The Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 are three of the best premium family SUVs on sale, but which should you pick? All come with a strong range of engines, great build quality and competent handling. We compare the three side-by-side to help you choose.
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Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 prices
At £34,445, the BMW X3 is the most affordable of of three – however, this variant comes with a manual gearbox – opt for the 2.0-litre diesel engine with an automatic gearbox and the BMW will set you back £35,980. The XC60 is priced from £37,205, while the Audi is the most expensive of this trio, setting you back £38,035 – both of which get auto ‘boxes as standard.
There’s little to justify the Audi’s higher price on the equipment list – the entry-level diesel produces the same power as both the Volvo and BMW so, apart from the standard 18-inch alloy wheels and LED brakelights, it’s not the most affordable option. The BMW and Volvo are both generously equipped out of the box, too – both feature sat-nav as standard, while all three come with plush leather seats as standard.
Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 styling
The XC60 shares much of its styling with the larger XC90 but its neat dimensions and taut rear make it look more svelte overall. The long bonnet and raked windscreen give it a sporty look, while ‘Thor’s hammer’ LED daytime running light signatures lend it a striking front-end. There are flashes of chrome on the exterior and standard 18-inch alloy wheels with huge 22-inch wheels optionally available.
The Q5 shares much of its design with the rest of the Audi SUV lineup. A broad, bold grille is flanked by angular headlights, while its sharply styled body looks a lot more handsome than the slightly dumpy model it replaces. Distinctive LED headlights on S line models help further spruce things up. It’s arguably less head-turning than the Volvo but some drivers prefer to fly under the radar.
The BMW is the oldest car here and is beginning to look its age. Its styling is fussy while the proportions aren’t as well resolved as the Audi or the Volvo, but those signature kidney front grilles still carry a lot of kudos in the office car park. M Sport trim adds more sporty touches with deeper bumpers and sizeable 19 or optional 20-inch wheels.
Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 interior
It comes close but the Volvo’s cabin can’t quite match the immaculate fit and finish of the Q5’s, though the difference is hardly night and day. The Volvo’s cabin does look a little more interesting with a minimalist aesthetic and a nine-inch portrait-style touchscreen infotainment system handling most of the interior functions. However, the system is harder to use than the BMW’s and Audi’s because the touchscreen isn’t easy to use without taking your eyes off the road.
The Audi’s cabin feels the best built of the three and the stylish design helps it feel as premium as you’d hope for the price. Audi’s MMI infotainment system is easy to use thanks to the physical control knob on the centre console while the optional 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit allows you to configure the dash dials to your choosing. Unlike the Volvo, the climate controls come in the form of physical buttons and knobs that are much easier to use without looking at them.
In this company, the BMW’s cabin feels dated. It’s well put-together but shares too many components with cheaper BMWs and the design feels indistinct compared to the other two. These faults aside, the BMW’s iDrive infotainment system is easily the best of this trio thanks to clear menus, logical layout and easy-to-use rotary knob on the centre console. Small bits of piano black trim lend it a slightly upmarket feel but the BMW is definitely in need of a model update to compete in this class.
Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 practicality
The Volvo is very practical, offering plenty of room for five passengers – especially in terms of headroom. The car’s 505-litre boot is a little smaller than the other two, but its square shape and lipless opening makes loading awkward items is a cinch.
The Audi is equally as spacious and practical as the Volvo – its sliding rear seats mean you can sacrifice boot space for extra passenger legroom or vice versa. The 550-litre boot is on par with the BMW and, with the rear seats slid forward, up to 610 litres of cargo space are available.
Overall, the BMW’s interior is comfortable but rear legroom will be slightly compromised if there are two taller passengers sat up front. The rear bench is wide enough to squeeze three across and the boot is easy to load with plenty of extra storage spaces scattered around the cabin.
Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 engines
The Volvo has a choice of two diesel and one petrol engine. The entry-level D4 2.0-litre diesel boasts 190hp and can return a claimed 54mpg, while the more powerful D5 engine features 235hp and can return up to 51mpg. The sole petrol engine is a turbo 2.0-litre with 254hp that’s by far the quickest option but compromises on fuel efficiency returning a claimed 39mpg.
The Audi is available with either a 2.0-litre diesel or 2.0-litre petrol unit. Most buyers will choose the 2.0-litre diesel – it has lots of pulling power and claims up to 56.5mpg. The petrol is cheaper to buy and faster thanks to its 248hp output but isn’t as efficient. Performance fans will want to look at the SQ5 with a 354hp 3.0-litre V6 engine.
The X3 is offered with the choice three diesels – one four-cylinder and two six-cylinders. The 2.0-litre is a little rattly under hard acceleration but the top-spec 313hp 3.0-litre found in the XDrive35d M Sport is much smoother and will leave boy racers in your dust, dispatching the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.3 seconds.
Volvo XC60 vs Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 driving
If you’re after stress-free driving, the Volvo is on par with the Audi in terms of all-out comfort thanks to its optional air suspension. There’s plenty of grip through corners but it doesn’t encourage you to drive faster, instead leaning towards a more unstressed driving experience. You can increase the steering’s weight and there’s a sports mode for the transmission but both seem contrary to the Volvo’s grown-up character.
The Q5 will also happily waft along the road and can also be specced with priced air suspension. Like the Volvo, the Audi offers plenty of comfort but with a slightly sharper edge to the control’s responses, giving it a slightly sportier character overall. Road noise can make its way into the cabin at high speeds, but that’s only obvious because the car is so quiet the rest of the time.
The X3 may not be as comfortable as the other two but offers the most engaging driving experience here. It corners flatly with accurate steering but can still muster a fairly cosseting cruising environment if you’re not driving quickly. If can afford to spec the optional adaptive dampers, they’re well worth the price because they enhance both the car’s sportiness and its comfort depending what setting you’re in.
The BMW X3 is a talented car but comes third in this test – despite being the sportiest and having a range of strong engines, it’s just too dated inside and out, and can’t cruise in the same luxuriously hushed manner as the other two.
The top spot comes down to personal preference. Both the Q5 and the XC60 offer frugal, powerful engines, are comfortable, easy to drive and practical. If you’re more concerned about flawless build quality and an all-round driving experience, the Q5 is probably the car for you but, if you want something that looks striking with a stylish cabin, pick for the Volvo.
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