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Two diesel SUVs in a comparison test

Their cultivated six-cylinder diesel engines elevate the Audi Q5 and the newly renovated BMW X3 to creamy, powerful power SUVs - with quite different characters.

It is by no means the case that the BMW X3, which was relaunched in 2017, has aged rapidly. It was always a good buy among the medium-sized SUVs, but new incentives for esteemed customers are never wrong after a certain period of time. And so BMW touched its evergreen here and there on the sheet metal, ironed in new lines, enlarged the radiator grille, made the headlights flatter and – if anything, then yes – also touched the rear and rear lights. Everyone can decide for themselves whether they liked it and whether it was necessary - as well as the question of whether they really missed their new passenger.

Alexa on board

Alexa, as she is called, does not block any of the five tightly upholstered seats, of which the outer rear seats are also irritating with their oddly uneven seats. Deeply integrated into the vehicle electronics, however, she is an attentive listener and promises to be as diligent in the car as she is at home. Shopping lists can now be managed at the wheel and shutters or heating in the smart home can be controlled. Of course, Alexa can also tell jokes.

The X3 has caught up with the Q5, in which Alexa has been offering its services for some time. However, the BMW is ahead of the Audi when it comes to voice control. In the X3 she also understands mumbled wishes; in the Q5, on the other hand, the system is hard of hearing and often dull.

Before it misunderstands a destination for the fifth time, you'd rather type it into the touchscreen, which isn't that easy when you're out and about. Yes, the good old MMI rotary wheel is very much missing, but at least the fine controls for the temperature remained. The lazy X3 driver, on the other hand, has to type around on miniature keys.

Driving? Yes, right away

Basic functions right through to selecting the driving mode can be better controlled with iDrive. Despite the cumbersome configuration of the driver assistance systems (of which the adaptive cruise control and traffic jam assistance are currently not available), the BMW requires less attention when shifting and operating everyday. But the Audi plays big in the instrumentation, because its virtual cockpit (600 euros) is easier to read and more varied than the drab instruments of the BMW.

With pros and cons, things are going back and forth here, so expect a close race - also in terms of space. The measurements attest to the slightly airier interior of the Audi, but you have to be very above average in all dimensions to feel tight in the BMW. This can only be explained away with both when two-meter figures in thick winter clothing fold into the rear. Doors that open further would be nice.

Behind the large tailgates, which are electrically operated as standard, practical loading compartments without any annoying bulges are waiting for the luggage, which can be a bit more lavish on the BMW (550 to 1,600 instead of 520 to 1,520 liters). The backrests of the rear seats can be folded down separately in both as two larger and a slim middle part, the resulting loading areas increase only slightly. However, only the Audi offers a sliding bench (350 euros). Again, there are no differences in the towing capacity, both can take braked 2.4 tons on the hook. If the Audi, like the test car, has the air suspension installed for a surcharge of 2,000 euros, the height of the Q5 can be varied - quite practical when coupling and uncoupling the trailer.

Big wheels, lots of comfort

The Adaptive Air Suspension also gives it a smooth, slightly swaying suspension comfort without significant swaying in corners being the price. Although the Audi competed here on 21-inch wheels with low-profile tires (from 2,550 euros), the test car bit back hardening or bumps of the rough kind. Sensitively responsive, but occasionally with slight teetering on bumps, the Q5 offers such a solid way of driving , to which the X3 does not reach despite adaptive dampers (600 euros in connection with the M-Sport package).

The X3 lacks the last bit of velvetiness, which - as we will see later - suits its general mood. This can already be seen in the firm handshake of his steering, which makes a significant contribution to the driver feeling perfectly integrated into the car. While the similarly directly responding Audi steering indulges in comfort-oriented, not so feedback-friendly ease of movement, the BMW appears more direct and immediate due to its stiffer design.

This gives it a more agile and stimulating note when cornering, which only loses its radiance in the test runs in the limit area, because here the X3 with the 20-inch mixed tires (from 1,550 euros) allows itself a slight steering understeer. However, the slalom performance is more likely to be spoiled by the ESP, which intervenes so rigidly that it is better not to come too close to the control range.

More than 600 Nm, something is possible

The rather academic dynamic rating, because it was driven out on a perfectly flat track, therefore goes to the Audi, whose ESP intervenes very gently and helpfully when the limit area is reached. On the other hand, on public roads with curves of all kinds, the BMW proves to be the more entertaining car to drive.

And now the three-liter torque bulls come into play. With the traction of more than 600 Newton meters, they ensure that these SUVs, which weigh a good two tons, can accelerate almost anytime and anywhere, elegantly, calmly and powerfully, even without full throttle.

The power is portioned by automatic converter transmissions, each with eight gears. The acceleration values ​​are impressive in the sharp driving modes: the Audi achieves 0 to 100 in 6.0 seconds and the BMW in 5.6 seconds. From 100 to 200 km/h, from where the BMW develops stronger wind noise despite acoustic glazing (200 euros), the Q5 pushes in 23, the X3 in 21.4 seconds.

More important than this marginal note, however, is the responsiveness in everyday life, and the performance development of the Q5 is a constant annoyance. With the fulfillment of the Euro 6d standard, the large Audi diesels suffered from turbo lag, and this encounter with the V6 also gives no reason to report healing across the board.

First too little, then too much

This starting weakness is still there, which comes to light above all when - yes, well - normal starting, as is required at every traffic light start. While the BMW springs out of the starting block like an athlete when the accelerator pedal is pressed lightly, the Audi only gets sluggish, especially when the steering angle is larger. The automatic tries to hide the deep turbo lag with a lot of slip, but the first few meters are no better than 150 hp.

Then the power suddenly sloshes to the four wheels at high pressure, just like the first Quattro. In any case, the Audi drive does not convey the sovereignty of the BMW engine - and it also remains second winner in terms of consumption with 8.4 to 8.0 liters per 100 kilometers. Both are objectively good values ​​for cars of this caliber, and a range of more than 800 kilometers is not bad either.

But this small difference in consumption should have the least influence on the purchase decision. After all, the basic prices are around 60,000 euros, and with a few enticing extras for comfort and safety, the first digit is quickly an eight. In the end, the result is as close as it was indicated at the beginning. Which one to buy - the more dynamic BMW or the more comfortable but motorically handicapped Audi? Clear answer: Know yourself.


1. BMW 650 points

When it comes to space and comfort, the X3 is a close second. But it is more enjoyable to drive – not only because of its brilliant drive. And that's what most buyers are after, isn't it?

2. Audi 645 points

The Q5 plays the comfort card very convincingly and is therefore an attractive alternative to the X3. In addition to slightly higher costs, the starting weakness spoiled his victory.


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