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Car group tests

Audi Q5 vs Jaguar F-Pace vs Mercedes GLC

Does Audi’s new Q5 have the talent to dazzle the class-leading Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes GLC compact SUVs?

British buyers can’t get enough of SUVs. The craze for rugged machines means there’s a high-riding model for every taste and budget, but one of the most fiercely fought markets is the premium compact class.

One of the established contenders here is the Audi Q5, which made its debut in 2008. However, nearly a decade on the model faces more competition than ever, so an update is overdue. Audi has played it safe with the styling, but underneath the familiar lines lurk an all-new structure, revised interior and cutting-edge tech.

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So has Audi done enough to take the Q5 to the top of the class? To find out we’ve brought the car face to face with a pair of talented rivals in the form of the Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes GLC. The former is our current Car of the Year and sets new standards for style and practicality, and the latter delivers comfort, refinement and upmarket appeal. 

Audi Q5 

Model: Audi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro S line
Price: £40,220
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 187bhp 
0-60mph: 8.2 seconds  
Test economy: 38.3mpg/8.4mpl 
CO2: 133g/km  
Annual road tax: £130

A new crop of premium SUVs has arrived over recent years, and with the Jaguar F-Pace and Mercedes GLC evolving buyers’ expectations, the previous Audi Q5 was showing its age.

However, Audi has enhanced the technology on offer in the new car, making this one of the most advanced mid-size off-roaders on the market. Here we test the £40,220 Q5 S line with the brand’s 2.0 TDI engine, S tronic dual-clutch auto gearbox and quattro four-wheel-drive system.

All Q5s come equipped with Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive, which helped the car record some competitive performance figures on test.

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The swift-shifting box saw the Audi accelerate from 0-60mph in 8.2 seconds. But the transmission – or more specifically, the gearing – is also the source of one of the Q5’s flaws. First, second and third are quite short, and while this is great for getting you into the higher gears to help efficiency, the remaining ratios are tall. The Q5 was a yawning 7.4 seconds slower in seventh from 50-70mph than the Mercedes was in eighth – although the GLC’s extra torque also gave it an advantage.

There are no complaints about how the gearbox manages changes on the move, nor with the engine refinement compared with the noisier motors in its rivals. However, on sport suspension the Q5 doesn’t ride as nicely as the more comfortable Mercedes. Hit a bump with the unloaded wheels in a corner and they thump back up into the arches with a clatter through the chassis, and on the motorway it never really settles, constantly fidgeting where the other two machines feel fluid and composed.

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Although it’s as firm as the Jaguar, the Audi doesn’t seem as agile. The steering is slower and feels lifeless next to the F-Pace’s, plus there’s more understeer with the nose pushing wide much sooner. This character runs through the car. It’s perfectly competent and capable, but the blander personality means the Q5 isn’t as lovable as the Jag or Mercedes.

Testers’ notes: “Adaptive dampers (£900) would take the edge off the Q5’s firm low-speed ride in comfort mode and make it more taut in dynamic. Air suspension is a pricey option at £2,000.” 

Jaguar F-Pace

Model: Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport 2.0d 180 auto
Price: £41,330
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 178bhp 
0-60mph: 9.4 seconds
Test economy: 37.9mpg/8.3mpl 
CO2: 139g/km
Annual road tax: £130

The Jaguar F-Pace arrived last year, taking road test victory on its first outing and scooping top honours at our 2016 New Car Awards.

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By mixing the brand’s traditional style, comfort, refinement and engaging driving dynamics with rugged SUV looks and ability, the F-Pace sets a high standard for any new challenger. Here we test the 2.0-litre diesel AWD in racy £41,330 R-Sport guise.

Due to the lightweight aluminium in the structure, the Ingenium diesel doesn’t feel overwhelmed, even though the F-Pace is the longest and widest car here.

Still, it couldn’t match its more powerful German rivals off the line. Despite strong traction, the Jaguar completed the sprint from 0-60mph in 9.4 seconds, which was 1.2 seconds slower than the Audi. It closed the gap during our in-gear assessments, thanks in no small part to its healthy 430Nm of torque and the well chosen ratios of its smooth and responsive eight-speed auto gearbox.

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• Jaguar F-Pace vs Porsche Macan

Away from the track, it was the Jag and Mercedes that felt the most lively; both deliver brisk, reassuring overtaking pace. The F-Pace’s 2.0-litre diesel responds crisply to the throttle and provides a throaty note when extended, although it’s noisier and suffers from more vibrations at idle than the Audi. The box serves up well timed automatic changes and doesn’t shift down as often on the motorway as the Q5.

However, the Jaguar really comes into its own on a twisting back road. There’s bags of grip, so you can hustle through corners with greater confidence than in either rival. And while this high-rider rolls a little, body control is excellent. Only when pushed to the limit does the F-Pace become ragged.

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• Jaguar F-Pace vs Land Rover Discovery Sport vs BMW X3

There’s very little road and wind noise, plus the ride is almost as supple and well controlled as the GLC with its air suspension. 

Testers’ notes: “The F-Pace is now available with the Ingenium diesel that features in the new Land Rover Discovery and revised Range Rover Sport. It packs 237bhp and 500Nm.” 

Mercedes GLC

Model: Mercedes GLC 250 d AMG Line
Price: £41,025
Engine: 2.1-litre 4cyl turbodiesel, 201bhp 
0-60mph: 7.4 seconds
Test economy: 37.7mpg/8.3mpl 
CO2: 129g/km
Annual road tax: £110

The Mercedes GLC has already seen off the BMW X3 and previous-generation Audi. With style, refinement, comfort and upmarket appeal, this is a talented addition to the fiercely fought compact SUV sector. Here we test the GLC 250 d 4Matic in desirable £41,025 AMG Line trim.

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Mercedes made its slim power advantage over the Audi and Jaguar pay, because it was the fastest car from 0-60mph, taking 7.4 seconds. Our trio were closer during our in-gear tests, where the GLC wasn’t quite able to cash in on its superior 500Nm torque output.

This was partly down to the nine-speed auto which, like the Audi, features shorter and more closely stacked lower ratios. Neither car was able to set 30-50mph times in third, because the gear was so short it shifted up to fourth at around 45mph.

• Mercedes GLC vs BMW X3 vs Audi Q5

In the real world this isn’t a huge issue, and while the nine-speed unit isn’t as smooth as Audi’s twin-clutch box, the changes are fast enough and the ratios more evenly spread. As in the Q5, the Mercedes often changes down from top on the motorway, but it doesn’t suffer from the same big gaps in ratios, which makes for more relaxing progress. And while the 2.1-litre engine is a little gruff compared with the Q5’s unit, it’s no worse than the Jag in this respect.

On its optional air suspension the GLC rides nicely at speed, and around town it soaks up bumps and potholes, even on large 19-inch wheels. The standard suspension is firmer at low speed, and while it’s far from uncomfortable, we’d recommend the £1,495 upgrade to air if your budget allows.

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Turn into a corner and the GLC isn’t as agile as the Jaguar or as planted as the Audi, although it’s composed and grippy, and its steering feels more naturally weighted than that of the Q5. 

Testers’ notes: “If you want a GLC with more style, there’s always the GLC Coupé. It attracts attention, but it’s difficult to justify the £3,000 price premium over the standard car here.”

Verdict 

First place: Jaguar F-Pace

It’s a smaller margin of victory, but the F-Pace wins again. It looks great, while the interior is well equipped, practical and upmarket. The chassis delivers the best blend of ride and handling, and its punchy diesel makes up for with pace what it lacks in ultimate refinement. And while other cars appeal more financially, the engaging Jag has the edge in a class where owners buy with their heart as much as their head. 

Second place: Mercedes GLC

The Mercedes misses out by a narrow margin. It looks smart, oozes upmarket appeal, will cost business owners the least to run and is available with some attractive finance deals. It’s also fast, refined and comfortable, especially on the optional air suspension. But it’s not as practical or as fun to drive as the Jag, and you have to fork out a lot to get an infotainment system that’s up to scratch.

Third place: Audi Q5

Third place is no disgrace for the Q5, but in this class the play-it-safe approach and bland character mean it fails to stand out. The Audi is still a desirable choice, with its beautifully executed interior, decent infotainment, reasonable running costs and – inconsistent ride excepted – excellent refinement. It’s well built and capable, but doesn’t feel like much of an advance over the old car.

Other options for similar money...

New: BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport

BMW X3 - front

Price: £39,740Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl, 187bhp

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The X3 is starting to look a bit dated in this company, but it almost matches the Jag for driving fun and the Audi for quality. While the interior is a little cramped and the ride on M Sport suspension firm, the BMW is still a desirable choice. 

Used: Porsche Macan Diesel

Porsche Macan S - front tracking

Price: £39,950Engine: 3.0-litre V6, 255bhp

Used examples of the brilliant Porsche Macan are now within reach at this budget. In Diesel guise it’s fast, fun to drive and practical for most families, plus it feels a class apart on quality. We found a 2014 example with fewer than 30,000 miles. 

Figures

 Jaguar F-Pace R-Sport 2.0d  180 auto AWDMercedes  GLC 250 d 4Matic AMG LineAudi Q5 2.0 TDI quattro S line S tronic
On the road price/total as tested£41,330/£45,740£41,025/£50,915£40,220/£42,320
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£20,400/49.4%£21,600/52.7%£22,624/56.3%
Depreciation£20,930£19,425£17,596
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£2,222/£4,444£2,041/£4,081£2,082/£4,164
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,760/£2,934£1,770/£2,949£1,742/£2,903
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost29/£874/E/£13034/£1,053/D/£11029/£848/E/£130
Servicing costs£569 (5yrs/50,000)£35 per month (3yrs)TBC
    
Length/wheelbase4,746/2,874mm4,656/2,873mm4,663/2,819mm
Height/width1,667/2,070mm1,639/1,890mm1,659/1,893mm
Engine4cyl in-line/1,999cc4cyl in-line/2,143cc4cyl in-line/1,968cc
Peak power/revs 178/4,000 bhp/rpm201/3,800 bhp/rpm187/3,800 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 430/1,750 Nm/rpm500/1,600 Nm/rpm400/1,750 Nm/rpm
Transmission 8-spd auto/4wd9-spd auto/4wd7-spd DSG/4wd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel60 litres/£16066 litres/sealant kit65 litres/£175
Boot capacity (seats up/down)650/1,740 litres550/1,600 litres550/1,550 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,775/685/2,400kg1,845/655/2,500kg1,770/670/2,400kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient11.6 metres/0.34Cd11.8 metres/N/A11.7 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (unlimited)/3yrs3yrs (unlimited)/4yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers21,000 miles (1yr)/8415,500 miles (1yr)/147Variable/118
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.6th/13th12th/20th21st/26th
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/starsN/A95/89/82/71/593/86/73/58/5
    
0-60/30-70mph9.4/9.4 secs7.4/7.2 secs8.2/8.1 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th3.4/3.7 secsN/A/3.4 secsN/A/3.3 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th/7th/8th/9th5.7/7.1/8.8/15.8s/N/A5.3/6.2/7.7/11.2s/N/A5.1/8.7/18.6s/N/A/N/A
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 129mph/1,600rpm138mph/1,500rpm135mph/1,500rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 40.6/31.3/8.6m55.7/36.6/9.8m47.8/33.0/9.7m
Noise outside/idle/30/70mph75/53/64/72dB76/52/62/71dBN/A
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range37.9/8.3/500 miles37.7/8.3/547 miles38.3/8.4/548 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 45.6/60.1/53.3mpg51.4/60.1/56.5mpg52.3/57.6/55.4mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 10.0/13.2/11.7mpl11.3/13.2/12.4mpl11.5/12.7/12.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket200/139g/km/27%201/129g/km/25%198/133g/km/26%
    
Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/cameraSix/yes/yes/£375Seven/yes/yes/yesSix/yes/yes/£450
Auto box/stability/cruise control/AEBYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/yes/yesYes/£795/yesYes/£800/yes
Metallic paint/LED lights/keyless go£705/£915/£840£645/yes/£1,695*£645/yes/£525
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yesYes/yes/yes/yes
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