Audi SQ5 3.0 V6 TFSI quattro
List price £51,200
Target Price £49,584
Recently beat the Mercedes-AMG GLC 43, but how will it fare against pricier opponents?
Porsche Macan Turbo Performance Package
List price £70,760
Target Price £70,760
With 434bhp, this is the most powerful Macan yet. Will brute force win this test?
Range Rover Velar P380 HSE R-Dyanamic
List price £72,630
Target Price £72,630
Hottest Velar is powered by the 3.0-litre supercharged V6 from the Jaguar F-Type
If you’re the kind of person who likes to have your cake, eat it and then demand that your favourite pâtisserie makes you another, this test will be right up your street.
A posh SUV is already luxurious, practical and able to handle a wide variety of terrains. Put a 300bhp-plus V6 petrol engine in it and you’ve got something that can give plenty of sports cars a fright, too.
To see which feisty 4x4 is best, we’ve got the most potent version of the new Range Rover Velar, the P380. Its supercharged 3.0-litre engine pumps out a thumping 375bhp, which should be just the ticket in the most road-biased Range Rover yet.
For slightly less money than the Velar, you could have the Porsche Macan Turbo in Performance Package spec with an even heftier 434bhp. Completing our trio is the ‘sensible’ performance SUV, the latest Audi SQ5. It may have ‘only’ 349bhp, but then it does cost some £20,000 less than the others.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
Since all three of these SUVs are the performance figureheads of their respective ranges, it seems only right to start by discussing straight-line speed. The Macan is easily the most rapid, out-accelerating its rivals with ease. The Velar and SQ5 are closely matched when you floor them while already on the move, but the SQ5 launches you away from a standstill far more aggressively.
You’ll also notice that the SQ5 and Macan’s turbocharged engines pull harder than the Velar’s supercharged unit at low revs – useful when you have a full load of passengers and their luggage. Mind you, the Velar actually has the heaviest towing capacity, of 2500kg, compared with 2400kg for the other two.
To transfer all that horsepower onto the road, each car here has an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive. The SQ5 and Velar use conventional ’boxes with eight gears, while the Macan has a dual-clutch unit with seven gears. All shift smoothly when you’re driving normally, although the Velar’s can be dim-witted and dithering when you pull away from a standstill. When you use the shifter paddles behind the steering wheels to change gear manually, the Macan’s gearbox responds the quickest.
The Macan’s driver-focused feel continues on winding back roads. Its steering has a reassuringly hefty weight, so it’s easy to place the car’s nose where you want it. You don’t get a huge sensation of what the front tyres are doing, but that’s also true of the SQ5 and Velar. Once turned in to a corner, the Macan resists body roll incredibly well. Getting back on the accelerator, you can feel power being sent to the rear wheels to get the front neatly tucked in, making country roads surprisingly fun.
That said, the SQ5 actually has more front-end grip, allowing you to enter corners at even higher speeds. You can feel its quattro four-wheel drive system shuffling power around more delicately than in the Macan to help keep the car neatly balanced through bends. True, there is a little more body lean than in the Macan, but there’s nowhere near as much sway as the Velar exhibits.
As a result, the Velar’s body acts like a pendulum. Drive through an S-bend at a speed that would be a breeze in the other two and you’ll really struggle. This wallowing can make the Velar’s rear end move around a surprising amount before the stability control abruptly reins things in.
But we suspect none of these SUVs will be cornering on their door handles on a regular basis. When driven sedately, their air suspension systems (standard on the Velar, £1004 on the Macan and £1000 on the SQ5) can be softened to provide impressive comfort, even with whopping 21in alloys (standard on the Velar and optional on the other two).
The SQ5 has the comfiest ride, although some might prefer the slightly firmer but more tightly controlled Macan. The Velar is the softest and rides smoothly on the motorway, but it’s the most easily upset by patchy road surfaces.
All three are pleasantly refined, with muted wind and road noise.
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