New Audi Q5 vs Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Mercedes GLC
Does Audi's classy new Q5 have what it takes to leap ahead of its biggest prestige SUV rivals, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Mercedes GLC?...
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 S line
List price £40,290
Target Price £38,644
New kid on the block promises Q7 luxury and refinement in a cheaper and smaller package
Land Rover Discovery Sport TD4 180 HSE Black auto
List price £41,720
Target Price £39,436
One of the very best large SUVs and the only one of our contenders with seven seats
Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 d AMG Line
List price £41,025
Target Price £38,755
More power and lower CO2 emissions than its rivals. It’s stylish and well equipped, too
Come to us with deep pockets and a penchant for huge SUVs and we’ll point you in the direction of the brilliant Audi Q7. But the reality is not everyone wants a five-metre long behemoth that’s cumbersome to park and costs a small fortune to buy. So, what if you could have all of the Q7’s strengths in a cheaper and more compact package?
Well, that’s exactly what many will be hoping for from the all-new Audi Q5. It’s more than £10k cheaper to buy than its bigger brother, costs suitably less to run and yet is still a practical family car, despite its smaller footprint and lower driving position.
However, a price of around £40,000 puts the new Audi bang in the territory of the ultra-practical Land Rover Discovery Sport and the über-stylish Mercedes GLC, so which of these SUVs should you spend your money on?
What are they like to drive?
The Mercedes has the largest and most powerful engine and is, unsurprisingly, the nippiest of our trio. No matter whether you press your right foot to the floor and use the automatic gearbox’s kickdown function to build speed quickly, or rely on the engine’s low-rev muscle to accelerate calmly, the Mercedes always has its nose in front.
The Audi isn’t far behind and is easily swift enough, but the Land Rover is a surprising slowcoach. Even with just a single passenger on board it took more than 11 seconds to reach 60mph from a standstill – longer than a Volkswagen Up city car we tested in similar conditions. With bums on four or more seats and a boot full of baggage, you have to really work the engine hard to get anywhere in a hurry.
That would be less of a chore if the Land Rover’s engine was quiet, but it’s actually a bit gruff. The Mercedes emits an unpleasant diesel growl when you’re accelerating, too, but at least it keeps itself to itself at a steady cruise. In this company, the Audi is a real sanctuary because not only does it have the quietest engine, it also isolates you best from wind noise. Wind and road noise is most prominent in the Land Rover.
All three cars have slightly flawed automatic gearboxes. In the Audi and, even more so, the Land Rover, there’s often a frustrating pause between you pressing the accelerator pedal and the car surging forward, whereas, the Mercedes tends to shift gears too abruptly at low speeds.
Despite its name, the Discovery Sport isn’t at all sporty to drive. It’s the most reluctant to change direction quickly, and the Mercedes and Audi also grip harder and lean less through bends. Ultimately, the Audi is the most agile, although we do wish its steering provided a bit more feedback. Yes, it’s preferable to the Mercedes’, which weights up in a very unnatural way when turning into corners, but the Land Rover’s is most feelsome and precise.
The Land Rover’s whopping 20in alloys (standard on HSE Black trim) do ride comfort no favours, especially at low speeds. The Audi is more forgiving over battered surfaces and potholes, despite our test car’s sports suspension (a no-cost option on S line trim). Our Mercedes had optional air suspension (£1495), so it was blessed with the most comfortable ride, although wider experience tells us the standard sports suspension fitted to AMG Line trim doesn’t soak up bumps nearly as well.