the ultimate in adjustability. The net effect of all these ABT Sportsline components is an SQ5 TDI that not only looks very stylish but also performs and handles in an even higher league to the already very accomplished standard car.
ABT Sportsline’s UK distributor is Richter
Sport (ABT UK), based in Milton Keynes.
Contact 0845 370 3227
‘The final result is an increase in power from 326 to 365 PS, and an improvement in torque from 650 to 710 Nm (479.4 to 523.7 lb.ft), both from 1400-2800 rpm…’
‘Instead of being installed in series with the factory ECU to modify its signals, it is mounted in parallel and has bespoke programming…’
‘Their main challenge here was to make sure that the ABT modified car was faster than an SQ5 TDI Plus…’
‘No matter how well defined a sporting vehicle is from the Audi range, the aftermarket tuning industry always seem to regard it as a challenge to go bigger and better and faster…’