Thanks to their utility and ever-improving MPG, the current automotive trend is an increased interest in crossovers and SUVs over sedans.
It’s therefore no surprise that demand for the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 is sky high. You might, however, be surprised to find that the Q5 and X3 are the top-selling models of each of these two German automakers in the US.
Some drivers have a strong, almost obsessive preference for either the Audi or BMW brand, but most of us simply want to go with the better vehicle. And in the case of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the choice is extra difficult because the similarities are so extensive. So to clear things up, let’s compare the Q5 and X3 head-to-head and crown one of these compact luxury crossover SUVs as the winner.
The Audi A5 and BMW X3 cost around the same.
The Audi Q5 is available in 3 trims: Premium, Premium Plus and Prestige. All three feature the same 2.0 liter engine and quattro all-wheel drive, but higher-end trims add extras like a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control and improved sound system.
The base Audi Q5 trim, the Premium, costs $42,950.
The BMW X3 is also available in 3 trims, but each trim is mechanically different from one another. The $41,000 rear-wheel drive sDrive30i, the $43,000 all-wheel drive xDrive30i and the $54,650 high-performance M40i.
The most comparable Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are of course the Q5 Premium and X3 xDrive30i, and there’s only a $50 difference between the two!
Standard features are very similar between both Q5 Premium and X3 xDrive30i, so from a price perspective they’re neck and neck.
Both SUVs are attractive in their own right. You decide the winner!
In 2018, the second generation of Q5 was finally born, completely overhauling the exterior and interior. The BMW X3 also had a generational change in 2018 with the release of the third-generation X3. With no major design makeovers likely to happen before 2024, both SUVs are incredibly fresh right now.
The X3 is distinctly BMW with its dual-kidney front grilles. The Q5 is also distinctly Audi with its Singleframe® front grille.
Both crossovers look terrific in their own right and don’t have any glaring styling faults so it’s impossible to objectively say one is better looking than the other.
The Audi Q5’s interior is more luxurious than the BMW X3’s.
When comparing luxury SUVs, the interior quality is one of the key aspects to consider.
Both the Audi’s and BMW’s interiors offer upscale materials, exquisite detailing and various luxury conveniences.
While the sportier interior of the BMW will appeal to some, Audi definitely knocked the ball out of the park with the interior of the second-generation Q5. Audi paid incredible attention to detail, from the precision of the knurled dials to the perfect angularity on the indicator stalks. It just feels a touch more modern and classy than the X3’s interior.
The Audi also has better technology, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto coming as standard. By comparison Android Auto is unavailable with the X3, while Apple CarPlay is an optioned extra.The Q5’s infotainment touchscreen display is 7 inches, bigger than the 6.5 inch display of the X3. Both displays can be optionally upgraded to 8.3 inches.
The BMW X3 can fit more cargo than the Audi Q5.
Comparing the exterior sizes of the two, the X3 is slightly bigger. It is 185.9 inches long (vs. 183.6 inches) and its wheelbase is 1.8 inches longer than the Q5.
As we would expect from the bigger exterior, the BMW X3 has more interior space for cargo. With the rear row of seats upright, the X3 can hold up to 28.7 cu-ft of cargo, whereas the Q5 can only hold up to 25.1 cu-ft.
The difference is even bigger when the rear seats are folded down. The X3 then has a cargo capacity of 62.7 cu-ft, whereas the Q5 has a lower capacity of 53.1 cu-ft. To put that into perspective, you can load an additional large suitcase into the back of the BMW X3 when the back seats are folded down.
The Audi Q5 offers more passenger space but the BMW X3’s rear-row middle seat is better than the Q5’s.
While the BMW X3 has significantly more space for cargo, the Audi Q5 does do something to make up for its inferior cargo capacity with a very slightly roomier cabin.
|Audi Q5||BMW X3|
|Headroom (in)||41.7 / 39.3||41.1 / 39.1|
|Legroom (in)||41.0 / 37.8||40.3 / 36.4|
|Shoulder room (in)||57.5 / 56.5||57.6 / 56.0|
Measurements for front/back rows
The difference between the cabin room of the two crossovers is tiny compared to the difference in cargo room. However, for those who very rarely fill out the trunk, the slightly bigger cabin room might be a bigger deal.
While both SUVs can seat five passengers, the X3 does a better job of accommodating 5 passengers because its middle seat on the rear row is more comfortable than that of the Audi Q5.
Concerning the quality of the seats themselves, both are equally luxurious. Both feature leatherette upholstery and power-adjustable front seats. The Audi Q5’s rear seats can also slide back and forth for extra rear-passenger legroom.
Each crossover SUV has rear-row LATCH connectors for child safety seats. IIHS rated the Q5’s LATCH system higher than the BMW X3’s, giving the Audi another small win in the seating comparison.
The engines on both SUVs are equivalent.
Both the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have 2.0-liter four cylinder engines. They both produce 248 horsepower, but the Audi Q5 can produce more torque (273 lb-ft vs 258 lb-ft).
The result is that both the Q5 and X3 perform almost identically when it comes to speed and acceleration. The Audi Q5 accelerates marginally quicker, going from 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, whereas the BMW X3 takes 6.0 seconds. Both crossovers are speed-limited to 130 mph.
The BMW X3 has a superior transmission.
The BMW’s engine is matched with the legendary ZF 8HP 8-speed torque converter gearbox, whereas the Audi Q5 has a 7-speed S-tronic dual-clutch DSG.
Both gearboxes present the driver with the option to manually shift between gears, and downshifting and upshifting is very smooth on both. However, the general consensus is that the ZF 8HP is a slightly stronger and more reliable transmission, so we’re going to give the X3 the edge here.
The BMW X3 has very slightly superior fuel efficiency.
The slowly improving fuel efficiency across compact SUVs means that these vehicles are no longer the gas guzzlers they once were.
The Audi Q5 achieves a gas mileage of 22/27 mpg (city/highway) and has a combined EPA estimate of 24 mpg. By comparison, the BMW X3 boasts a slightly better fuel efficiency of 22/29 mpg (city highway) for a combined 25 combined mpg.
Though the difference is small, over time this can amount to real gas cost savings being made and a smaller carbon footprint.
Both the Q5 and X3 have a maximum towing capacity of 4,400-lbs.
Ride and Handling
The BMW X3 offers a superior drive experience.
Concerning ride quality, both SUVs have a very comfortable ride with absorbent suspensions and quiet cabins.
However, BMW have built their reputation around delivering the ultimate driving experience, and unsurprisingly the BMW X3 is the more exciting SUV to drive. From more responsive steering to louder growls at higher revs, spirited drivers will love the X3.
By contrast, the Audi’s dual-clutch transmission can feel a little dopey during city driving and the steering feels over-assisted.
Crash Testing Scores
Both crossovers performed well in crash tests.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash safety testing, both the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have excellent safety. 2019 models of the Q5 and X3 both achieved perfect five-star ratings across all frontal and side crash tests, and were awarded five-stars overall. They both earned 4-stars in rollover testing, with the Audi Q5 being very slightly less likely to rollover between the two.
Moving onto testing carried out by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), both crossovers again fared very well. They both earned the highest rating of ‘Good’ across all crashworthiness tests and got the highest rating for their frontal crash prevention systems.
The BMW X3 has more safety assists as standard, whereas they have to be optioned on the Audi Q5.
The 2019 Audi Q5 has a rear view camera and various standard safety features in the base-level Premium trim (Audi Pre Sense Basic). However, Audi Pre Sense City features (pre-collision braking, pedestrian warning and forward collision warning) do not come as standard.
By comparison, the X3 has more safety features as standard. Besides the rearview camera and parking sensors, features like forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and emergency braking all come as standard.
Although both SUVs can be optioned with numerous safety assists, the BMW X3 has more features coming as standard and therefore wins in this department.
And The Winner Is… BMW X3
This was an incredibly close head-to-head.
The Audi Q5 is definitely an Audi: conservative and classy. It beats the BMW X3 in some aspects: a superior interior and newer technology. Passengers will also appreciate the extra bit of leg and headroom it provides.
However, the BMW manages to score points with a larger cargo capacity, better fuel economy, more standard safety features and most of all, a better driving experience.
While this is just the way our scoring works, the truth is both are incredible compact SUVs. They both definitely warrant a test-drive, especially if you have no brand-preference between BMW and Audi.