2011 Car Comparison Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 vs Mercedes GLK350 iGuida

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Audi Q5 Electric Cars

2011 Car Comparison: Audi Q5 vs BMW X3 vs Mercedes GLK350

Last Updated: Sep 7, 2011

The Competition

In this compact crossover-SUV comparison we compare the 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 BMW X3. and 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350. Demand for compact crossover SUVs in general is strong, with luxury-brand models such as these luring deeper-pocket buyers attracted to their higher performance, technological sophistication, and cachet. This 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 BMW X3, and 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 comparison picks a winner based on price, features, and performance.

The 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 BMW X3, and 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 carry similar base prices, though as we’ll see, there are notable differences among the three in what you get for the money. The Audi Q5 has a base price of $36,075, the BMW X3 starts at $37,625, and the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is priced from at $36,375. (Base prices in this comparison review include the manufacturer’s delivery fee, which in the case of all three models is $875.)

The Audi Q5 debuted for model-year 2009 as a smaller and more nimble alternative to Audi’s larger Q7. For model-year 2011, the Q5 adds an alternative to its carried-over V-6 in the form of a perky and more efficient turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The original BMW X3 launched the premium compact-crossover category in model-year 2004 and was redesigned for 2011. Styling is similar, but the redesigned 2011 X3 is slightly larger inside and out, has additional performance and technology, and a lower price. The GLK350 arrived for model-year 2010 and for 2011 gets an optional AMG Sport Package for a slightly racier look.

Also new is Mercedes’ mbrace system that lets owners do such things as locate the vehicle and lock or unlock the doors via their mobile phones.

The Similarities

The 2011 Audi Q5, 2011 BMW X3, and 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 are compact crossover SUVs with unibody construction. Unibody essentially combines the frame and body into a single unit. Virtually all modern SUVs are built this way – that’s what makes them crossovers. Old-school SUVs — diminishing in number and characterized by the Chevrolet Tahoe — employ pickup truck-type separate body-and-frame construction.

Crossovers don’t have the trailer-pulling brawn of body-on-frame SUVs, but their lighter unibody design delivers qualities appreciated by most mainstream buyers: a lower ride height, car-like ride and handling, and better fuel economy.

All are three of these SUVs are similar in size and have styling that echoes that of larger showroom siblings, the Audi Q7, BMW X5, and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Each is fitted with five safety belts, but as compact models, they realistically accommodate only four adults in comfort. Each is tuned to provide sporty ride and handling, by SUV standards, anyway.

They do succeed in maintaining acceptable ride quality without undue harshness over all but the roughest road surfaces.

All three come standard with smooth-shifting automatic transmissions that include manual-shift modes. The GLK350 has a seven-speed automatic. All BMW X3s have an eight-speed automatic.


The Audi Q5 includes an eight-speed automatic with its turbo four-cylinder engine and a six-speed with the V-6. Having more gears typically results in smoother shifting better fuel-efficiency, though you’d be hard-pressed to discern much difference in transmission performance among all three of these well-engineered premium crossovers. There are fuel-economy differences (see below), though they may not be entirely due to the number of gear ratios in each transmission.

Each offers sophisticated all-wheel-drive (AWD) systems engineered not for serious off-roading but for on-road driving enhancement. They provided fine traction on wet or snowy pavement. And they enhance cornering ability on dry pavement by shuffling power between the front and back tires to achieve – in varying degrees — a sporty rear-wheel-drive feel.

AWD is standard on all versions of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Rear-drive is the standard configuration for the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, with the automaker’s 4Matic all-wheel drive optional.

All three come with an impressive assortment of features. Standard convenience items include power front seats, split-fold rear seats, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, CD audio, and assorted cup holders and storage bins. Available options include GPS navigation systems, rear backup cameras, heated front seats, keyless push-button entry/start systems, power moonroofs, and advanced multimedia-control systems.

For safety and peace of mind, each has four-wheel-disc antilock brakes for sure stopping abilities, antiskid stability control to help prevent fishtailing in extreme handling situations, and front, front-side and side-curtain airbags. Each comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile comprehensive (bumper-to-bumper) and powertrain warranty. BMW and Audi, however, enhance their basic warranties with free maintenance that includes a specified number of service checks, oil changes, and no-charge replacement of certain ware items, such as windshield-wiper blades.

The X3 includes 4 years/50,000 miles of free maintenance, the Q5 12 months/5,000 of miles.

The Differences

All three provide V-6 engines of comparable power, but only the 2011 Audi Q5 is available with the economy of a four-cylinder. The 2011 Q5 2.0T Premium model’s turbo four has 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The Q5 3.2 Premium Plus version comes with a 3.2-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower but less torque than the turbo-four, with 243 pound-feet. (Torque is the force that gets a vehicle up to speed and pushes occupants into their seats during full throttle; horsepower is the energy that sustains this momentum.) The 2011 BMW X3 offers a choice of 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engines: The 2011 X3 xDrive2.8 model has 240 horsepower and 221 pound/feet of torque. The X3 xDrive3.0 model has a turbocharged six rated at 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque, making it the quickest model in this comparison.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 offers one engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.

For fuel economy, the Audi Q5 2.0T Premium model with its turbo four-cylinder is the leader with an EPA rating of 20/27 mpg city/highway. The Q5 3.2 Premium Plus model and its V-6 rate 18/23 mpg. The BMW X3 is the second most fuel-efficient of these crossovers.

Audi Q5 Electric Cars

It’s rated 19/25 mpg with the base 3.0-liter six and 19/26 with the turbo six – the latter boasting the best power-to-fuel-efficiency ratio in this gathering. The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is the thirstiest, rated 16/23 mpg with rear-wheel drive and 16/21 with AWD.

The sportiest-driving of the trio is the BMW X3 thanks in part to several available performance-enhancing systems. These include BMW’s Electronic Damping Control that adjusts suspension stiffness according to vehicle speed, load, and road conditions. This it does in real-time, to help maintain a smooth ride and sharp handling.

BMW accentuates the latter with a Performance Control mode that sends 80 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels and engages the inside rear brake while sending added power to the outside rear wheel while cornering. Also, an optional Driving Dynamics Control system allows the X3 driver to tailor the suspension, steering, powertrain, and stability control response to “normal,” “sport,” and “sport plus” modes. The Audi Q5’s available Audi Drive Select system allows similar sport/normal personalization, but on the BMW, the capability serves to further enhance sporty road manners that are already tops in this trio.

For exclusive available features of appeal to gadget lovers, the X3 is the leader here, as well. It is available with a head-up display that projects vehicle speed and other information onto the windshield in the driver’s line of sight. Blackberry smartphone integration with the ability to have the system read emails aloud while driving also is an X3 exclusive.

So is BMW’s Top View feature that coordinates several on-board video cameras to let the driver see what’s behind, in front, and to the sides of the vehicle for easier and safer parking. The Top View image projects on a dashboard screen.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK and 2011 Audi Q5 carve out techno niches with their own arrays of exclusive gizmos. The GLK is the only crossover here to offer an optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system and adaptive headlamps that pivot to light the way through curves. And the automaker’s new Mercedes’ mbrace smartphone interface allows owners to locate the vehicle and lock/unlock doors remotely via their phones. BMW and Audi don’t offer this smartphone capability, yet.

The Audi Q5 is the only crossover in this trio to offer adaptive cruise control to maintain both a set speed and distance from traffic ahead. And it’s the only one with heated and cooled cupholders, and ventilated front seats.

Pricing is a debatable issue. All three entry models are within $1,550 of one another – not likely a big factor in this class. And load up any of these crossovers will all available features and you’re talking $50,000-plus.

But scrutinize the spec sheets for standard equipment, powertrain ratings, and other fine points, and value differences begin to emerge. The 2011 Audi Q5’s base prices start out lower but top out higher, at $36,075 for the 2.0T Premium model and $43,375 for the 3.2 Premium Plus version. The 2011 BMW X3 is the costliest of this trio in base form, with the xDrive2.8 priced from $37,625. The turbocharged BMW X3 xDrive3.0 is an attractive relative value with a base price of $41,925. Credit Mercedes-Benz with pricing that places it in the middle ground here, though its premium compact crossover gets costly quickly once you begin to check the options boxes.

Still, the GLK350 starts at $36,375 in base rear-drive form and at $38,375 with all-wheel-drive.

The 2011 BMW X3. It’s the freshest design here and aspires to be the most technically sophisticated and the most rewarding to drive. It delivers on both counts thanks to myriad advanced performance and convenience features. Both its engines furnish fine thrust but the turbo-six is especially quick.

The standard eight-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and precisely for immediate acceleration in lower gears and the ability to shift all the way from eighth gear to second for brisk highway passing response. The 2011 Audi Q5 finishes a close second and within its lineup we’d recommend this year’s newcomer, the 2.0T Premium model for its torque-happy turbocharged engine and eight-speed transmission over the costlier V-6 3.2 Premium Plus edition. The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, somewhat oddly, comes in a base rear-drive model for the few buyers in this segment who prefer to forgo AWD.

We’d bet that’s to help maintain a competitive base price. The intentionally trucky-looking GLK350 is otherwise a worthy entry with a smooth V-6 engine, ample comfort, and road manners that are good but just not as sporty as those of the X3 or Q5.

Audi Q5 Electric Cars
Audi Q5 Electric Cars
Audi Q5 Electric Cars
Audi Q5 Electric Cars

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