BMW X3 VS Audi Q5
- Clever tech now trickling down
- Quiet and spacious cabin
- Dynamic enough to dispose of twisting tarmac
- Smaller diesel engine lacks overtaking punch
- Wince-worthy option list
- Full phone integration will cost you
- Good looks
- Great performance from the SQ5
- Advanced safety equipment
- Price hikes over previous models
- Four cylinder petrol could be more powerful
- Xenon headlights in Design grade
If SUVs were a horror movie, they'd have to be the 1958 cult-classic The Blob: a drive-in special that told the story of a shapeless mass that grows and grows, eventually consuming everything in its path. A bit like James Packer, then.
But also a bit like BMW's range of X-stamped SUVs. Take the X3, for example, which has slowly but relentlessly grown over the past 15 years, so much so that this all-new, third-generation model is now bigger in every key dimension than the original BMW X5.
Which means the X5 has also grown, which means the X6 has grown, which means the... well, you get the idea. If current trends continue, we won't be so much driving the next generation of X cars as we will be moving into them.
But unlike that cinematic tale, the X3's new and bigger dimensions have a happy ending, especially for riders lounging about in the really very spacious backseat. And there is more good stuff going on for this major update, too.
It's got a new and more muscular design penned by crayon-wielding Aussie ace Calvin Luk, and it's loaded with clever technology (including BMW's latest autonomous technology) pilfered from the new 5 series.
So how does the new X3 measure up.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
About two months ago we met up with the new Audi Q5, but only for a brief drive around our nation’s capital. Audi told us we’d get to know the mid-sized SUV better at the official Australian launch in July. When they said better, we didn’t realise they meant Melbourne-to-Adelaide-on-a-900km-road-trip better.
That’s exactly what happened. But did we learn anything new apart from the fact The Big Lobster has been refurbished, that wild emus are the stuff of nightmares, that it’s still dark at 7:00am at this time of year in Victoria, or that Adelaide’s residential property market offers outstanding value?
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The X3 is a hugely important model for BMW, and one that was starting to be left behind by rival models from Mercedes-Benz and Audi. But this third-gen model levels the playing field once more, and launches the X3 straight back into the fray with the segment's best.
For our money, the xDrive30d is the pick of the bunch, serving up effortless performance in a comfortable, quiet and practical package.
Would you choose the new BMW X3 over a Mercedes-Benz GLC or Audi Q5? Tell us in the comments section below.
The new-generation Audi Q5 is difficult to fault as a premium SUV. All grades feel well-crafted, plush and high-tech. They’re comfortable to sit in (for hours) and deliver impressive performance. If you take money out of the equation, the SQ5 is the pick, but the sensible sweet spot in the range is the 2.0 TDI Sport with its great torque and standard features.
Is the new generation Q5 enough to talk you out of a Benz GLC or BMW X3? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Check out Peter Anderson's video of the Q5 off-road driving experience in Germany here.
The X3's exterior was designed by Australian Calvin Luk, who was tasked with making it "sportier, tougher and bolder" than the outgoing model. And while, to our untrained eyes, the changes don't seem quite as extreme as Calvin insists they are, there's no doubting the X3 cuts a handsome figure on the road.
Viewed front-on, that traditional kidney grille has been raised to give it a more proud look out front, and it flows into a bonnet lined with new and defined creases carved front-to-back toward the windscreen. Muscular arches, roof rails and a razor-sharp body crease add attitude to the side profile, while at the back, a more tapered rear end is framed by a hint of rubber from the rear tyres.
Inside, the materials and layout are taken straight from the BMW playbook, but there's been a technology overhaul, albeit one that's more obvious on the more expensive models, with wireless phone charging, an updated touch screen and, on the 30i and 30d, a new digital driver's binnacle.
So evolution over revolution inside, but the cabin exudes a predictably premium feel no matter the trim.
You can’t see it but this second-generation Q5 sits on a new platform – the same one underpinning the A4, the A5, and the big daddy of Audi’s SUV range, the Q7. As well as changing the Q5's on-road behaviour the new platform is partly responsible for the SUV’s new exterior dimensions.
The Q5 is a mid-sized SUV with a 2819mm wheelbase (+12mm). While end-to-end length has grown to 4663mm (+34mm), and height to 1659mm (+4mm), width is unchanged at 1893mm.
BMW’s X3 is 21mm longer, 16mm taller and 12mm narrower.
You can pick the new Q5 from the previous one courtesy of a distinctive shoulder line, running the length of the body, and twisting over the wheel arches; making it more athletic, and to these eyes, more attractive than the last edition.
No macho wheel arch extensions, side steps or bull bar here. This is a citified SUV, rather than an outback 4x4 blazer.
The grille has been restyled to create more depth around its frame, and according to Audi, if you look (and imagine) hard enough you should be able to see the a letter Q in the redesigned headlights.
All grades have the roof-top rear spoiler which is almost madatory on SUVs these days. The rear diffuser houses what appear to be chrome exhaust tips, but they're just cosmetic – the actual exuast pipe hides under the car. Trust me, I got under there and checked.
Now with bigger interior dimensions, too, the Q5’s cabin is completely new, from the display that sits high on a low dashboard, to the centre console redesigned around a new shifter and touch-pad for the media system, steering wheel and instrument cluster.
Take a look at the interior photos, the Q5's cabin is not as blingy as the Benz, but more luxurious than the Beemer. The Q5’s interior is plush without being over-the-top, but with a high quality well-crafted feel from the soft-touch plastic door sills to the wood and aluminium trim on the centre console.
At 4708mm long, 1891mm wide and 1676mm high, this third-generation X3 is bigger than the original X5 (which was 4666mm long, and 1872mm wide), and all those those extra millimetres start making sense once you climb into the cabin.
Up front, every X3 feels spacious, with lots of headroom and, with electric front seats standard on every trim level, plenty of options to get comfortable. There are two cupholders that seperate the front seats (joining the two in the pull-down divider in the backseat), and there's room for a 1L bottle in each of the four doors. Up-front riders also share two USB ports, as well as a wireless charging pad for compatible phones.
Climb into the backseat and you'll find plenty more space on offer. There was more than enough clear-air between my knees and the seat in front when sitting behind my own (5ft10inch) driving position, and impressive headroom, even with the optional sunroof fitted.
Elsewhere in the back, three-zone climate is standard across the X3 range, so backseat riders get both vents and temperature controls, and there's a 12-volt power source, too - no USBs, though. There's also two ISOFIX attachment points in the back, and a third top-tether point in the middle seat, so you can squeeze three child seats across the back.
The boot serves up 550 litres with the 40:20:40 split-fold rear seat in place, but should you drop them via the boot-mounted levers, that number grows to 1600 litres. There are some cool touches in the boot, too, like a hidden storage area under a partition in the boot, the lid for which is held open by a gas strut that makes loading easier. That extra space is also big enough to store the boot cover.
You’re not buying an SUV to lord it over people in the traffic, right? If you are, it shouldn’t be the only reason, because the Q5 is as practical as a pair of cargo pants, and nowhere near as embarrassing to be seen in.
The Q5’s boot is 10 litres bigger than the previous model's boot dimensions at 550 litres, matching the luggage capacity of the Benz GLC and BMW X3.
If you’ve optioned the sliding second row, the boot space can be increased to 610 litres up to the cargo cover and if you’ve ticked the option box marked air suspension, like an elephant kneeling down, the Q5 will lower itself to make loading easier.
The Q5 is a five seater (there's no third row), if you’re looking for seven seats then head on over to our Q7 review here.
Cabin space has been increased, and without resorting to a predictable Dr Who reference: when you’re in the driver’s seat the cockpit does feel larger than you’d expect from the outside. I can also sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare. Good considering I’m 191cm tall. Headroom is also excellent back there.
The middle rear position is the Q5’s short-straw seat, as it means sliding over to straddle the driveshaft hump and perching on a harder surface.
In the back row you’ll find two cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest and two more up front, while all doors have bottle holders.
Storage space elsewhere isn't great: the centre console bin isn’t the biggest or deepest and there were times where I wished for a large, open storage dish under the dash to throw my wallet, keys and phone into rather than stuffing them in the cup holders and door pockets.
Price and features
The BMW X3 range arrives in three flavours, the diesel-powered xDrive20d ($68,900), the petrol-pumping BMW xDrive30i ($75,900), and the biggest - and best - diesel option, the xDrive30d ($83,900). They'll be joined by the smallest petrol model, the xDrive20i, and the go-fast and enticing-sounding M40i version, both of which will touch down next year.
For now, though, the cheapest way into the X3 range wears the xDrive20d badging, and your investment will earn you 19-inch alloys, roof rails and LED headlights outside, while in the cabin you'll find part-leather-trimmed seats, a leather-lined steering wheel, a colour head-up display, navigation and a wireless charge pad for compatible phones. You'll also get three-zone climate control and a 6.5-inch touchscreen that pairs with a six-speaker stereo.
Step up to either the 30i or 30d (both are identically equipped), and you'll add 20-inch alloys, full leather seats, a bigger 10.25-inch touchscreen running the latest iDrive system, and another 12-inch digital display that replaces the traditional gauges in the driver's binnacle.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto remain a cost option, with the clever wireless version of the system yours for $623, and you might want to spring for the 16-speaker harman/kardon stereo (another $2000), too. Both of which should really be standard on the more expensive models.
How much is an Audi Q5? Well, it depends on which one you mean, there are several trim levels. The range kicks off with the Design grade, which is diesel-only and the most affordable in the line-up at $65,900. That's a $2000 increase over the out-going Q5 entry price. Above this is the Sport grade which you can have with a diesel engine for $70,700, or petrol for $73,211 (RRP). At the top of the range is the SQ5 which (for now) only comes with a petrol engine for $99,611 - about $7000 more than the previous version.
At the launch Audi announced the S Line Black special edition would be available with just 70 going on sale in Australia. The diesel version of the S Line black pack is $82,900, while the petrol is $86,611.
Here’s a value curve ball for you. So, the entry-grade Porsche Macan SUV has the same drivetrain as the petrol Q5, with the same output, and lists for $80,410. I’m just going to leave that there, okay?
For a bit of a model comparison Mercedes-Benz’s GLC is within the same price range starting at $65,990 for the entry grade diesel and tops out at $89,900. A Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 is a rival to the SQ5 and costs about the same, at $101,400.
The Design grade’s standard features include a 7.0-inch screen (it's a multi-function display, but not a touch screen) with sat nav and a reversing camera, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, Bluetooth connectivity, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry (also called a smart key), push button start (some call it keyless go or start, stop), three-zone climate control air conditioning, xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, power tailgate, leather seats, power front seats, aluminium roof racks, ambient interior lighting, rain sensing wipers and 18-inch alloy wheels. There’s also some impressive advanced safety equipment, from AEB to blind spot warning (read more about the safety features below).
Stepping up to the Sport grade brings all of the Design’s standard features and adds 20-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights (not the adaptive headlights), sports seats up front, a larger 8.3-inch screen (for multimedia including a DVD player) plus the amazing 12.3-inch ‘virtual cockpit’ instrument cluster, a DVD player, 10-speaker sound system inclusing a subwoofer and a panoramic sunroof. There’s also more safety equipment such as adaptive cruise control.
The SQ5 is a high-performance member of the Q5 family (an even more hardcore RSQ5 is also tipped to come) and picks up the Sport's standard features, and adds 21-inch alloy wheels with red brake calipers, adaptive dampers, tinted windows (rear), more premium leather upholstery, heated front seats and a sliding rear row. There’s also not-necessary-but-nice things such as the colourful ambient lighting, aww… pretty. There’s more safety equipment, too, such as auto parking.
The optional 'Comfort' package ($2200 on the Design and $1900 on the Sport) brings things such as a sliding rear seat and electric steering column adjustment.
The $3300 'S Line' package is only available on the Sport and adds a tough body kit and 20-inch alloy rims.
Then there’s the 'Technik' package (only available on the Sport and SQ5). This technology pack adds some cool gadgets such as a head-up display, Bang & Olufsen 19-speaker stereo and matrix LED headlights.
There's also a 'Parking Assistance Package', using four wide-angle cameras to cover the entire area immediately around the vehicle, also incorporating 'Park assist' self parking to help steer you into parallel or perpendicular parking spaces.
'Adaptive damper control', and 'Adaptive air suspension' are optionally available on the quattro S tronic sport models.
There's no 'Premium Package' but then again the Q5 is already a prestige vehicle.
There are ten paint colours to choose from with Brilliant Black and Ibis White being no cost options, but you'll have to pay for such metallic hues as 'Azores Green', 'Manhattan Grey', 'Floret Silver', 'Matador Red', 'Java Brown', and 'Navarra Blue'.
Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto for Samsungs and the rest aren't offered on the Q5, which is a shame because these apps are excellent for maps and messaging.
Out of phone reception and GPS range we noticed the navigation system was patchy and when we really needed it in the dark, in the bush.
Engine & trans
The xDrive20d kicks off proceedings with its 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine good for 140kW and 400Nm. It pairs with an eight-speed automatic that shuffles its power to all four wheels. The combination will serve up a 8.0sec sprint to 100km/h (though it doesn't feel that fast).
Step up to the petrol-powered xDrive30i, and you'll find a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit nestled under the bonnet, producing 185kW and 350Nm, which is paired with an eight-speed "sport" automatic. It too sends its power to all four wheels, and will trim the sprint to 100km/h down to 6.3sec.
But our pick of the current-engine bunch is the xDrive30d, which makes use of a six-cylinder diesel engine good for 195kW and 620Nm. It pairs with the same eight-speed "sport" automatic as the 30i, but produces a sharper sprint to 100km/h of 5.8sec.
There are three engine specifications currently in the Q5 line-up. Here are the stats for you. The regular Q5's have a 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel and a 185kW/370Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol. The SQ5 is a different beast with a 3.0-litre turbo-petrol V6 making 260kW (349 horsepower) /500Nm. Those are pretty impressive torque and power specs. (a turbo-diesel V6 version is expected to arrive soon).
The four cylinders have a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, while the V6 has an eight-speed dual-clutch. Yes, no manual gearbox.
The four-cylinder Q5s come with a new form of Audi’s all-wheel drive (AWD) system called 'Quattro Ultra' which switches between front- and AWD on demand. The SQ5 sticks with full-time AWD.
Have it fitted with a towbar and the Q5 has a braked towing capacity of 2000kg and a 200kg towball download. If you're serious about hauling a van or trailer perhaps you should read this towing review.
For the 0-100km/h sprint Audi says the 2.0TDI takes 7.9 seconds, the 2.0TFSI can better it with 6.3 seconds, while the SQ5 is almost a second ahead on speed with 5.4 seconds. Not bad accleration for SUVs with a weight of about 1.8 tonnes.
The petrol variant - the xDrive30i - sees fuel use climb to a claimed/combined 7.6L/100km, with emissions a claimed 174g/km. Finally, the biggest diesel should return 6.0L/100km (claimed/combined) and 159g/km of C02.
Fuel tank size is 60, 65 and 68 litres respectively.
The official combined fuel consumption figure for the diesel 2.0 TDI Design is 5.3L/100km, which jumps to 5.5L/100km in the Sport grade. Similar mileage for both then, regardless of what flavour fuel you use.
We drove the 2.0 TDI Sport grade 261.3km and the trip computer reckoned we were using an average of 6.5L/200km, which is pretty handy diesel fuel consumption. Fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
The petrol 2.0 TFSI is claimed to consume 7.3L/100km. After about 200km in the S-line Black, with that engine under the bonnet, our trip computer was reporting 11.1L/100km, but there had been some hard acceleration in 'Sport' mode, and the odd spot of dirt road fun which activated the AWD. Still, not bad fuel economy.
The SQ5 officially consumes a combined 8.7L/100km, and after 189.8km our trip computer told us it was using 9.9L/100km. Not too shabby.
It's actually pretty hard to go too far wrong in the premium mid-size SUV market at the moment, with the other Germans especially kicking all sorts of goals. And happily for BMW, this new X3 is packing the right skillset to launch right into the thick of that field.
We spent the bulk of our time in the biggest diesel, the xDrive30d, and it's so impressively smooth, quiet and effortless in its acceleration that you can genuinely forget you're driving a diesel at all. The smaller diesel lacks the outright punch to overtake quickly and cleanly, and is probably better suited to city life, and while the sole petrol option improves matters, its the rich stream of torque on offer from the big six-cylinder diesel makes it our pick of the bunch.
The eight-speed transmission is a treat, too; silky smooth in its changes, and quick enough to feel near-enough telepathic when you plant your right foot.
Plenty of work has gone into improving the ride, handling and NVH, or in other words, how quiet and cosseting the interior is, and even on loud road surfaces the cabin is impressively quiet, and the standard suspension strikes a handy balance of supple and sporty, so much so that, even on the twisting stretches of tarmac, there's seemingly no need to lean on the optional adaptive dampers (leaving a handy $1900 in your pocket).
But the big news in the cabin is the adoption of BMW's Driving Assistant Plus (BMW's autonomous technology) as standard on the 30i and 30d, meaning you can drive hands-free for up to 40 seconds. It's not infallible, of course, and will only work consistently when there's clear road markings, but it's a very handy safety net.
The Aussie launch saw us climb into an SQ5 in Melbourne and step out 900km away in Adelaide, with a few hundred kays in between in the 2.0 TFSI S Line Black and a 2.0 TDI Sport. Yes, mum, we stopped to sleep somewhere overnight.
That amount of time sitting in anything should make you fairly familiar with it, but the lack of twisty roads meant there was little opportunity to really put the handling to the test. But fear not, we’ll road test the Q5 soon.
Despite the absence of corners, much was still learnt about this second-generation Q5.
First up, despite the next destination being entered into the SQ5’s sat nav, I was lost within moments of leaving Melbourne airport. The combination of a messy sat nav display and my bad sense of direction was going to be an issue over the next billion kilometres.
Back on track, and now in the civilised wilds outside Daylesford, only 100-odd kays north-west of Melbourne, we lost our GPS signal, phone reception, and therefore, sat nav.
We drove into the tiny, far western Victorian town of Dunkeld in a 2.0 TDI Sport, the xenon headlights of which hadn’t been cutting though the total darkness of the Aussie bush roads as well as the LEDs in the SQ5, although the ambient interior lighting package of 30 selectable colours was fabulous.
The next day we left Dunkeld for Kingston (home of the giant Lobster) in South Australia, in the limited launch edition S Line Black - the petrol version. Riding shot gun was the head of Audi’s Quattro AWD department, Dieter Weidemann, who kept pointing at emus and calling them wombats.
While he may not know much about Australian fauna, mechanical engineering is an entirely different story.
He told us he'd created a new 'Quattro Ultra' version of Audi’s AWD system that switched from front-wheel drive to AWD when you needed it. Then he encouraged me to try and trick it into losing traction on a dirt road. So I did, and what should have been a great power slide was an uneventful, perfect corner with no loss of traction. Although the Q5 has a good ground clearance of 200mm it's not designed for rough terrain. If you're looking for something with excellent off road capabiity then take a look at our off road reviews here.
Leaving the Lobster we bolted north road on the Princes Highway which has a surface resembling a cheese grater, but even at 110km/h there was hardly any road noise or wind noise intruding into the cabin – and that was the case on all variants.
Back in the SQ5, the optional rear air suspension made the course chip bitumen and regular undulations feel like carpet, but the trade-off was a bit of body roll.
That turbo V6 in the SQ5 is more beautiful than brutal – those performance figures we covered don't lie. Gurgling deeply at idle and barking through the gears, the V6 sounds wonderful, but there is some synthetic aural enhancement happening.
Stepping out of the SQ5 and back into a 2.0 TDI Design felt like a demotion, but 400Nm is hefty hitting power, and I enjoyed the torque on tap from 1750rpm. That diesel engine is remarkably quiet, too – enough to fool me into thinking we were in a petrol car until I saw the tacho and its 4500 rpm redline.
The 2.0 TFSI S Line Black is no SQ5, but its 185kW/370Nm are the type of figures V8 diehards used to boast about around barbecues back in 1997.
The Design and Sport grades didn’t have air-suspension which meant a firmer, but still comfortable ride.
Steering in all variants is spot-on. The SQ5’s especially felt well-weighted with great feedback from the wheels and road below.
Visibility all-around is excellent, helped even more by a new positioning for the wing mirrors which also reduces wind noise.
We arrived in Adelaide just in time to enjoy the city’s mid-week peak-hour traffic, our SQ5 covered in dirt, looked tough. Bumper to bumper this was the slowest part of the 900km, we were tired and the adaptive cruise control was a massive help as we trundled our way to the airport for the trip home.
What really impressed me was that after nearly 1000km, and a day where we spent nearly eight hours in either the driver’s or co-pilot’s seat, I was never sore, or even uncomfortable.
That’s saying a lot. I’ve been sitting here in an expensive, hi-tech chair typing for only two hours and my back is killing me.
The safety story starts with six airbags (dual front, front-side and curtain), as well as cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring and a city-speed auto emergency braking system that detects pedestrians that BMW calls its Approach Control Warning. You’ll also find parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera and a parking assistant function that will tell you if you’ll fit in a parking space, all of which arrives as standard on the xDrive20d.
Stepping up to the 30i or 30d adds Driving Assistant Plus, which includes Active Cruise Control with AEB, cross-traffic warning and steering and lane assistants that form part of BMW’s autonomous package (the same that appears on the 5 series), and that will allow you - in the right conditions - to take your hands off the wheel for spells of 40 seconds.
The X3 was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating when tested in 2011, but the new-generation model hasn't been tested yet.
All Q5s (including the SQ5) come standard with city AEB which can recognise pedestrians and detect a potential collision at up to 85km/h, and reduce speed by 40km/h in an emergency. All models also feature ABS, ASR (also known as ESP), EDL and Brake Assist, as well as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor and warning and an alert which will sound if you’re about to open your door on a cyclist or car.
Another cool standard safety feature is a rear collision detection system which will flash the hazard lights to alert surrounding traffic to a potential impact.
All Q5 have eight airbags, and there are two ISOFIX mounts and three top tether points across the rear row for child and baby seats.
The Audi Q5 is built in Mexico.
Audi covers the Q5 with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Maintenance is scheduled every 12 months/15,000km. There is no capped price service cost scheme available.
Under the boot floor you’ll find a space saver spare. Better than a tyre repair kit, but still not good enough in Australia if you’re covering long distances in remote areas.