Audi SQ5 VS BMW X5
- Great chassis
- Loaded with tech
- Petrol engine is smooth and fast
- Could look a bit more exciting
- Now knocking on $100k
- Warranty package starting to look short
- Imposing looks
- Luxurious interior
- Sublime engine
- Relatively expensive
- Big wheels spoil ride
- Large turning circle
Audi's SQ5 is one of those marvellous cars that kind of came out of nowhere and instantly defined a genre. Technically, it probably shouldn't have existed. And for a company that is pretty much straight down the line, the decision to launch it as a diesel seemed extra odd. Not that we minded, of course.
The diesel engine was a masterstroke; André the Giant brawny, and with some clever engineering to make it sound like it actually wasn't an oil-burner. But it wasn't just a straight-line screamer - the SQ5 could corner, and it was tremendous fun while doing so.
So this second-generation car had a lot to live up to. But then - heresy of heresies - we found out that, for the moment at least, the SQ5 would be coming with a petrol engine. Without that Herculean torque figure, it's also slightly slower to the 100km/h benchmark.
So has Audi ended our love affair (by that I mean the one between the SQ5 and me)?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Can you believe it’s been nearly two and a half years since the fourth-generation BMW X5 went on sale? Buyers clearly have short memories, though, because the first X model BMW ever unleashed on the world is still the best-seller in its large SUV segment.
So, what’s all the fuss about? Well, there’s no better way to find out than to take a detailed look at the X5’s volume-selling xDrive30d variant. Read on.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
It's no hot hatch, but it's fast, stylish and plenty enough fun to be considered the ultimate family all-rounder. Unless your kids are freakishly tall or you need to regularly carry wardrobes, it's a great family wagon that can easily deal with the day-to-day stuff, with a comfortable ride and plenty of space.
Some families, like mine, like some genuine performance with their practicality, and the SQ5 is all the car you'll ever need. It may not be the diesel, it may not have that lovely gravelly silliness, but it still looks and feels great, and is full of some of the most advanced tech in a fast SUV today.
Most important, though, it's just as much fun as it ever was.
Is the SQ5 still on your list without the diesel? Or are fast SUVs the work of the devil?
There is no doubt that BMW seriously stepped up its game with the fourth-generation X5, raising its levels of luxury and technology, all the way to that of the flagship 7 Series.
The X5’s mix of imposing looks and relatively well sorted dynamics is complemented by the xDrive30d’s brilliant engine and transmission.
It’s no surprise, then, that the X5 continues to be its best in xDrive30d form. There really is no need to consider any other variant.
The new Q5 is the usual studied restraint from Ingolstadt. No, it's not a striking piece of design, and some find it hard to tell the new car apart from the old one. Move up to the SQ5 and again it's a bit of a sleeper. The 21-inch wheels look brilliant, and the deeper bumpers and skirts, along with the lower ride height, add a bit of aggression, too.
Inside, the Nappa leather is very nice, especially with the detailed stitching and diamond quilting. There's more space in here than there was before, so while still cosy it doesn't feel tight. As with the rest of the Audi range, the new interior lifts the best bits of the A4, which thankfully did not include the weird pin-stripe detail on the console trim. It has gone the only way it should - out.
Few SUVs are as imposing as the X5 xDrive30d. Simply put, it commands attention on the road, or even from across the road. Or a mile away.
The sense of commanding presence starts at the front, where the first signs of its sports body kit are. As impressive as the trio of large air intakes is, it’s the engorged version of BMW’s signature kidney grille that gets people talking. It’s simply appropriately sized for a vehicle this big, if you ask me.
The adaptive LED headlights integrate hexagon-style daytime running lights, which look the business, while the LED foglights below also help to light the way.
Around the side, the X5 xDrive30d is also pretty slick, with our test vehicle’s optional bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) filling its wheelarches nicely, with blue brake callipers tucked behind. The ‘air curtains’ also look sporty alongside the high-gloss Shadow Line trim.
At the rear, the X5’s three-dimensional LED tail-lights look superb, combining with the flat tailgate to deliver a strong impression. Then there’s the chunky bumper, with dual exhaust tailpipes and a diffuser insert. Not bad at all.
Step inside the X5 xDrive30d and you’d be excused for thinking that you’re in the wrong BMW. Yes, it could very well be a body-double for the 7 Series luxury sedan. In fact, in many ways, it’s just as luxurious as BMW's flagship model.
Granted our test vehicle had optional Walknappa leather upholstery covering its upper dashboard and door shoulders ($2100) , but even without that it is still a seriously premium affair.
Vernasca leather upholstery is the X5 xDrive30d’s standard choice for seats, armrests and door inserts, while soft-touch materials are pretty much found everywhere else. Yep, even on the door bins.
The ambience is further heightened by the Anthracite headliner and ambient lighting, which makes things feel even sportier.
Speaking of which, while it might be a large SUV, the X5 xDrive30d still has a genuinely sporty side, as exhibited by its chunky steering wheel, supportive front seats and grippy sports pedals. They all make it feel that bit more special.
The X5 also has cutting-edge technology, highlighted by the pair of sharp 12.3-inch displays; one being the central touchscreen, the other a digital instrument cluster.
Both are powered by the now-familiar BMW OS 7.0 multimedia system, which was a stark departure from its predecessor in terms of layout and functionality. But that’s no bad thing, as it still raises the stakes, especially with its always-on voice control.
Users will also be stoked by this set-up’s seamless support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the former connecting with ease upon re-entry, although it does consistently dropout if the iPhone involved is placed in the cubby directly beneath the dash...
That said, the instrument cluster is fully digital, having abandoned the physical rings of its forbear, but it looks dim and still lacks the breadth of functionality that some rivals offer.
And let’s not forget the brilliant windshield-projected head-up display, which is large and crisp, giving you few reasons to look away from the road ahead.
As before, the SQ5 is comfortable but cosy. Front-seat passengers are, of course, perfectly fine, and rear-seat dwellers have reasonable head and leg room - our six-foot-two teenager was happy enough back there. Rear-seat passengers can also choose their own climate-control temperature.
Two cupholders are provided front and rear, for a total of four, and the doors each have pockets with bottle holders.
Based as it is on the Q5, boot space is up over the old model by 10 litres, meaning between 550 and 610 litres when the rear seats are in place, and then 1550 litres with the seats folded. Like its cousin the Tiguan, the rear seats slide forward and back.
Measuring 4922mm long (with a 2975mm wheelbase), 2004mm wide and 1745mm, the X5 xDrive30d is a large SUV in every sense of the term, so it’s no surprise that it does practicality very well.
The boot’s cargo capacity is generous, at 650L, but it can be expanded to a very helpful 1870L with the 40/20/40 split-fold rear bench stowed – an action that can be taken via the boot’s manual-release latches.
The split power-operated tailgate ensures that access to the wide and flat rear storage area couldn’t be any easier. And there are four tie-down points and a 12V power outlet on hand.
There are plenty of genuine in-cabin storage options, too, with both the glovebox and central bin on the larger side, while the front door bins can carry a stunning four regular bottles. And don’t worry; their rear counterparts can take three apiece.
Better yet, two cupholders are located at the front of the centre console, while the second row’s fold-down armrest has a pair of pop-out cupholders as well as a shallow tray with a lid.
The latter joins the small driver's side cubby and the two trays at the rear of the centre console as the most random storage spaces on hand, while map pockets are attached to the front seat backrests, which integrate USB-C ports.
Speaking of the front seats, sitting behind them, it becomes apparent how much space there is inside the X5 xDrive30d, with oodles of legroom available behind our 184cm driving position. We also have about an inch of headroom, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted.
What’s really impressive is how well the second row accommodates three adults abreast. There’s enough room on offer that a fully grown trio could go on a long journey with few complaints, partly thanks to the almost non-existent transmission tunnel.
Child seats are also easy to fit, thanks to the three top-tether and two ISOFIX anchorage points, as well as the generous aperture of the rear doors.
Connectivity-wise, there’s a wireless smartphone charger, a USB-A port and a 12V power outlet ahead of the aforementioned front cupholders, while a USB-C port is found in the central bin. Rear occupants also get a 12V power outlet below their central air vents.
Price and features
One factoid I really like telling people is that the SQ5 was, for quite some time, the biggest-selling single Q5 model in the country, despite costing upwards of $90,000 on the road.
This new car weighs in at $99,611. Standard are 21-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, a 10-speaker stereo, ambient interior lighting, a comprehensive safety package, reversing camera, around-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, auto park, keyless entry and start, nappa leather interior, active cruise control, electric heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, an electric (foot-wavey) tailgate, a wireless hotspot, Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dash and a space-saver spare.
The media system is Audi's MMI system, which is displayed on the 8.0-inch screen perched on the dash. Controlled by a rotary dial or a touchpad just in front of the dial, it's also got Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. The sound is good and it's even better if you go for the $5600 'Technik package', which adds a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen system, head-up display and the brilliant Matrix LED headlights, all of which we had on our test car. While $5600 isn't messing about, it's a fair bit of stuff, especially when you consider the Matrix LEDs alone cost half of that on some Audis.
Priced from $121,900 plus on-road costs, the xDrive30d slots between the xDrive25d ($104,900) and xDrive40i ($124,900) at the lower end of the X5 range.
Standard equipment in the X5 xDrive30d that hasn’t been mentioned yet includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, power-folding side mirrors with heating functionality, roof rails, keyless entry and a power-operated tailgate.
Inside you'll also find push-button start, satellite navigation with live traffic, digital radio, a 205W sound system with 10 speakers, power-adjustable front seats with heating and memory functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and M-branded scuff plates.
In typical BMW fashion, our test vehicle was fitted with several options, including Mineral White metallic paintwork ($2000), bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) and Walknappa leather upholstery for the upper dashboard and door shoulders ($2100).
Rivals for the X5 xDrive30d include the Mercedes-Benz GLE300d ($107,100), Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum ($94,990) and Lexus RX450h Sports Luxury ($111,088), meaning it’s relatively expensive, although specification isn’t exactly like for like.
Engine & trans
The two-tonne-plus (tare) SQ5 streaks from0-100km/h in 5.4 seconds, with power reaching the road via Audi's Quattro system with a mechanical centre diff. Torque is generally apportioned 40/60 front to rear, but can be 85/15 either way when needed. The eight-speed ZF continues on and is, as ever, brilliant.
As its name suggests, the X5 xDrive30d is motivated by the same 3.0-litre turbo-diesel inline six-cylinder engine used in other BMW models, and that’s a very good thing, because it’s one of my favourites.
In this form, it produces 195kW of power at 4000rpm and a very useful 620Nm of torque from 2000-2500rpm – perfect outputs for a large SUV.
Meanwhile, an eight-speed ZF torque-converter automatic transmission (with paddle-shifters) – another favourite – and BMW’s fully variable xDrive system are responsible for sending drive to all four wheels.
As a result, the 2110kg X5 xDrive30d can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in a hot-hatch-like 6.5 seconds, on the way to its top speed of 230km/h.
The X5 xDrive30d’s fuel consumption on the combined cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 7.2L/100km, while its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are 189g/km. Both claims are strong for a large SUV.
In the real world, we averaged 7.9L/100km over 270km of driving that was slightly skewed towards highways over city roads, which is a very solid result for a vehicle of this size.
For reference, the X5 xDrive30d has a large, 80-litre fuel tank.
The old SQ5 wasn't perfect, by any stretch, but goodness gracious was it a barrel of laughs. No car as heavy or as high-riding as the SQ5 had any right to be so much fun, but somehow it was, without the compromise of a super-hard ride or a din from fat tyres.
The numbers are a bit of a compromise; weight is down by around 130kg, but you're also missing 200Nm compared to the old car. The colossal torque figure was a big part of that car's appeal, and I did miss it. However, once I'd got over that, I found something just as fun underneath.
As with the rest of the Q5 range, it's quieter on the cruise and the cabin is once again the best in the business, borrowing much from the A4. With adaptive dampers set in comfort mode, it's comfortable and compliant and road noise is kept to a minimum. I'm not a huge fan of the light steering in this mode, but it's set to be low stress rather than man-handled.
Step up into Dynamic and everything beefs up; the ride stiffens and the car actually drops to lower the centre of gravity. The exhaust opens up and starts popping and farting, too, while the steering weights up and the throttle drops any easygoing slack.
Throwing it down through the bends of some NSW Blue Mountains back roads, this car sparkles. It's tons of fun (literally), with the security of the of the Quattro drivetrain underneath. The exhaust isn't quite enough to make me want to wind the windows down on a cold morning, but it's amusing enough inside given the stereo plumps up the racket a bit.
Despite being down on torque, it still feels very strong in the mid-range. It doesn't quite have the organ-squishing punch of the diesel, but the smoother, more linear delivery feels more conventional, particularly with most of the power heading to the rear wheels.
When it comes to ride and handling, it would be easy to argue that the X5 xDrive30d’s combination is class-leading.
While its suspension (double-wishbone front and multi-link rear axles with adaptive dampers) has a sports tune, it stills rides comfortably, wafting over uneven surfaces with ease and quickly regaining composure over bumps. It all feels suitably luxurious.
However, the optional bi-colour 22-inch alloy wheels ($3900) fitted to our test vehicle often catch sharper edges and spoil the ride over poorer surfaces, so you should probably stick to the standard 20-inch rims.
Handling-wise, the X5 xDrive30d does naturally lean into corners during spirited driving when in its Comfort drive mode.
That being said, overall body control is relatively strong for a large SUV, and the Sport drive mode does go some way towards tightening things up, but the fact is, it’s always going to be hard to defy physics.
Meanwhile, the X5 xDrive30d’s electric power steering is not only speed-sensitive, but its weight is adjustable via the aforementioned drive modes.
In Comfort, this set up is well-weighted, with just the right amount of heft, however, change it to Sport and it becomes heavier, which might not be to everyone’s taste. Either way, it’s relatively direct and offers solid levels of feedback.
That said, the X5 xDrive30d’s sheer size is reflected by its 12.6m turning circle, which makes low-speed manoeuvres in tight spaces more challenging. The optional rear-wheel steering ($2250) can help with that, although it wasn’t fitted to our test vehicle.
In terms of straight-line performance, the X5 xDrive30d has a thick wad of maximum torque available early in the rev range, which means its engine’s pulling power is effortless all the way through to the mid-range, even if it can be a little spiky initially.
While peak power is relatively strong, you rarely need to approach the top end to make use of it, because this engine is all about those Newton-metres of torque.
Acceleration is therefore spritely, with the X5 hunkering down and charging off the line with intent when full throttle is applied.
A lot of this is performance is thanks to the transmission’s intuitive calibration and general responsiveness to spontaneous inputs.
Gear changes are quick and smooth, although on occasion they can be a little jerky when decelerating from low speeds to a standstill.
The five drive modes – Eco Pro, Comfort, Sport, Adaptive and Individual – allow the driver to alter engine and transmission settings while on the move, with Sport adding a noticeable edge, but Comfort is what you'll be using 99 per cent of the time.
The transmission’s Sport mode can be summoned at any time, with a flick of the gear selector leading to higher shift points that are complementary to spirited driving.
The SQ5's five-star ANCAP rating (May 2017) comes courtesy of eight airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, exit warning system (which lets you know if you're about to clobber a cyclist, pedestrian or approaching car), cross-traffic assist (stops you turning across approaching traffic), blind-spot warning, forward collision warning (up to 250km/h), around-view camera and front and rear AEB.
There are three top-tether restraints and two ISOFIX points.
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the X5 xDrive30d its maximum five-star safety rating in 2018.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the X5 xDrive30d extend to autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep and steering assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, traffic-sign recognition, high-beam assist, driver-attention alert, blind-spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, park and reversing assist, surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, hill-descent control and tyre-pressure monitoring. Yep, there’s not much missing here.
Other standard safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), brake assist and the usual electronic stability and traction-control systems.
Audi offers its three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive in the segment, but much cheaper cars (and Lexus, for that matter) offer more. You can pay for a further four years and up to 160,000km on top of the standard warrant. Roadside assistance is yours for the duration of the standard warranty.
Servicing comes every twelve months or 15,000km, and you can purchase a plan to cover the first three years or 45,000km, whichever comes first, for $1870 - which is $280 more than any of the other Q5s.
As with all BMW models, the X5 xDrive30d comes with a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years behind the premium standard set by Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Genesis. It also gets three years of roadside assistance.
The X5 xDrive30d’s service intervals are every 12 months of 15,000km, whichever comes first. Five-year/80,000km capped-price servicing plans start from $2250, or an average of $450 per visit, which is more than reasonable.