Behind the wheel
Driving position, visibility, build quality
Elevation is one of the key reasons why people fawn over SUVs, and with their commanding vistas of the road ahead, all three of our contenders tick that box. There are differences between them, though.
The Macan cocoons you more than the others with its higher windowline and taller central console, which is angled towards the driver. If you prefer a sportier driving position, it’s well suited, apart from two things. First, and unlike in the others, electrically adjustable lumbar support isn’t standard; you have to get the £1044 Comfort Seats for that. Without it, lower back support is poor. Second, the centre console bulges out, forcing your left leg awkwardly over to the right.
Overall, the XC60 has the most natural driving position and is the easiest to get comfortable in. Like the Macan, its steering wheel has more reach adjustment than the Q5’s, and the shapely sports seats in this R-Design trim are firm but superbly supportive on a long journey. You get eight-way electric seat adjustment as standard in the Macan, though, whereas the XC60 has only electric height adjustment. In the Q5, you have to adjust the driver’s seat manually.
That mild grumble aside, the Q5’s interior is the easiest to use. It has the clearest dashboard layout and all of its important buttons are merely a slight elbow extension away. The optional Virtual Cockpit digital instrument display fitted to our test car also shows sat-nav, media and phone information just behind the steering wheel.
The XC60 gets digital instruments as standard, but the information displayed isn’t as fulsome. The real issue, though, is its lack of buttons. Minimalist Scandi design may work in the home, but having to delve into the touchscreen while driving to adjust even simple things, such as the interior temperature, is both a faff and a distraction.
Conversely, the Macan’s dashboard is festooned with buttons; trying to find the one you want is like searching for that elusive Tangy Orange Creme in a box of Cadbury’s Roses. At least with familiarity you can learn to feel your way around them, making it better than the XC60.
The Audi also wins for interior quality. Everything from switches that click with precision to millimetre-perfect panel gaps put it in a class above its rivals. The others are still very good, mind.
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