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SUVs are such a widely accepted part of the automotive landscape these days that few batted an eyelid when Jaguar, after 80-odd years of racing cars, and manufacturing sporty coupes and sports sedans, released the F-Pace soft-roader in 2016. (And this, after years of denying it would tread on sister company Land Rover’s toes, of course.)

The Macan also managed to slip into Porsche showrooms relatively controversy-free in 2014, with the bigger Cayenne having borne the brunt of protests from purists more than a decade earlier.

And as for the Audi Q5 – well, its 2008 debut was merely a natural follow-up to 2006’s Q7 and the company could only be expected to create rivals for its compatriot competitors, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.

Sales results, of course, have justified all three models. The first-generation Audi Q5 was the best-selling luxury SUV locally and globally for a sustained period, and the F-Pace and Macan currently account for about half of Jaguar and Porsche sales in Australia.

And they’re hoping for more with the two new variants featured here. The Porsche Macan (plain, with no variant title) is the first ever four-cylinder version, joining the six-cylinder diesel and petrols that Porsche Australia initially said would be the smallest engines offered. But a back-flip establishes it as the cheapest Porsche you can buy: $80,110.

The Jaguar F-Pace offered four-cylinders from the off, though they were diesel only. The 25t badge introduces a four-pot turbo petrol from the same Ingenium modular engine family.

Audi’s second-generation Q5 is properly all-new – having arrived only mid-year. Here, it’s represented by a limited-edition version of the 2.0 TFSI S Line Black (and still available at time of writing).

With an S sport suspension fitted, it will help us answer one of the pertinent questions here: can the Q5 now mix it with the segment’s sportiest luxury SUVs where the previous generation struggled.

For the Macan, can it maintain its dynamic star status with a downsized engine?

And with the Jaguar, where does the F-Pace sit in terms of sportiness and luxuriousness when thrown into the middle of this Germanic sandwich?

(And if you’re wondering where the BMW X3 is, the new, third-generation model doesn’t arrive until November.)


Pricing and Specification

The Audi Q5 Sport 2.0 TFSI quattro would be the most affordable model here, at $73,211, though our test car is one of the limited launch edition S Line Blacks, which retails for $86,611.

S Line, firstly, adds sportier-looking bumpers, rear roof spoiler and 20-inch Audi Sport ‘turbine’ wheels. Black switches the rims to anthracite black while other elements include sport suspension, black exterior trim parts including roof rails and side mirror caps, Quantum Grey paint with contrasting Manhattan (dark) grey lower body sections, and diamond-patterned Nappa leather for the upholstery.

Even if you stripped all that away, however, the Sport 2.0 TFSI seems uncharacteristically well equipped for a sub-$75,000 luxury SUV.

Sport, currently the only trim level offered with the TFSI, already offers 20-inch alloy wheels, and brings adaptive LED headlights, Premium Sound system, MMI Navigation Plus with 7.0-inch display, and Audi’s smart Virtual Cockpit graphic instrument cluster.

It then  adds active safety highlights such as radar cruise control, anti-dazzling high beam control, Pre-Sense Collision, and Turn Assist that can brake automatically to prevent you from turning into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

All Audi Q5 models come with Pre-Sense autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert for reversing, auto ‘gesture’ tailgate, and Exit Warning that flashes a red light in the doors to help you avoid opening them into oncoming traffic.

The Jaguar F-Pace 25t is available from $73,252 in Prestige RWD form, though here we have the 25t R-Sport AWD that costs from $81,787.

R-Sport brings a sportier-looking front bumper design, body-coloured door claddings, side vents in satin chrome with R-Sport badge, metal R-Sport tread plates, and perforated grained leather sports seats.

Despite starting higher, above $80,000, neither the F-Pace nor Macan get close to matching the Audi’s standard gear.

Both sit on 19-inch wheels rather than 20s, both ask nearly $4000 for multi-function LED headlights (with only the Macan matching the Q5’s auto high beam), adaptive cruise costs $3370 for the Jaguar or $2990 for the Porsche, and if you want blind-spot detection that’s another $1180 (F-Pace) or $1390 (Macan).

Porsche at least matches the Audi for several other features: three-zone climate control ($1890 for four-zone in the F-Pace that has dual-zone standard); Wi-Fi hot-spot ($1270 F-Pace); keyless entry and automatic tailgate ($2170 F-Pace); digital radio ($950 Jag); Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (not available on the F-Pace, though for $420 Jaguar gives you InControl Apps to link to the likes of Spotify on your phone).

The Jaguar and Porsche are left with little to claim as exclusives over the Audi. They both get a one-up lane departure warning, while away from the bitumen the F-Pace has a low-speed cruise control system called All Surface Progress Control and the Macan serves up an Off Road button that alters drivetrain and electronic-aid parameters. (Though we’re focusing our testing on where these SUVs are predominantly driven: on road.)

Jaguar’s SUV joins the Audi in providing autonomous emergency braking, where AEB isn’t available on the Macan at this stage.


Cabins

The Q5’s cabin leads here for perception of expense and sophistication, despite the occasional fit and finish glitch that is glaring only owing to Audi’s usually impeccable standards.

The subtle détente clicks of the temperature dials epitomise the terrific tactility of the Audi’s switchgear, while the expansive console features a cool brush-effect for the gearlever and touchpad surround.

The console makes good use of space without looking cluttered, and the rubber tray that slides back to reveal two deep cupholders is clever.

A couple of things don’t work as well in the conversion from the car’s native left-hand-drive to right-hooker: the touchpad function of the MMI interface that allows you to trace letters and numbers with a finger is best for left-handers; the Drive Select button that alters vehicle settings is a distracting reach for the driver.

With our S Line Black edition’s (optional) carbon-fibre-style trim strips, flat-bottomed steering wheel and beautifully supple, S-branded Nappa upholstery, you could be fooled into believing you were sitting in the $100K SQ5 that looks almost identical.

Jump into the Jaguar and the F-Pace’s selection of materials, tactility and overall execution doesn’t impress on quite the same level as its German rivals.

Hard and dull surfaces are more noticeable, and there’s a plasticky feel to important touch points such as the paddle-shifters and seat adjustment switches. The window switches on the door shoulder are also placed in a completely unnatural position – and familiarity over a few days didn’t seem to help.

But the F-Pace’s interior is otherwise a fine place in which to spend time, and the design is certainly contemporary. The dash is notable for two things: the prominent (optional) widescreen colour touch display, and the arc that runs harmoniously into the doors – a visual effect borrowed from the XJ limo – to create a cockpit feel, in conjunction with the wide centre console.

The Jaguar’s interior scores for space. The F-Pace puts its longer dimensions – both length and wheelbase – to good use, by offering the most rear legroom. There’s also plenty of headroom and the most generous foot space beneath the front seats, while the outer rear seats are comfortable and in addition to rear vents there’s 12v and USB sockets.

Audi’s second-generation Q5 is 34mm longer nose to tail than the original, with 12mm growing between the axles. Not coincidentally, that’s 12mm longer than the Macan’s wheelbase – the Porsche was based on the original Q5 architecture.

Our test car featured an optional sliding bench (with recline function) that is worth the $2740 cost (as part of the Comfort Package) as it allows owners to prioritise either luggage or rear passenger comfort. And the latter is plenty of knee space.

Under-thigh support isn’t as good as the Jaguar’s rear bench, though that supple Nappa leather comes to the fore again and the sense of high quality continues from the front.

The Macan’s rear cabin provides sufficient legroom, though foot space isn’t generous, the outer seats are firm and not particularly supportive, and the armrests on the doors are a bit narrow and the centre armrest is awkwardly high when folded out..

The vents with temperature control are a welcome touch, as are the big doorbins.

The touchscreen and Wi-Fi hotspot capability are part of incremental, MY18 updates, and overall the Porsche’s interior is ageing well despite being a button-fest. (Probably best, though, not to look inside a Panamera at the showroom if you don’t want a taste of new, digital-age Porsche interiors.)

We like the antiquated but quaint requirement to turn the key fob in the ignition to start the car, as well as the Porsche-classic analogue central rev counter (complemented by a 4.8-inch high-res colour display in the instrument panel).

Audi’s configurable graphic instrument cluster – dubbed Virtual Cockpit – equally suits the Q5, and you’ll again need to pay Jaguar more to have the British brand’s riposte, the 12.3-inch Virtual Instrument Display.

That forms part of a $2690 pack that also bumps the standard InControl Touch 8.0-inch touchscreen up to the widescreen, 10.2-inch Pro version seen here.

All three SUVs feature audio systems with speakers in double figures, though only the Jaguar has a named brand: Meridian. Audi asks a relatively reasonable $1950 for a Bang & Olufsen system, though, while you can have either a Bose ($2650) or Burmester ($11,590) surround sound system in the Macan.


Cargo Space

The Macan’s sloping, hatch-like shape robs it of some boot space – and on paper its 500-litre capacity trails the F-Pace by eight litres and the Q5 by at least 50 litres. It’s still a good size, and there’s handy netting under the parcel shelf, a 12V socket, and tie-downs.

Above: Porsche Macan

All three models employ the flexible 40-20-40 configuration – all expanding with flat floors. Here, the Macan triples its capacity to 1500L, the F-Pace expands to 1740L, and the Q5 totals 1550L. The F-Pace also provides a useful reversible (rubber/carpet) floor mat.

There are auto tailgates all round, though Jaguar again asks an extra spend ($290) for a gesture function where it’s standard on the Audi.

Above: Audi Q5

Another $120 is also required if you want seatback release levers in your F-Pace’s boot, where – you’ve guessed it – they’re inclusive in the Q5. To be fair to the Jaguar, at least those last two features are available where they’re not with the Macan.

And Jaguar is alone in giving you the option of a full-size spare wheel ($1090), though an incongruous hump will rob you of 45 litres of boot space.

Above: Jaguar F-Pace


Performance

Engines are the big news for both the Macan and F-Pace that have been around, respectively, since 2014 and 2016.

Only the Jaguar’s four-cylinder turbo petrol is brand new, though. The base Macan’s 1984cc unit will be familiar to many: the EA888 engine found in various VW Group products, including the Golf GTI… and the Q5 2.0 TFSI right here.

The 185kW and 370Nm outputs are identical between the Audi and Porsche, though peak power for the Porsche has been tuned to extend higher – reaching 6800rpm where in the Q5, for example, it ends at 6000rpm.

Strangely, or not, the Macan sounds more recognisably like a GTI at times, including the exhaust burps on fast-driving upshifts. It sounds more dramatic, however, if you have ticked the option box for the Sports Exhaust, which can be engaged by a separate button or by pressing the Sport button that also sharpens the drivetrain’s responses.

With the superb PDK transmission in the mix – delivering fast gearchanges if you choose to flick the paddles or, if left to itself, impressively intuitive ratio-swaps – the Macan presents the most engaging engine-gearbox combination here.

The Q5’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto is no slouch rifling through the cogs, and the engine, as you’d expect, is similarly sweet to rev. The Audi just won’t hold gears like the Porsche and doesn’t give you the same sensation of striving for – and savouring – higher revs.

The hesitancy trait that afflicts most dual-clutchers is also a touch more noticeable in the Audi.

No such problems around town or rolling into roundabouts for the F-Pace, which employs the ever-excellent, conventional, seamless-shifting ZF eight-speed auto.

Neither the auto nor the four-cylinder petrol seem particularly sporty in this company, however. The F-Pace’s downshifts are significantly slower, and the engine, while revving freely enough, doesn’t give you the same encouragement to wind things out to the redline as the Germans.

The Jaguar is slowest in the quoted 0-100km/h sprint times, though 6.8 seconds is respectable and the Porsche is only a tenth quicker. The Macan will take 6.5 seconds if another option box is ticked – the Sports Chrono package that brings the more aggressive Sport Plus mode, launch control, and the dash-top analogue clock with lap-timer.

Even with that, the Porsche loses the race to the Q5 that crosses the theoretical chequered flag in 6.3 seconds. More importantly, the Q5 – 40-50kg lighter than its rivals – feels the quickest on the move.


Driving

The Audi Q5’s move to the MLB Evo platform, which also underpins the latest A4/A5, resolves many of the steering, ride and handling flaws of the first generation.

Where the old Q5’s jiggly suspension reduced its comfort levels, the latest version is more settled over imperfect bitumen – even with big wheels and sports suspension.

The steering tracks more smoothly and consistently, though we wish Audi would engineer more weight into the equation – even in the sportier Dynamic mode, it’s fingertip light.

While this is a chassis that gives a keen driver more to work with, both our testers experienced a similarly unnerving intervention of the Q5’s electronic stability control system.

Both moments – one uphill, one downhill – involved the vehicle clamping on the brakes and cutting engine power as our testers tried to turn into a corner after heavy braking. It’s not an issue we’ve previously encountered with other Q5s we’ve tested, but we’ve asked Audi Australia to look into it.

The incidents have no bearing on our conclusion that the F-Pace and Macan remain the leaders for dynamic accomplishment in this segment.

The Jaguar’s poise is never in question despite noticeably more body roll than the Porsche.

It resists understeer commendably, helped by a torque vectoring system that subtly dabs the brake of the inside-rear wheel to give the outer-rear more purchase.

It’s also a bonus that the all-wheel-drive system is ostensibly rear-drive – with 90 per cent of torque generally sent to the back axle, with torque transferred to the front only as required. It feels that way, too, as does the Macan to a slightly lesser extent with its constantly variable system.

They contrast with the Q5’s new, fuel-efficiency-focused ‘ultra quattro’ set-up, which makes the Audi nominally a front-driver – one that can engage the rear wheels for extra traction by engaging clutches at the front-mounted gearbox and rear differential.

You can tell the F-Pace is related to Jaguar’s XE and XF sedans, especially in the steering that, while also on the light side, is rewardingly linear and direct.

And we’ll make a big call here and say that, overall, it pips the Macan’s steering here, because in general driving the Porsche’s more noticeable electric assistance means it’s not as fabulously fluid and natural as the Jag’s.

The Macan’s helm still has the edge in sportier driving thanks to its extra heft and feel, and the Porsche remains the benchmark for handling.

It delivers the flattest cornering attitude, it has the best-feeling brakes, and it displays the deftest of lateral weight transfer through S-bends (though the F-Pace also impresses with its relative agility).

The Macan’s ride is also less tiring when touring along country roads, though the quality of comfort, as with the Jaguar, becomes patchy around town.

While it’s commendable Porsche Australia gave us a base Macan with few options – just the Sport Exhaust, essentially – it did reveal the jiggly, lumpy nature of the standard steel-sprung suspension. Our experience with other variants points to adaptive damping ($2340) or air suspension ($5330) – even both – as worthwhile investments.

The F-Pace absorbs bumps sufficiently but it’s low-speed vertical control can go AWOL – prone to see-sawing over lumpy streets, jostling occupants.

They gift a low-speed-ride victory to the Q5 despite its bigger wheels, though the Audi’s constant firmness prompts us to recommend ticking air suspension to gain more in comfort than you’ll lose in road-holding.


Ownership

Although the Audi is the lightest SUV here, has the slipperiest aerodynamics, and adopts an economy-biased AWD system, its official fuel consumption is similar to its rivals’ shared figures: 7.3 litres per 100km v 7.4L/100km.

According to the urban-test lab results, the Macan is the most frugal in a city environment – 8.6L/100km compared with the Q5’s 8.8L/100km and the F-Pace’s 9.1L/100km.

Jaguar may not be the most generous with standard equipment but it provides the most affordable servicing plans. An F-Pace 25t will cost only $1350 for a package of six annual services, where Audi asks $1870 for three years (or 45,000km) and Porsches charges $695 for an annual Macan service (with extra outlays for “intermediate” and “major” services).

The Brits also throw in Accident Assist, which provides a like-for-like vehicle loan if the owner is involved in an accident that isn’t their fault. Audi provides three years of complimentary roadside assistance.

There are no losers on the resale front, though. All three are forecast to retain good value after three years: F-Pace 25t and Macan predicted at 61 and 63 per cent, respectively, with the Q5 2.0 TFSI standing out at 66 per cent. (Jaguar is also alone in offering a guaranteed future value scheme, called Jaguar Freedom.)

All three manufacturers provide a three-year factory warranty.


VERDICT

There’s a feel-good factor flowing through all our contenders here in the way they look, feel and drive, and buyers of each could make a case for why their choice is best.

Subjectively, the athletically drawn F-Pace is our favourite SUV shape here (though we liked our Q5’s technical matt-paint look with four-ring decals). More importantly, it drives in a spirited manner that doesn’t betray Jaguar’s long history of sporting models. And it has the group’s best steering.

The new Ingenium turbo petrol is a welcome addition and a good performer. It’s just that in this company it doesn’t feel as zesty as the VW Group four-cylinder in the Audi and Porsche.

There’s a greater disparity to the Q5 in equipment, however – making the Jaguar look tight-fisted in comparison. It’s highlighted by our heavily optioned F-Pace test car still trailing the Audi for some features despite totalling nearly $100,000 before on-road costs.

The entry-level Macan fares little better for on-paper value, and you also need to spend extra to make the Macan ride as well as it handles and sound brilliant.

Some might argue that $80,000 is a bargain to access Porsche engineering, especially as the next grade up – the S Diesel – starts closer to six figures.

And while the base Macan doesn’t feel especially quick in a straight line, Porsche’s smallest SUV remains a hugely rewarding drive even with its smallest engine. It also remains the dynamic benchmark – of all SUVs.

The Audi Q5 won’t inspire you as much as the Jaguar or Porsche if you take the detour signposted ‘Tourist Drive’.

However, while it may not look hugely different to the old Q5, the new version is an improved driving experience in every respect.

And, technologically, it leads the mid-sized SUV pack for active safety and connectivity – most of which is standard in the generously equipped 2.0 TFSI Sport, regardless of the limited edition variant we have here.

The Audi faces imminent contests with the BMW X3 and Volvo XC60, but the Q5 has already established itself as a highly accomplished luxury SUV.

Click on the Photos tab for more images by Sam Venn.

 



AUDI Q5 BREAKDOWN

2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI v Porsche Macan v Jaguar F-Pace 25t R-Sport comparison
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PORSCHE MACAN BREAKDOWN

2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI v Porsche Macan v Jaguar F-Pace 25t R-Sport comparison
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JAGUAR F PACE BREAKDOWN

2017 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI v Porsche Macan v Jaguar F-Pace 25t R-Sport comparison
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