December 18, 2013
2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Platinum vs 2014 Audi Q5 TDI Technik. Click image to enlarge
Review by Jacob Black, photos by Jeff Wilson and Jacob Black
The sheer amount of variation among SUVs is proof positive that the genre is here to stay. Small, medium, large; sport, luxury, super-sport; diesel, gasoline, hybrid – where once there was just SUV, now there are dozens of sub-categories and sub-genres.
There are also many different reasons people buy them. For some it’s about a perceived level of safety, for others it’s about the added space which allows them to carry their family in comfort; for some it’s about all-weather capability, and for others it’s pure style.
At the time of our luxury compact SUV Comparison, the XC60, though highly competitive in the class, was unavailable, and we were curious to see how it stacked up against the best in the segment.
Fuel economy is probably the least likely reason for a family to opt for an SUV, but Audi’s Q5 TDI seeks to change that. On the safety front, the perceived safety of an SUV is paired with the proven safety of Volvo in the XC60.
Both are premium level cars, mid-size in the SUV market, both with an impressive list of features and driver aids.
Both also have their own style identity.
And both can be had for around the same base price. The 2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Platinum supplied for this test comes in at $52,850 before options/PDI/tax etc., the 2014 Audi Q5 TDI Technik $53,200.
For that money you get 240 hp at 3,750 rpm and 428 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm from Audi’s 3.0L V6 TDI. The Polestar-enhanced Volvo delivers 325 hp at 5,600 rpm and 354 lb-ft at 2,100, configured as a transverse mounted inline-six. The result is a better launch from the Audi, but I found that the Volvo was a lot stronger once speeds began to climb. The engine note of the Volvo was cleaner than the muted diesel rumble from the Audi, leading to a much more enjoyable and spirited drive experience. The Audi in turn delivered effortless, smooth driving in almost all conditions.
The TDI, as expected, turns in better fuel economy, too. The EPA combined rating is 8.7 L/100 km for the TDI versus 11.8 for the Volvo. On our test day we were hampered by misadventure (more on that later) but scored a 9.2 in the Q5 and an 11.1 in the Volvo.
Part of that was due to the Q5’s well-sorted eight-speed tiptronic, which powered all four wheels via Audi’s fantastic Quattro system.
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Technik & 2014 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD. Click image to enlarge
The XC60 was equipped with an equally well-sorted gearbox, also complete with flappy-paddle shifters on the steering wheel, but this one is “only” a six-speed. Neither box is a dual-clutch — both are regular torque-converter equipped automatics.
I never noticed the loss of two gears, even if the fuel gauge did. But like I’ve already said, the Volvo’s is more enjoyable, the Audi more effortless.
Of course, that is the case when you’re on regular roads — a bit of bitumen, maybe some snow, a little loose gravel here and there.
But our story didn’t take us down those roads. Oh, no.
2014 Audi Q5 TDI Technik, safely parked. Click image to enlarge
“I’ve found a road on Google Maps that looks like it will test the AWD and off-road ride,” Jeff Wilson told me. And so I followed dutifully, he in the Q5 and I in the XC60.
As we turned onto the muddy gravel road, I thought it seemed rougher than necessary but decided to trust in his judgement – after all, I was in the Volvo, whose soft ride and warm-hug seats had me feeling all floaty and calm.
No sooner had I thought, “Oh, this isn’t too bad” to myself than all hell broke loose.
The gravel road descended rapidly and without warning into a washed out floodway with thick, deep mud and clay, ruts that came up to my shoulders, and tree branches strewn throughout.
Jeff, using his experience and talent, did what I should have done — he floored it. When in doubt, power out! The Q5 bucked, kicked and snapped sideways. I could see Jeff’s arms flailing over the wheel through the passenger side window – which I was all of a sudden aimed directly at. The Q5 kicked again and snatched back in the right direction just in time to prevent him from burying the Audi’s smooth little front end in a large tree.