The Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are the most sensible vehicles in each German automaker's lineup. They're family-sized, but not too large; they're somewhat sporty, but fundamentally designed for comfort while driving. They're stylish, relatively fuel-efficient, and responsive.
In the niche of mid-size luxury SUVs, there's also the Volvo XC60, Land Rover Discovery Sport, and Mercedes-Benz GLC to contend with. And yet, the X3 and Q5 remain two of the strongest entries in this class--both deliver the SUV's promise of all-around utility, while keeping their upscale pedigrees intact.
When they face off, nose to nose, the Q5 a clear winner, based on our numeric ratings. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
That said, we don't yet have safety or fuel economy scores for the Q5, so this battle isn't over just yet.
Audi's Q5 hits most of the luxury targets squarely. It's one of the more cohesive-looking crossovers—not too SUV-ish, with a stylish simplicity inside and out that's the polar opposite of angular efforts like the GLK or the Cadillac SRX. The Q5 isn't just a baby Q7 (Audi's larger model); it stands up well on its own design merit, especially as it was just redesigned from the ground up for 2017.
The Q5 rides on a new platform and features major technologic advancements inside. Even though its exterior is derivative, Audi has carried over little more than a few nuts and bolts from last year's model.
The Q5 has, however, met its match with the latest X3. BMW's ute is built in America (the Q5 is sourced from Mexico), and it's a major advance versus previous versions of this nameplate, with styling that's more expressive, adding up to a look that's less blocky and better proportioned. The cabin's been treated to a business-class upgrade with a clarified layout for controls and a higher grade of materials.
Each of these vehicles has an exceptionally strong performance range, with BMW showing off its usual sporting edge.
For 2018, the Q5 is only available with a turbocharged 4-cylinder, but a V-6 model badged SQ5 will return soon. The Q5 once again sports a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder as its base engine, but it has been upgraded to the automaker's latest unit. Nearly the same engine that also powers the larger Q7, the engine works well in this smaller application. It's mated exclusively to a 7-speed automatic and standard all-wheel drive, which now disconnects the driveshaft going to the rear wheels to save fuel in most situations. Unlike rivals, however, Audi's system spins up in a fraction of a second to apportion power rearward when needed, and it can sense when a driver is beginning to encounter adverse conditions that require a little extra traction.
A 240-hp turbocharged-4 in the BMW X3 28i feels about on par with the engine in the Q5, but the BMW also offers a 300-hp inline-6. Regardless of engine, both BMW variants include an 8-speed automatic. The 4-cylinder is offered in rear- or all-wheel drive, while the 6 sends power to all four wheels regardless.
We can't stage a fuel economy battle just yet, however, as EPA figures for the Q5 are forthcoming.
Of the three, we best like the exceptional acceleration of the 300-hp turbo six in the X3 xDrive 35i; at a 0-60 mph time of 5.5 seconds, it's the closest approximation of sedan performance in a crossover.