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Audi Q5 vs Mercedes-Benz GLC


German powerhouses do battle in a booming SUV segment. Richard Blackburn declares a victor.

value

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

$63,210

It’s cheaper than the Benz but doesn’t have as much gear. It has satnav, keyless entry, front and rear sensors, reversing camera, power tailgate, xenon headlights and three-zone aircon. Options on test car pushed the price to $73,850. Warranty period is three years/unlimited km and comes with roadside assistance. Servicing costs $1870 for three years/45,000km.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

$67,900 + on roads

A sizeable ask over the Q5 but compensates with automatic parking, 360-degree view camera, ambient cabin lighting, digital radio and extra safety gear. Test car had a panoramic roof, head-up display, prestige paint, larger screen and upgraded audio, which blew the price out to $76,870. Service costs are capped at $2280 over three years, and the warranty is just three years/100,000km.

design

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

The Q5 hasn't had a substantial makeover since 2012 but the interior still looks reasonably fresh and attractive. The layout is simple, the menu and controls for the infotainment are more logical than the GLC and the finishes are high quality. The centre screen is smaller, though, and the instrument panel readout doesn't look as modern as the Benz's. It has less legroom but compensates with a more useable load area and a space-saver under the floor.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

The GLC cabin is a hi-tech haven, with a big tablet-style centre screen and a digital readout between the speedo and tacho that displays speed and satnav instructions. There are classy touches throughout, from the ambient lighting to the leather seats with white stitching and the metallic surrounds on the air vents. Rear leg and headroom are generous but load area isn't as useful as the Audi's. No spare tyre but that liberates some decent storage space underneath a false floor.

technology

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

Engine

The Audi has a power advantage over the Mercedes and feels quicker off the mark (a claimed 6.9secs for 0-100km/h against 7.3secs for the GLC). The penalty is slightly higher fuel use (7.3L/100km against 7.2L) and a slightly noiser engine. The eight-speed auto shifts quickly, while "Drive Select" function changes the car's character by improving throttle response and gear-shift patterns.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

Engine

The Mercedes engine might not have as much go as the Audi but it is quieter and more refined. The nine-speed auto makes the most of the available power and it cruises effortlessly on the highway. As with the Audi, a flick of a switch on the centre console transforms the throttle and gear shifts, infusing a sporty feel.

safety

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

The Q5 received a five-star crash result in 2009, scoring 35.21 out of 37 points. It comes with eight airbags but unhappily Audi charges for driver assistance features that are standard on much cheaper cars. Adaptive cruise control with automatic emergency braking is $1550, while blind-spot warning is $1250.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

The GLC hasn't been crash-tested yet but the C-Class on which it is based gets five stars. Standard safety fare includes nine airbags, blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and cross-traffic alert.

driving

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

The Q5 masks its 1800kg heft pretty well through corners, thanks to all-wheel-drive grip and a suspension set-up that keeps it sitting flat during changes of direction. It doesn't feel quite as nimble as the Mercedes, though, and the steering lacks the Benz's feel. It copes well with bumps and corrugations, smoothing the harsh edges without wallowing too much over bigger bumps.

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

The GLC feels slightly sharper through the bends than the Audi. It is more eager to turn in and the steering feels more accurate and direct. Grip from the 20-inch wheels and low-profile rubber is also impressive but the downside is the suspension can get bumpy at low speeds. In comfort mode the Mercedes tends to wallow over bumps and can bottom out, sending a thump through the floor. Sport mode gives a more controlled, if firmer, ride.

Verdict

Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI

Mercedes-Benz GLC250

The Audi is ageing well and ran the Benz closer than we expected. The GLC's extra safety tech and bling get it home.