2016 BMW X3
2016 BMW X3 (BMW of North America, LLC)

The 2016 model year is here, and the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 are once again near the top of our luxury compact SUV rankings. Both have an upscale interior and performance credentials that will satisfy most luxury crossover SUV shoppers, but there are some important differences you should keep in mind when deciding whether the X3 or Q5 is best for you.

We’re comparing the lowest trims with all-wheel drive for both vehicles. The BMW X3 has the horsepower edge when comparing standard engines, but the available Audi SQ5’s 354-horsepower supercharged V6 engine has more muscle than any engine in the X3’s lineup. The base AWD X3 and Q5 return similar fuel economy, but if efficiency is a priority, you may want to consider upgrading to a diesel X3 or Q5. The X3 is available with a turbodiesel four-cylinder engine that produces 180 horsepower and returns an EPA-estimated 30 mpg combined city/highway. The Q5’s turbodiesel V6 pumps out 240 horsepower and earns 27 mpg combined city/highway, according to the EPA.

The Audi Q5 comes standard with tri-zone automatic climate control and a panoramic sunroof, neither of which are standard with the X3. On the technology front, however, the X3 comes standard with Bluetooth audio connectivity (optional with the Q5) and a USB port (not available with the Q5). The X3’s infotainment system is also compatible with smartphones, allowing users to access text messages, email and other phone features through the vehicle’s touch screen. The Q5, meanwhile, is available with Audi Connect, which provides Wi-Fi for up to eight mobile devices.

Driver-assistance options for both the X3 and Q5 include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors and blind spot monitoring, and the X3 can also be equipped with lane departure warning and front collision warning with automatic braking.

2016 Audi Q5
2016 Audi Q5 (Audi of America, Inc.)

Most test drivers say that regardless of engine choice, the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 are quick and powerful. A few critics note that the X3’s fuel-saving start/stop system can sometimes be slow to restart the engine from a stop, but on winding roads, they say the X3 is one of the best performers in the class. The Q5 is composed and nimble through turns, reviewers report, but a few caution that its ride quality may be too firm for some buyers.

Inside, auto writers say both the Q5 and X3 have a spacious cabin built with high-quality materials. They’re especially impressed with the Q5’s tasteful interior design and the X3’s generous rear-seat legroom. Test drivers say the Q5’s MMI infotainment system is generally user-friendly, although a few report that some buttons aren’t ideally located. The X3’s iDrive infotainment system garners all-around praise for its ease of use and responsive operation.

Due to slightly more positive reviews from the automotive press, the 2016 BMW X3’s overall score of 8.6 is just higher than the 2016 Audi Q5’s overall mark of 8.5. If the latest technology and top-notch performance are priorities for you, the X3 may be the SUV for you, but the Q5’s powerful engine options and elegant cabin make it hard to overlook.

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