Used test: Audi SQ5 vs Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

If you want a fast and sporty SUV at a reduced price take a look at these two humdingers. But which one should you choose? We spill the beans...

New Audi SQ5 vs Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

The Contenders

Audi SQ5 3.0 V6 TFSI 354

  • List price when new £51,200
  • Price today £42,300 
  • Available from 2017-present

The SQ5 is a classy and practical large SUV with mammoth performance and a huge thirst

Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

  • List price when new £49,005
  • Price today £39,500
  • Available from 2016-present

The GLC 43 is fast and practical and makes a lovely noise, but can it compare with the plush SQ5?

Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

It’s funny how things come full circle. A decade ago, if you wanted a fast SUV it simply had to have a whacking great petrol engine. But just a few years ago you’d have been viewed as very eccentric if you opted for anything other than diesel power.

Well, diesel may not be completely off the menu at the moment, but it’s certainly a less appetising proposition than it has been for a long time. And that probably explains why Audi took the decision to swap diesel for petrol power in its high-performance Audi SQ5 when it launched this version back in 2017. The 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 under the bonnet pumped out a formidable 349bhp and yet still promised a respectable 34mpg.

The Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 – based on the Mercedes GLC – is an SUV very much in the same mould. However, its 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 packs an even bigger punch than the Audi’s (at 362bhp), hinting at more eye-widening acceleration. Both these cars have been around for more than a couple of years now, and buyers looking for a fast and sporting SUV could do a lot worse than take a look at a used example of either car. But which one makes the most sense? Read on to find out.

New Audi SQ5 vs Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

What are they like to drive? 

Curiously, despite being lighter and a lot more powerful than the previous diesel SQ5, this new petrol model is, by Audi’s own admission, slightly slower out of the blocks. ‘Slower’ is, of course, a relative term, because this is still a seriously quick car that we managed to launch to 60mph from rest in 5.4sec. The GLC is quicker, though. Much quicker. It catapulted itself to 60mph in just 4.9sec and dishes out a bigger adrenaline hit when you put your foot down. Yes, that’s partly because it gives you a bigger shove in the back, but also because the GLC’s engine howls away more evocatively. Well, at least you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the engine making all the noise; some of it actually comes through the speakers, but it doesn’t sound at all like a computer game.

Audi has used the same trick to ‘enhance’ the sound of the SQ5’s engine, but the noise isn’t as loud or as tuneful and doesn’t encourage you to squeeze your right foot at every available opportunity. If you’re thinking you wouldn’t be that churlish anyway, then the SQ5 is certainly the more peaceful option. But if that is your mindset, you’d be better off buying an altogether less performance-focused SUV.

You might have heard that modern sports SUVs handle just as well as sports cars. Well, the truth is, they don’t – although that’s not to say you can’t have fun on a country road. In fact, considering that both of our contenders weigh the best part of two tonnes, they go around corners remarkably nimbly. Which model is best depends on how quickly you’re going: when you’re just driving briskly, the GLC turns in sharply and feels stable, while its steering communicates surprisingly well. The SQ5 is composed but rather sterile by comparison.

New Audi SQ5 vs Mercedes-AMG GLC 43

Push harder and the tables turn. You quickly realise the SQ5 has much more grip to exploit and its nose stays stuck resolutely to your chosen line at surprisingly high speeds. Meanwhile, the GLC begins to come unstuck: its nose feels heavier and its front tyres aren’t as eager to go where you’re trying to steer them. The car’s electronics are also too intrusive, holding back the engine’s power and stopping you from accelerating out of slower corners, allowing the SQ5 to romp away into the distance.

These two may be at the sporty end of the SUV pyramid, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to suffer a punishing ride. Good news: you don’t have to – even if you can’t resist the optional 21in alloys, which both of our test cars came fitted with. Our SQ5 also came with the optional air suspension and was comfortable at all speeds and on all road surfaces. The GLC gets air suspension as standard but is firmer around town; you feel your head tossing from side to side over uneven surfaces.