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Used test: Audi Q5 vs Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Mercedes GLC

You can save almost £10,000 on all of these prestige SUVs if you buy them at two years old, but which one should you choose?...

Audi Q5 vs Land Rover Discovery Sport vs Mercedes GLE

The Contenders

Audi Q5 40 TDI quattro S line

List price when new £43,395
Price today  £34,000*
Available from 2017-present

Classy and refined, the Q5 is a a great premium SUV and a fine used buy


Land Rover Discovery Sport D180 AWD SE

List price when new £43,175
Price today £34,000*
Available from 2019-present

Effortlessly rugged and stylish, plus one of the most practical cars in its class


Mercedes GLC 220d 4Matic Sport

List price when new £39,820
Price today £30,000*
Available from 2019-present

Temptingly priced as a used buy, but is it the best all-rounder of the three?

*Price today is based on a 2019 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing


Large SUVs are all the rage these days, with buyers drawn to their rugged looks, raised-up driving positions and huge practicality. 

For years, one of our favourites has been the Audi Q5, and it’s been so successful with the buying public that it’s one of the firm’s best-selling cars. This latest iteration has been around since 2017, and that popularity means there are plenty of examples now available on the used car forecourts, often at temptingly low prices. 

Audi Q5 driving

Here, we’re pitting it against two of its closest rivals, the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Mercedes GLC. All of the cars are tested here in 2.0-litre diesel-engined form and with four-wheel drive. Equally importantly, all three of them are two years old and could save you almost £10,000 over the cost of buying new. 

But which one should you put on your driveway? Let battle commence...


Driving

Performance, ride, handling, refinement

While all three have 2.0-litre diesel engines, it’s the 191bhp GLC that’s the most muscular and the 178bhp Discovery Sport that’s the weakest. That might not seem like a big gap, but on our test track the GLC was more than three seconds quicker than the Discovery Sport when sprinting from 0-60mph. As for the Q5, it’s around a second slower than the GLC, so it’s by no means slow.

To its credit, the Discovery Sport doesn’t feel overly sluggish on the road, but A-road overtakes and short sliproads cause less stress in its rivals. Not helping matters is the automatic gearbox’s hesitancy, which is especially noticeable when you’re accelerating from a standstill. That said, the Q5’s isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed; the GLC’s is the most responsive. All shift smoothly on the move, but the Q5’s has a tendency to be a little jerky at low speeds.

Land Rover Discovery Sport driving

With regards to engines, you’re aware these cars are diesel-powered at tickover, but all three are virtually inaudible at a steady cruise. The Q5 sends the fewest vibrations through the steering wheel and is smoothest while accelerating, with the GLC not too far behind.

The Discovery Sport sounds the gruffest, but it’s still impressively smooth and there’s very little road noise. The Q5 is the quietest, with noise from the suspension, tyres and wind being well isolated, while the GLC kicks up the most wind whistle on the motorway.

The Discovery Sport’s mild hybrid tech doesn’t help with its porkiness, though. That is not only a key reason for its so-so acceleration but also why it feels the most ponderous on a country road. Turn in to a corner quickly and it leans the most, while its stability control system intervenes sharply if you try to push hard. At least this tight electronic grip ensures that the car never feels wayward. The steering is precise but a little too aggressive in its response and keen to self-centre.

The GLC is more agile, feeling keener to turn quickly and holding the road tighter. You’re therefore less likely to trouble its limits, but the electronics are quick to intervene if you push hard.

Mercedes GLC driving

There are no such issues with the Q5; it feels more like a well-sorted hatchback than a big SUV. Yes, it leans a bit, but it finds the most grip and has the most precise, naturally weighted steering. If you enjoy a brisk drive, it’s the best by a fair margin.

The trade-off is that the Q5 has the firmest ride, although you’d never call it uncomfortable; while you’re aware of imperfections and bumps passing beneath you, the blows of even vicious potholes are softened. The GLC initially feels softer, but it slams more noticeably over broken roads and isn’t as composed over crests.

However, the master of waft is the Discovery Sport, which is exceptionally comfy, particularly on the motorway. The only caveat is that it’s more prone to thudding over potholes than the Q5, but then that’s partly down to our test car’s 20in wheels, which were an option when the car was new.