New Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60

The new plug-in hybrid version of Audi’s Q5 large SUV promises low running costs and stonking performance. Does that make it a match for its Volvo XC60 rival?...

New Audi Q5 vs Volvo XC60

The contenders

Audi Q5 55 TFSIe quattro S line Competition

  • List price - £54,940
  • Target Price - £53,284

The Q5 is one of the best large SUVs, and this new plug-in hybrid version broadens its appeal.

Volvo XC60 T8 AWD R-Design Polestar

  • List price - £55,750
  • Target Price - £50,252 

With the same ethos as the Q5, the XC60 T8 gives good pace yet also low CO2 emissions.

Ever thought about going vegetarian? Feeding yourself would probably be cheaper, while your carbon footprint would shrink. The trouble is, you might have to go hungry on your annual holiday to France, where the local restaurant serves only steak, boeuf bourguignon and chateaubriand.

That’s where the flexitarian approach comes in, offering many of the same financial and environmental benefits, only with a bit more, well, flexibility. The equivalent in the car world is the plug-in hybrid. These can drive on battery power alone for reasonable distances, meaning they can be good for both the planet and your pocket. But they can also call on a good old petrol engine for longer trips and when there are no charging points to hand.

Sound appealing? If so, you might be very interested in the new 55 TFSIe version of one of our favourite large SUVs, the Audi Q5. It retains most of what’s great about regular versions but promises an electric-only range of 26 miles and, as a bonus, the sort of eye-widening acceleration you’d usually expect from a sports car.

But Volvo had the idea first; it’s been selling a plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 for a couple of years now, and it promises similar performance and an extra mile of range. Their prices are nearly the same, so which is the better buy?

Audi Q5 driving


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Both cars have a 2.0-litre petrol engine and an electric motor that can work either independently or together. When they’re combining forces, the XC60 has the edge for outright power. However, both cars took 5.4sec to get from 0-60mph and the Q5 feels more composed under hard acceleration – especially in slippery conditions.

For any plug-in hybrid to really make sense, though, you’ll need to use the electric motor on its own as often as possible. To do this, you need to select EV mode, which tells the engine to stay switched off, although it will fire up if you floor the accelerator pedal. Performance is perfectly adequate without doing that, especially in the Q5. But in our tests, the Q5 managed 18.6 miles on electricity, compared with 21.9 miles for the XC60.

The two cars are similarly quiet around town, but the XC60 whips up a little more wind noise and tyre roar at motorway speeds. On the plus side, it has the more consistent, feelsome brake pedal, making it the easier car in which to shed speed without doing a passable impression of a learner.

Volvo XC60 driving

The XC60, when fitted with the optional air suspension (£1500) and 21in wheels (19in is standard) of our test car, does a fine job of coping with speed bumps and the like, but it fidgets annoyingly over smaller bumps and there’s the odd sharp jolt over potholes. In contrast, the Q5, riding on its standard steel suspension and 20in wheels, stays more composed on craggy roads but is that bit less forgiving over speed humps.

While far from being wallowy barges, neither car feels as light on its toes in plug-in hybrid form as the regular petrol and diesel equivalents – and the blame for that lies with the extra weight of the battery and electric motor.

Still, the Q5 handles in a more confidence-inspiring manner on your typical twisting B-road, partly because its steering gives you a better sense of connection to the front wheels and partly because its body leans less when turning.  

Next: Behind the wheel >>

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