If you want to turn heads on the school run there are plenty of trendy SUV choices, but few are as accomplished as the Mercedes GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and Audi Q5. But which one is best for you? Mat Watson, carwow’s expert car reviewer, brings you his verdict.
Let’s start with the numbers, and even here it’s a pretty close match. At the time of writing, the Jaguar F-Pace is the cheapest, priced from £34,730, followed by the £36,425 Mercedes GLC and the £38,035 Audi Q5. Spec them so they have largely similar equipment levels and the F-Pace becomes £41,133, the GLC £42,010 and the Q5 is again the most expensive at £42,480. However, you can put any of these SUVs through the carwow configurator to get the best deals from the best dealers.
If looks are your top priority then chances are you’ll love the F-Pace. It’s a first try at an SUV from Jaguar but it looks sporty and has an especially menacing front end that you wouldn’t want to see in your rearview mirror.
The GLC’s looks are handsome rather than muscular. If you can afford it it’s worth getting the GLC in AMG Line trim for better-looking front and rear bumpers alongside larger alloy wheels and chrome exterior accents.
The Audi Q5, on the other hand, doesn’t look that different to the older Q5. It’s neat and tidy from every angle but it’s a little plain, even in the expensive S Line trim, especially if you compare it to the other two.
The Q5 makes up for its slightly plain looks with a fantastic interior. It’s simply a cut above the alternatives. The glorious central screen really shines and the whole infotainment system is dead easy to navigate thanks to the rotary control near the gear lever. It’s at its best when you go for the optional virtual cockpit though – this replaces the regular dials with a customisable 12.3-inch digital display that can display sat-nav maps, music playlists and a whole lot more.
By comparison, the GLC’s infotainment system isn’t up to the same standard. The menus are convoluted and the control system just doesn’t feel as slick. This is a shame because the rest of the GLC’s cabin looks lovely, with large expanses of expensive leather and polished metal, provided you tick the correct boxes in the options list.
The F-Pace doesn’t have the build quality of the Q5 nor is it as lavish inside as the GLC. The keyword here is sporty, but Jaguar may have overdone it because the majority of the cabin is black. Almost everything is controlled by the touchscreen which means it isn’t as easy to use while driving as the swivel wheel you get on the other cars. There are also large blind spots in the front and the back so you’re going to have to rely on the parking sensors when making tricky manoeuvres. But what’s it like to sit in the back of the Jag?
Let’s cut to the chase – the F-Pace is the worst of the cars here for carrying three in the back at once. It has the narrowest body and the least comfy centre rear seat. Also, the rear doors don’t open quite so wide as in the other two which just makes it a little less easy to fit a child seat.
The GLC fares better – and its Isofix anchor points are easily accessed via flip-up rather than removable covers. But how is it in the back for grown ups? Thankfully, the GLC is big on space and the wide, comfy seat bench makes it the best for whoever gets the middle rear seat.
The Audi isn’t too much worse if you’re sitting in the middle but has more space in the outer seats than the GLC. The Audi is the best for small children as well because it can be equipped with an extra Isofix mounting point in the front seat. However, is the Q5 also practical enough for family life?
It’s a resounding yes – the Q5’s boot is pretty huge, there’s plenty of room for suitcases with the seats up, and when folded down, the square shape of the load bay means that it’s easy to pack it with boxes.
The Mercedes’ boot is almost exactly the same size, but its shape means it can’t carry as much – the Q5 can carry two small suitcases more than the GLC. The less-square shape of the GLC’s load bay means you can’t squeeze quite as much soft bags as in the Q5 but the difference is not that big. The GLC is still practical enough for family needs and the rear seats fold down easily to open up a maximum capacity that is only slightly behind the Audi.
Both the Mercedes and the Audi are great for storing small items too. Each has huge door bins and big gloveboxes, and both beat the Jag for interior storage space. However, when it comes to boot space, the F-Pace is hard to beat.
Flimsy parcel shelf aside though, the Jaguar is easily the best for carrying big items, swallowing more boxes and suitcases than either of the other two. The reversible boot floor is easy to wipe clean, which is great if you have a dog. But does the F-Pace feel rough on the open road?
Even a short drive in the F-Pace will convince you how sporty it feels to drive. Compared to the other two, it’s easily the most fun to drive on a twisty road. However, the Jaguar is the worst of the three to live with every day. It’s the bumpiest over potholes and also the loudest on the move.
While the Jaguar takes sporty driving to heart, the Q5 is all about comfort. It’s very comfortable over rough roads and there’s hardly any wind noise in the cabin, even at motorway speeds. The Audi is also easy to drive around town and all models come with an automatic gearbox, unlike the Jaguar, which makes life much easier in traffic jams. It may not be the most thrilling SUV to drive but it’s impressively comfy.
The GLC is also set up for comfort and, in fact, there’s very little to differentiate the Q5 and GLC. Both are comfortable and quiet enough and both aren’t exactly entertaining on a twisty road, but still stable enough. Both the Mercedes and Audi can be equipped with air suspension to smooth out even the roughest roads, but the similarities end there – they’re very different when you compare the engine choices. The 2.0-litre diesel in the Audi is punchy but also quiet and smooth, whereas the 2.1-litre in the GLC is noticeably louder and a lot more clunky. The 2.0-litre diesel, fitted to the F-Pace is a midpoint between the two – it’s quieter on the move than the GLC but isn’t as punchy as the diesel fitted to the Q5. So where does all that leave us?
The Jaguar F-Pace looks great and drives like a sports car, but you might find it too bumpy around town. The Mercedes GLC, on the other hand, takes comfort to heart but it’s let down by a grumbly diesel engine. This is where the Audi Q5 comes in – it’s comfortable, practical, really well-made and packed with the latest technology. It also feels the most expensive to travel in out of the three and that’s why it wins this comparison.
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