Audi Q5 vs BMW X3

In the high fashion world of Sport Activity Vehicles, two trucklets reign supreme. One is the 2012 BMW X3, which combines serious driving acumen with the practicality of a tall wagon. And the other is the 2012 Audi Q5, which uses a palatial cabin and Quattro all-wheel drive to woo young professional types. This is a high-stakes game, and the winner gets bragging rights in the gym parking lot. So let’s see how they stack up…

2012 Audi Q5

Based on the VW Group’s Modular Longitudinal Platform (which also underpins the 2012 Audi A4, and 2012 Bentley Continental), the 2012 Audi Q5 isn’t a serious off-roader. But it can hold its own in most non-pavement conditions. To that end, there’s 6-inches of axle travel, 8-inches of ground clearance, and 25-degree approach & departure angles. You won’t be scaling a mountain with your 2012 Audi Q5, but snow drifts and muddy soccer fields won’t be a problem.

Audi Q5

Most vehicles in the MallUV class aren’t made to traverse the Serengeti. They’re designed to handle the rigors of the South Point Mall parking lot, while providing you with enough room for the kids, and the shopping. There’s comfortable seating for 4 adults, with one unfortunate child squeezed in the middle. You get 29 cu-ft of ‘stuff room’ behind the seats, and if you fold all of the seats down, you’ll have 57 cu-ft of room.

The interior of the 2012 Audi Q5 is exactly what you expect from an Audi; Ergonomic Perfection. All of the important switchgear is placed in easy reach, and the switches themselves are a joy to operate. The ‘TV’ in the center stack isn’t as big as the one in the X3, and Navigation is only standard on the higher trims. But who cares when the cabin looks this nice.

On the road, you’ll love the sport sedan feel that you get from the Quattro AWD system. The 2012 Audi Q5 dispatches curves like a seasoned short-order cook flipping pancakes. Body roll is kept in check, and the ride is surprisingly comfortable. The electric steering system still feels a bit artificial. But then, you can’t expect much from sensors.

Powering this uber-cool mall chariot is your choice of a 201-hp 2.0 liter Turbo, or a throaty 270-hp 3.2 liter V6. The gutsy little turbo makes a juicy 258 lb-ft of torque, and it rarely feels ‘out of breath’. Gas mileage figures are a respectable 20/27/22. While the thirstier V6 drinks dino-juice at a rate of 18/23/20. For most people, the 2012 Audi Q5 2.0T will be the most logical choice.

2012 BMW X3

The first generation of the BMW X3 was an absolute travesty. It felt cheap. It looked like the result of a middle school art contest. And it rode like a Cadillac…going down a gravel road on 4 flat tires. But the 2012 BMW X3 is, well, not like that at all.

BMW X3

Now built in Alabama, the 2012 BMW X3 still handles like a sport sedan. The suspension has some actual ‘give’ to it, and bumps no longer send a searing pain directly to your spine. You can option a Dynamic Handling (see: Sport) package to give your X3 some seriously aggressive moves. With this package, the standard Xdrive AWD system is reprogrammed to send maximum engine torque to the rear wheels. But if you want something that handles like a ‘sport sedan’…go buy a sport sedan.

The interior of the 2012 BMW X3 is much nicer than before. Materials feel top-notch, and the build quality is impeccable (high praise for an American Made car). You get the same luxury-cocoon feeling that you get in the Q5, even if the center stack does resemble some sort of German ATM machine. But the 8.8-inch display, with its myriad of ‘connected-distraction’ functions, will sufficiently, uhm, distract you.

Under the hood, the 2012 BMW X3 reminds us why we love BMW. Both the 2012 BMW X3 xDrive28i, & 2012 BMW X3 xDrive35i use the brilliant 3.0 liter straight-6. In the xDrive28i, the wonderful sounding 6-pot makes 240-hp (19/25/21), while the X3 xDrive35i gets a twin-scroll turbo and 300-hp (19/26/21). With either engine, you’ll have eager power delivery, and that classic Bavarian exhaust note. Now, if they could only do something about those ridiculously long names…

In the practicality front, the 2012 BMW X3 has comfy seating for 4 adults, with one unlucky ‘small person’ in the middle. Behind the seats, you have nearly 28 cu-ft of room for your shopping & scuba gear. Fold the seats down, and the cargo hold swells to an impressive 63 cu-ft. In terms of roominess, the Bimmer beats the Audi hands down.

So the conclusion of the Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 comparison is: The 2012 BMW X3 is an athletic, visceral Sport Activity Vehicle. And the 2012 Audi Q5 is suave, and sophisticated. If you were to liken these two Cute-Utes to people, the Q5 would prefer its martinis shaken, not stirred. The Bimmer on the other hand, would be the guy that only drinks protein shakes & Gatorade.