Audi SQ5 VS Mercedes-Benz G-Class
- 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
- Good ride and handling finally
- Not as roomy as you'd think
- Smallish cargo capacity
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|
Just like smoking, base jumping and shooting rounds off in a firing range the Mercedes-AMG G63 really shouldn’t be allowed… but dammit it’s fun. Super capable over tough terrain and a bullet on the road this top-ranking G-Wagon is the rock star of the AMG line-up.
Now, you may think this new-generation G63 looks just like the old one, but it’s completely new and fun and expensive and ridiculous.
We piloted the G63 for the first time on Australian roads at its launch. So, what’s this tall, imposing SUV like to drive? Is the cabin as spacious as it may appear from the outside? And yes, it’s fast in a straight line, but what happens when you get to a corner?
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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?
The Mercedes-AMG G63 shouldn't exist, but I'm glad it does. The previous generation was loud and fast, but had its flaws with poor ride and handling. This new gen G63 now rides comfortably and handles like a hero, while staying fast, loud and fun.
Is the G63 the ultimate SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
You know something looks interesting when people can't agree on whether it’s attractive or not. The CarsGuide office is divided on the new G63’s appearance with most saying it’s hot, but with a couple violently opposed to its looks.
Not that the new G63 looks different from the previous model, but that’s intentional. Mercedes-AMG knew the boxy personnel carrier-like shape was a massive part of this SUV’s appeal. The look has barely changed in 40 years. You could go back to the year 1979, push somebody into a time machine and when they fell out in the present day the first thing they’d say is: “Oh look, a G-Class”.
Despite the appearance that nothing has changed, almost everything has. The new G63 is longer, wider and taller than before at 4873mm end-to-end, 1984mm across, and 1966mm in height.
I’m 191cm tall and there aren’t many cars that I can’t stand beside and see over. Fortunately, if I even needed to wash the roof, I could hand off the side steps, which come standard and are as functional as they are good looking.
Also coming standard are the LED running lights which ring the outside of the headlight like a futuristic lining on an old-school design, so too are the LED tail-lights. The 'Panamericana' grille with its hat-tip to racing Benzes from the 1950s is also new part of standard kit. So is the tough looking side exhaust with two pipes poking out under the pronounced running boards on either side.
Our test car was fitted with the 'Night Package' which darkens the brake lights and adds the black treatment to the spare wheel cover, the bumper and mirrors. The pack also swaps the standard 21-inch wheels for 22 AMG cross-spoke matt black rims.
The G63’s interior has also been completely overhauled and updated with a dash featuring two 12.3-inch screens, which almost look like one giant widescreen display for nav and instrument cluster. The 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package box had been ticked on our test car and that brings diamond quilted nappa leather upholstery (ours was red) everywhere.
While it’s a sumptuous, luxurious, decadent cabin it’s impossible to ignore how vertical and upright the structure of the interior is – the windscreen, the dashboard, the doors - and then you spot the giant grab hold handle mounted on the glove box and you’re reminded that you’re actually in a hardcore off-roader.
The G63 is built on a ladder-frame chassis. Again, intentional. Yes, it’s the same as the Flintstones used in their car, but it adds immense rigidity, making it a mountain-eating monster on tough terrain.
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.
The G63 may not be as spacious as you think it is. While the ceiling is high, legroom can feel a bit restricted in the front and the back.
Riding shotgun I needed to have my front seat brought back almost to its limit so my legs didn’t feel cramped in the footwell. And while, at 191cm tall, I can sit behind my driving position with room to spare – it’s really thanks to the carved-out driver’s seat back.
There’s a 12-volt power outlet in the front, second row and cargo area, while there are two USB ports in the centre console bin and a charging USB port in the second row.
That centre console bin is enormous and the rest of the storage places are great through the cabin with large door pockets and cupholders in the front and second rows.
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.
The new G63 lists for $247,700, before on road costs, which is about $12K more than the previous model, but you’re gaining a completely new SUV with improvements in the form of two 12.3-inch screens for your instrument cluster and media, there’s the Burmester 590w 15-speaker stereo, automatic parking, AMG sports exhaust, proximity key, nappa leather interior, sat nav, TV tuner, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, three-zone climate control, heated front seats and 21-inch alloy wheels.
The Edition 1 G63 will costs you another $19,500 on top of the list price but includes the 'Night Package' which brings the black elements along with the 'Exclusive Interior Plus' package and an interior which adds carbon-fibre trim.
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.
New engine, more grunt. Gone is the old 5.5-litre V8 turbo and in is the new twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (the same engine used in the Mercedes-AMG GT) with stacks more torque and the same power, at a whopping 430kW and colossal 850Nm.
How fast is the new G63? First, can I point out it weighs 2.5 tonnes, so take that into consideration. Second, it can nail 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds. That is incredible.
Shifting gears seamlessly is a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The G63 is four-wheel drive and has three 100 per cent differential locks and low-range gearing.
Oh, come on, you don’t want to know this… skip to the next section.
You’re still here. Okay then, it’s 13.1L/100km over a combination of urban and open roads. That’s under ideal conditions, too. Our car was going through premium unleaded at about 16.0L/100km. Good thing is you have a 100-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.
Have you ever driven a G-Class before? Nope, well then have you ever ridden an elephant, then? Passed time hanging out on the roof of your house just drinking beer? Sat on somebody shoulder’s in a game of swimming pool volleyball?
Okay, well you feel very high up and the bonnet stretches out before you like the hood of Mack truck, and that’s when you realise those weird-looking indicators on the guards double as signposts letting you know where the edges are.
But even then, it doesn’t feel big to drive, even the cabin feels a bit tight up front.
What it does feel is fast. Very fast. Dab the accelerator and the nose rises up and you better be pointing in the direction you want to go, because hold the pedal down and the G63 will yank you down the road at warp speed.
Acceleration isn’t supercar brutal by any means, but how it gets there is roaring through that side exhaust like a Viking running into battle, after waking up on the wrong side of the bed. With the windows down its deafening, but in good way.
Complaints about the old G63 centred around steering, ride and handling or more specifically the absence of those three things. In this new generation G63 those pain points have been addressed by replacing articulating ball steering with electric power steer, swapping the live front axle for independent front suspension and revising the chassis rails.
Now, the G63 can go around corners – incredibly well. Our test track was Victoria's Great Ocean Road, and if we were in any other large SUV, they would have been fishing us out of Bass Strait.
Steering is now accurate and progressive; the front end feels pointable and light.
Comfort drive mode is too comfortable for me, giving the ride a wafty bounce. Sport mode firms the dampers for good handling but keeps the ride comfortable, which adding weight to the steering. Sport Plus firms the adaptive dampers further and combines great cornering without an unbearable ride.
The G63 isn’t a vicious animal unlike some big grunt sports cars, but you have to keep reminding yourself you can’t drive it like one. Not because it will bite you, but because it’s 2.0-metre tall, 2.5-tonne metal box. A hilariously fun one.
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.
For child seats you’ll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Obviously, there’s a full-sized spare wheel. Don’t make me point it out.
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.