Audi Q5 2.0 TDI vs Lexus RX350 vs Mercedes-Benz GLA200: bench racing on specs!

By Botchi Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer May 29,2019

Audi Q5 2.0 TDI

The compact luxury cross-over market is booming. It’s a better, more versatile choice if you want to enjoy the (almost) go-anywhere ability of a cross-over SUV versus a regular sedan, while still enjoying the excellent build-quality of a luxury vehicle, not to mention impressive driving dynamics that are sorely missing in even many of today’s admittedly well-equipped, but still mass-market vehicles.

Audis have always impressed, thanks mostly to excellent design inside and out, impressive equipment levels from the factory once they hit local shores, and driving dynamics that give you confidence, thanks mostly to the Quattro all-wheel drive system, coupled with impressive and highly-efficient turbocharged gasoline or diesel engines. Despite the dieselgate scandal, (which, to be honest is a non-issue in the Philippines as we are still at Euro IV emissions levels unlike the rest of the world), Audi’s diesel engines are still the preferred choice of powertrain for their amazing efficiency, torque and power.

At the time I had the Q5, which was in many ways a revalidation of my previous drive in the gasoline TSI variant Q5 a few years back, a friend from the finance industry called to ask me to help him decide which compact luxury cross-over SUV to get. His choices included the Lexus RX350 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA200, both excellent vehicles. I told him to consider the Audi Q5 as well, precisely because of its excellent spec, driving dynamics, space and comfort. He was a previous BMW X3 user and wanted to try a different brand. And it had to be a brand with bling: you can’t be outshone on the office car park of course!

So, as with any person in the finance industry (my friend, not me), we sat down to compare the Q5, the RX350 and the Merc GLA200. And let me tell you, comparing cars in a logical, orderly and quantitative manner sure is a very enlightening approach from the usual qualitative, emotional manner I initially go about reviewing vehicles.

The Merc and Lexus both utilize gasoline engines, whereas the Audi Q5 has the option of a diesel engine, which I recommended to my friend. The diesel is, aside from the reasons mentioned earlier, the more desirable choice because diesel fuel is 20% cheaper than gasoline, and gives as much as 30% better fuel efficiency in real-world driving conditions. While the Lexus uses a silky smooth V6 (more luxurious in feel), it is also heavier, giving the RX350 a nose-heavy feel, something you will really notice under braking and fast cornering. The Merc GLA on the other hand, uses a small displacement 1.6 liter turbocharged gasoline engine. Output-wise, the Lexus wins at 292hp, followed by the Audi at 190hp, and lastly the Merc at a modest 156hp. But it is an old racer’s adage that horsepower sells engines, while torque wins races! Hence torque is in the

Lexus RX350

Audi’s favor with 400 Newton-Meters, followed by the Lexus’ silky smooth V6 delivering 360 Newton-Meters from its alloy naturally aspirated engine, and the Merc coming in third with 250 Newton-Meters. Truthfully, it’s tough to beat the silky smoothness of the Lexus’ V6, money and driving dynamics be damned.

Coupled with the drivetrain, the Audi uses a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission mated to Quattro all-wheel drive as with almost all Audis, whereas the regular RX350 and Merc GLA utilize drive solely to the front wheels, with the Lexus utilizing an 8-speed conventional torque-converter automatic, whereas the two Germans utilizing dual-clutch transmissions. In terms of smoothness, it’s hard to beat a torque-converter equipped automatic, especially one as creamy-smooth as the Lexus’, while the efficiency and performance of a dual-clutch transmission such as the ones in the Audi and Merc are hard peerless. The next obvious point of comparison is safety: and in this case, all three cars truly impress.

All three cars have multiple airbags: the Q5 comes with six airbags, while the Lexus and Merc utilize seven each, with the advantage being a knee airbag for the driver’s side. All three cars have traction / stability control, plus ABS-EBD brakes with brake-assist and hill-start assist. But only the Q5 comes with Quattro all-wheel drive as standard, which arguably can save yourself in many silly situations you may or may not have unknowingly gotten yourself into. You can get all-wheel drive with the Lexus RX350 F-Sport, but that pushes the price significantly up.

Of course, cargo capacity is another important consideration. The Audi Q5 has the ability to carry anywhere from 759 liters with the rear seats up, and up to 1,710 liters with the second row seats folded flat to the floor. The Lexus, despite being 9 inches longer, trails behind with 521 liters with the rear seats up, and 1,594 liters with the second row seats folded down. Of course, the Lexus enjoys a much roomier second row versus the Audi, The Merc GLA, being the smallest and shortest of the lot, has 487 liters of storage space and expanding to just under 1,235 liters with the second row seats down.

Not that these vehicles are meant for extreme off-road situations, but it’s good to know what your cross-over can do. The Audi Q5 has a surprisingly high 500 mm flood fording ability, with a 200 mm ground clearance and a good 5.8 meter turning radius. The Lexus RX350 has 458 mm of flood fording depth and a ground clearance of 185 mm with a 5.6 meter turning radius. We coulnd’t find data on the Merc GLA’s flood fording ability or ground clearance, but it does have the largest turning radius at 5.9 meters in this group.

Mercedes-Benz GLA200

Lastly, we come to the infotainment system. Audi’s MMI is arguably the easiest, most intuitive to use, has both Apple Carplay and Android Auto. Lexus’ system only has Apple Carplay, while the Merc’s infotainment system also has both Goole Auto and Apple Carplay. The Lexus isn’t as intuitive as the Audi’s, but still easy to use, and the Merc is arguably the one that will need the most familiarization before you find it second nature. All three of course have reverse cameras and sensors, but the Audi and Lexus have active parking assist, which makes parking a breeze if you’re not too confident with your parking skills.

Finally, we come to the pricing. The Mercedes-Benz GLA200 is the cheapest at P3,090,000, followed by the standard Lexus RX350 at P4,128,000 with the Audi Q5 TDI starting at P4,450,000. That’s a P1.5 million spread in this group. But should you start optioning things out, say AWD for the RX350, then the bill comes up to P4,780,000, while if you just want the craziest GLA, the GLA45 AMG, then that’s going to set you back a massive P5,790,000.

With my friend’s priorities and preferences, and after test-driving these three cross-overs, he did end up choosing a basic Audi Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro. He found the Merc’s gasoline engine rather weedy, the Lexus beautiful but a somewhat conservative, safe choice, and the Audi beautiful, different and arresting. Truthfully, you’ll be more than happy with any of these cars, but objectively, the Audi Q5 has a lot going for it in terms of spec, equipment level, driving dynamics and design.

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