Premium SUVs are perfect for buyers looking for a practical family car with the desirability of an expensive badge on the bonnet. The Audi Q5, Volvo XC60 and BMW X3 are three of the best around, but which should you pick? We compare them to help you choose.
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Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 prices
At £31,660, the Volvo is the cheapest to buy of the three. The BMW is next up costing just less than £34,000, and the Audi is the most expensive at £37,170.
There isn’t too much that justifies the Audi’s higher price apart from its status as the newest contender. The entry-level diesel has nearly the same amount of power as the Volvo and BMW so, apart from standard 18-inch alloy wheels and LED tail lights, it seems a little pricey.
Both the BMW and Volvo are generously equipped, too. All three cars come with leather seats as standard, while the BMW fits satellite navigation to every X3.
Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 styling
The new-for-2017 Audi Q5 features many visual touches common with the rest of the Audi range. Overall, it looks much sharper and more contemporary than the model it replaces, while distinctive LED headlights on S line models help spruce things up further. It’s not exactly thrilling, but Audi has found a formula that’s hugely popular with customers – it’s well-proportioned and wheel sizes up to 20 inches are offered as an option.
The Volvo is the oldest car here – it’s been hanging around on our roads relatively unchanged since 2008. As a result, the outside lacks some of the edgy, modern creases of some rivals, flaunting a softer, rounder shape. The end result is still unmistakably Volvo, though.
The BMW looks the most purposeful from the outside – heavily sculpted bonnet lines and bold slashes across the doors and above the wheel arches lend it an aggressive look. It’s especially sharp when in M Sport trim complete with deeper bumpers and 19-inch or optional 20-inch wheels.
Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 interior
If there’s one thing Audi does better than the competition, it’s the sense of premium luxury you get in the cabins. Beautifully built, tech-laden and wonderful to look at, the Q5 is no different. Audi’s MMI infotainment system is great to use and, when equipped with the optional Virtual Cockpit display, it looks fantastic, too.
Despite its age, the XC60 still looks pretty good inside. The ‘floating’ dashboard – with a cubby hidden behind – has aged more gracefully than the X3’s dash, although there are too many small buttons making it harder to use than rivals. The seats are a standout feature – very soft and incredibly supportive making long journeys easy.
The BMW’s interior build quality is mostly faultless but the design looks outdated and there are too many components shared with cheaper BMWs. The way the dashboard angles towards the driver lends it a sense of sportiness, but the overall style is a little dreary. On the plus side, the iDrive infotainment system is arguably the best in the business with clear menus and a logical layout.
Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 practicality
The Audi’s cabin isn’t just stylish – it’s practical, too. A 550-litre boot matches the BMW, but that’s with the rear bench slid all the way back – if rear passengers sacrifice a little legroom, up to 610 litres is available. Regardless of the seating position, rear leg and headroom are generous.
The Volvo offers loads of space inside, and all the chairs are incredibly comfy. However, at 495 litres, the boot is the smallest here, but at least the space itself is wide and square. Thanks to a low loading lip, it’s easy to lift heavier items in, too.
True to most models in this segment, the BMW offers plenty of space inside. Even with tall occupants hogging space up front, there’s still plenty in the back. The rear bench is fairly wide, too, so carrying three across the back seat isn’t too challenging. The big boot is boosted by useful features such as tethering points and a 12-volt socket. In car storage is respectable, if still as good as the Audi.
Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 engines
The Audi’s engine lineup is fairly straightforward – there are two diesels and one petrol to choose from. The obvious choice is the 2.0-litre TDI – the smallest unit pulls well from low engine speeds and claims up to 56.5mpg. Further up the range, a 3.0-litre V6 offers more pace and smooth acceleration – only when you really floor it does the engine sound a little grumbly. The petrol is the cheapest to buy and, with 248hp, it’s quick if not the most efficient option.
The Volvo’s lineup is diesel only. The 62.8mpg rated 2.0-litre four-cylinder with two-wheel drive should be more than adequate for most buyers. You’d be better off without the four-wheel-drive version which uses an older, noisier five-cylinder engine. All engines are a little gruff compared to those in the Audi, though, and performance still lags some way behind.
The X3 is offered with a choice of three diesels – one four-cylinder and two six-cylinders. All are smooth, powerful and frugal considering the performance. The 2.0-litre is a little grumbly but the top-spec 3.0-litre used by the xDrive35d M Sport is smoother and covers the 0-62mph dash in a hot hatch-bothering 5.3 seconds.
Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60 vs BMW X3 driving
The Audi Q5 is one of the most aerodynamically efficient cars in its sector. Not only does this help boost fuel economy, but it means wind noise is barely present at motorway speeds. If there’s one criticism it’s that road noise can be a little audible at speeds, but that’s only because the rest of the car is so quiet.
If you’re hoping the Q5 is a sporty car, you might be disappointed to learn it doesn’t feel that sharp along a twisty road. If you’re looking for a comfortable cruiser, however, it’s incredibly relaxing though – particularity when the optional adaptive dampers are set to ‘comfort’.
The Volvo doesn’t claim to be sporty, so it isn’t much of a surprise to discover it feels a little more ponderous than its rivals. As long as you treat it like the comfortable cruiser that it’s meant to be, however, it makes for a great long distance companion, with only the harshest of bumps making their presence felt in the cabin.
While the X3 doesn’t feel quite as sporty as some BMWs, it still offers a sharper driving experience than its rivals here. It corners flatly and securely yet still delivers a fairly cosseting ride – if not quite as smooth as rivals. Like the Audi, if you’re able to stretch to the optional adaptive dampers they’re well worth going for.
Each of these contenders offers impressive practicality, refinement and style, but there can only be one winner.
The Volvo brings up the rear – despite being handsome and comfortable, it’s let down by weaker engine options and, in comparison to the other two, its ride and handling compromise is the least resolved.
There’s plenty to like about the BMW X3 – it’s fun to drive by SUV standards, the engines are strong and it’s more than practical enough to cope with family life. It’s just a little too dated inside and lacking in ultimate comfort to take the win.
The Audi deservedly takes the top spot. It might be a little more expensive to buy than the other two, but it’s the most refined, the most practical, the most desirable and has the nicest interior by some margin.
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