Audi Q5 Vs. BMW X3Enlarge Photo
Compact luxury crossovers are testimonials to the new economic realities. Families still need a way to get around as a group--but shoppers that once digested huge sticker prices and growing gas bills for bigger utes with ease, are now taking cover in smaller SUVs that keep their upscale pedigrees intact.
The Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are two of the most popular in the class, and for good reason. Both are stylish, relatively fuel-efficient, and a little more enjoyable to drive than their competition from the U.S. and Asia. But when they face off, nose to nose, one's a clear winner, based on our numeric ratings here at TheCarConnection.
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 vehicles like the Mercedes GLK and Land Rover LR2. Though it has been trumped by the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, the Q5's not just a downsized Q7.
For performance, the Audi's base turbocharged four-cylinder is nothing to shy away from. The front-drive, 211-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four makes more torque than the previous V-6, and gets better gas mileage too, at 20/27 mpg. It's a gutsy performer with 0-60 mph times of just over 7.0 seconds, a bit slower and coarser than the six, but considerably less expensive in some trims. The 3.0T model gets a 272-hp version of the company's supercharged V-6; it's also very torquey, yet as you'd expect, somewhat thirstier; and at the top of the lineup, the performance-oriented SQ5 joins the lineup this year.
While we enjoy the Q5's drivetrain performance, its handling isn't quite as impressive, especially when Audi's Drive Select package of electronic adaptive controls for the throttle, transmission, steering, and suspension is ordered. The Q5's steering doesn't feel natural, and ride quality in Sport mode can be pretty harsh--though compared to some other crossovers, the Q5 still comes across as more carlike.
A spacious interior with a very high-quality feel offers up a great environment for passengers, and a safe one, with good IIHS safety ratings. Base models include leather and satellite radio, for about $35,000; models over $50,000 push the limits of the pocketbook with features like Bluetooth, which we think should be standard.
It's highly rated, but the Q5 meets its match with the latest X3. BMW's ute is now built in America, and it's better in nearly every way than the prior ute, and its German competitor. For one, the styling's much more expressive--much more like BMW's sedans, less blocky and better proportioned--and the cabin's been treated to a business-class upgrade with a clarified layout for controls and a higher grade of materials.
BMW offers two drivetrains. Its base 240-hp turbocharged four in the 28i model feels even a bit stronger than the base engine in the Q5, and whether you go for that or the six-cylinder 35i you get a new eight-speed automatic; by the numbers, it eclipses the Q5's straight-line performance and are better or on par with its fuel economy. Of the two, 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.
All X3 models, as well as V-6 versions of the Q5 now come with stop/start, which shuts off the engine to help save fuel when waiting at stoplights; in both models the system can be a bit abrupt.
Both models handle very well; ride quality is excellent, and BMW's advanced all-wheel-drive system has a power bias to the rear that dials in more sporty response.
This X3's grown, too--it's almost the size of the first X5, and rear-seat leg room is now quite good, as is cargo space. The X3 also offers standard Bluetooth and iPod controls, as well as automatic climate control. We're no fans of the iDrive controller for the navigation and other secondary functions, but it's on par with the Q5's equally knobby system. Accommodations in Premium Prestige Q5 models are top-notch--warmer than what you'll see in the X3.Of course, you'll want to drive them head to head and compare for yourselves. The X3 noses ahead and wins us over by honing its crossover basics to a sharper, carlike edge.
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|from $36,615||from $34,690|
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