Audi wasn’t the first premium car brand onto the SUV scene, but it does sell one of the most popular SUVs ever: the Q5. It was first released in 2008, and buyers have lapped up the Q5’s upmarket, solid feel and high driving position.
The Q5 now has serious competition on its hands. In 2014 Porsche decided it needed to get a piece of the SUV market for itself, and made use of its ties with Audi to develop the Macan. Under the skin, the Q5 and Macan share about 33 per cent of components – enough to make a good start on an SUV, but enough to still lend the Macan the character and feel that Porsche buyers expect.
In a straight duel, which car is the best? We’re putting the Q5 and Macan side-by-side to find out.
Park the two cars beside each other (and maybe squint just a little bit) and the family ties are clear: the pair are very similar in terms of both length and wheelbase. The Porsche is a much newer model, however, and to our eyes it looks like a more expensive-looking product.
The Audi Q5 has been around for a while now, and that much is apparent from the slightly flabby appearance. While the latest Q7 is full of well-defined creases, its baby brother looks rather dated now, aside from glitzy details like the LED lights. By contrast, the Porsche looks lower, more squat, and generally just a little better proportioned from almost any angle. The slightly boxier appearance of the Q5 does give it an advantage over the Porsche in terms of increased interior space.
We may bang on about it every time we cast our eyes inside an Audi, but its interiors are truly among the best on the market. The Q5’s design is clean and contemporary, the quality of materials are of the highest standard, and it’s so well built that it’s unlikely to develop annoying rattles and squeaks.
The Q5’s more practical exterior shape gives a little extra interior space than the Macan – rear passengers will feel more comfortable in the Audi than the Porsche. The Q5 also has more boot space than the Macan too – you’ll find 540 litres with the rear seats up, and 1,560 with the seats down. The Macan makes do with 500 or 1,500 litres respectively.
Settle into the driver’s seat though, and it’s the Macan that feels the sportier, more driver-oriented machine. The centre console is quite tall under your left arm, and combined with a low seating position really gets you in the mood for driving. The steering wheel – inspired by the 918 hypercar – is gorgeous, while all of the other major controls are well-positioned, so finding a comfortable driving position is easy.
The Q5’s platform is a development of the one that underpinned the fourth generation Audi A4. As with the A4, the engines are mounted very far forward under the bonnet, which results in a nose-heavy feel to the drive. While it’d be harsh to call it ponderous, there are other cars in the class which are better to drive.
The ride is okay, if not class-leading, but overall refinement is very good. Most comparable to the Macan is the sporty SQ5. Thanks to firmer suspension and wider and larger 20-inch alloy wheels, it makes for a grippy and rapid car for driving along country roads, albeit one which pummels roads into submission as opposed to flowing along them.
Porsche took the Q5 as its starting point for the Macan, but extensive re-engineering has resulted in a car that feels very different. For a car that weighs the best part of two tonnes, the way that the Macan can thread its way along a twisty road is something of a revelation. At legal speeds, its mass is hidden extremely well, helping it to feel far more agile than you might otherwise expect. The ride is on a par with the Q5’s, as is overall refinement.
Audi offers a range of six engines within the Q5 lineup, in the form of two petrol and four diesel units. The entry point into the range is a 148hp 2.0-litre diesel which returns a claimed 47.9mpg. For many, the next step up the diesel ladder is likely to be the pick of the range. This version of the 2.0-litre diesel is offered with 175hp, knocks 1.8 seconds off the 0-62mph time to hit nine seconds flat, yet returns an identical fuel economy figure.
A smooth and responsive pair of petrol units – producing 178 and 222hp respectively – deliver strong performance, but the 3.0-litre diesels are the most potent options. The first turbocharged unit produces 254hp, while the unit in the SQ5 is something of a monster. A 309hp power output is backed up by a thumping 479lb ft of torque, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds and phenomenal acceleration in any gear.
Diesel fans are left with only one option in the Macan, and it’s the same 254hp 3.0-litre diesel available in the Q5. The Porsche’s less draggy shape and tweaked gearbox settings mean that it tops the Q5 in both the performance and efficiency stakes, returning a creditable 46.3mpg. A Volkswagen Golf GTI-sourced 2.0-litre petrol sits at the bottom of the range, while the 394hp turbo variant is even quicker than the SQ5.
Value for money
In pretty much any instance, the Q5 is the significantly cheaper car in this pairing. The (admittedly less powerful) entry-level Audi is over £10,000 cheaper than the least powerful Macan. Most tellingly, the Macan Diesel is £6,300 pricier than the Q5 equipped with a near-identical engine – you can buy the faster SQ5 for the same money.
However, many buyers would be able to justify much of that price hike just to have the prestige and rarity of a Porsche badge, and the rest to the better engineered chassis. Beware – the options list of both cars is a risky place to visit if you’re wary of an on the road price spiralling out of control…
Both cars score highly on the safety front, each scoring a maximum five star rating when tested by Euro NCAP.
In most areas, the Porsche Macan has an edge over the Audi Q5. It looks nicer inside and out, it’s faster, it handles better and it’s a rarer sight on our roads. That isn’t to say there’s plenty of reasons to recommend the Audi Q5 though, most notably it still has a gorgeous, more practical interior and it is significantly cheaper than the Macan.
This twin test is a prime example of “you get what you pay for”. The Audi Q5 is a good all rounder, but if you can stretch the budget far enough, you’ll be happier behind the wheel of the Porsche. The Porsche you buy with your heart, the Audi with your head – and a slightly healthier bank account.