The Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 are two of the most popular compact luxury SUVs out today. Shoppers are typically drawn to the Q5 and the X3 because of their appealing mix of refinement, utility, safety and performance. Sales of both models in the United States easily surpass the companies’ comparably priced Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series sedans, in fact.
Picking which one to buy can be difficult, however. Both models start at around $41,000 and offer a comprehensive set of features. Edmunds takes a look to find out which one has an edge.
The Q5 and the X3 are both fully redesigned for the 2018 model year. Based on a casual glance at the spec sheet, you’d likely think Audi’s and BMW’s engineers were handed the same blueprints.
Each SUV comes standard with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes about 250 horsepower and returns 25 mpg combined. They’re also available in performance-oriented models that have larger and more powerful six-cylinder engines that generate more than 350 horsepower.
Inside, the Q5 and the X3 seat up to five passengers and have enough rear passenger space to meet the typical requirements of a small family. The Q5 offers 26.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, while the X3 offers 28.7 cubic feet. The BMW maintains its slim lead when you fold down the rear seats.
Each SUV has four-year/50,000-mile basic and powertrain warranties. Audi pays for the Q5’s first scheduled maintenance, but BMW goes further and covers the X3’s scheduled services for three years or 36,000 miles.
The Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 provide a comfortable ride and secure handling on a variety of road surfaces. You can also fit them with an optional driver-adjustable and adaptive suspension that can soften the ride or firm it up for sportier handling. This feature is optional on all X3s, but Audi offers it on the priciest Q5 trim level only. When driving with more enthusiasm, we’ve found the X3 is a little more agile and engaging to drive than the Q5.
In regards to safety, each model has top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for crash protection and effectiveness of crash avoidance technologies. But some of those crash avoidance features are easier to get on the BMW. For example, you can get lane keeping assist and adaptive cruise control on any version of the X3, but on the Q5 they’re only available on the priciest trim level.
BMW gives you a little more choice in powertrains, too. The X3 is available with rear-wheel drive, whereas the Q5 comes standard with all-wheel drive. This rear-wheel-drive X3 configuration costs slightly less and improves combined fuel economy by 1 mpg. When it comes to towing, the Q5 and the X3 both offer 4,400-pound capacities. All X3s have an optional, factory-installed Class 3 hitch receiver that comes with integrated connecting hardware. The Q5 offers a similar setup, but only as a dealer-installed accessory on midgrade and higher trim levels.
Interior differences mostly relate to style. Both interiors offer large entertainment screens and high-resolution digital gauge clusters that host a range of adjustments. The X3’s digital instrument cluster incorporates physical gauge housings into its screen, giving it a traditional appearance. The Q5’s large panel looks modern and offers more dramatic configurations, including the ability to display the navigation map across the entire screen. Overall, we think the Audi’s controls are easier to use, and the quality of its interior materials is higher.
Another difference is smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. These systems can display select apps from your phone directly onto the car’s infotainment screens. The X3 only supports Apple CarPlay, so Android users are out of luck. The Q5 comes with both. But iPhone owners will appreciate how cleanly their phone is integrated into the X3’s infotainment system. The Q5’s system lack of touchscreen functionality makes these systems more cumbersome to use at times.
EDMUNDS SAYS: Choosing between the Q5 and the X3 is difficult. They are comparably priced, deliver a pleasing driving experience and offer a comprehensive set of features. If you’re looking for more flexibility to get the features you want without paying for stuff that you don’t, the BMW X3 may be for you. If you’re after a nicer interior and a more appealing infotainment system, the Audi Q5 could be your SUV of choice.
This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Carlos Lago is a senior writer at Edmunds. Twitter: @carloslago