New Audi SQ5 vs Porsche Macan S

Can the latest SQ5's switch to diesel power give it the edge over our reigning sports SUV champ, the petrol-fuelled Macan S?...

Audi SQ5 vs Morsche Macan S

The contenders

New Audi SQ5 3.0 V6 TDI quattro

  • List price - £55,035
  • Target Price - £50,924

The SQ5 returns, this time with diesel power. It’s a brave move by Audi, but is it a good one?


Porsche Macan S 2.9 V6

  • List price - £50,635
  • Target Price - £50,635

The sweet spot of the Porsche Macan range and our current Sports SUV of the Year.


Do you remember when buying a diesel SUV wasn’t just unfashionable but downright frowned upon? Well, you should, because despite what some manufacturers might like to tell us, that time hasn’t really passed.

Look at recent sales figures and it’s clear that most people are still reticent about returning to the black pump. Why, then, has Audi – a manufacturer that helped give diesel such a bad name in the first place – decided to rip the petrol engine out of its sporty SQ5 and replace it with a new V6 diesel?

Audi SQ5 rear

At least two reasons might explain this unorthodox approach. First, petrol-powered sports SUVs are thirsty beasts; when we tested the previous-generation SQ5, it averaged just 24mpg during gentle driving. And second, Audi has been working hard to clean up its act – quite literally.

The SQ5’s new engine employs a number of clever features to reduce emissions, including a 48-volt mild hybrid electrical system that allows the car to coast for up to 40 seconds with the engine off when you lift off the accelerator.

Our research shows that frugality is a bonus rather than the be-all and end-all for most sports SUV buyers, though. So, to see if the SQ5 is also a class leader in crucial areas such as acceleration, agility and interior quality, we’re pitting it against a rival that has come to define the class: our current Sports SUV of the Year, the petrol Porsche Macan S.

Porsche Macan S rear

Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Although these cars drink from different fuel pumps, they’re almost inseparable when it comes to outright acceleration. With their launch control functions engaged to maximise acceleration from a standing start, both use their four-wheel drive systems to find absurd amounts of traction, rocketing from a standstill to 60mph in less than five seconds. A few years ago, you’d have needed a serious sports car for that kind of performance.

Raw numbers can tell you only so much, though. In the real world, the SQ5 and Macan deliver their performance in distinctly different ways.

Audi SQ5 front

In the SQ5, there’s not a lot to be gained from revving the engine to the redline. Instead, it’s better to leave the automatic gearbox to its own devices and use the engine’s deep reserves of low-rev muscle to waft you down the road. It’s very effective, if not particularly thrilling.

The Macan’s V6 petrol engine still pulls pretty well from low revs, but there really is an advantage to revving it out, aided by a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox that fires through shifts quicker than the SQ5’s eight-speeder. Extracting the best from the Macan’s engine is genuinely exciting.

This driver-focused feel continues on demanding country roads. The Macan’s steering is more naturally weighted than the SQ5’s, and although the Audi has more front-end grip, the Macan allows you to have more fun as you approach its limits, thanks to its more playful balance and better body control.

Porsche Macan S front

Of course, it’s unlikely these SUVs will be cornering quite that hard on a frequent basis, which is why day-to-day comfort is also important. Here, the Macan pulls farther ahead. With both SUVs on adaptive suspension (a standard feature on the SQ5 but an £816 option on its rival), it’s the supple yet tightly controlled Macan that feels the more pliant car, both in town and on the motorway.

True, the SQ5 lets in slightly less wind noise, but it generates more road noise over coarse surfaces. And while both engines settle down nicely at a steady cruise, it’s the Macan’s that sounds sweeter and more natural when you put your foot down.


Next: Behind the wheel >>

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