Three luxurious SUVs that could give many sports cars a beating
SUVs mean many things to many people, but their family-friendly, go-anywhere, carry-anything persona isnâ€™t usually underpinned by the sort of horsepower youâ€™d find in a serious sports car. The minimum on offer here is about 350bhp, the maximum heading towards 450bhp. With all that going to all four wheels, and with suspension packages tuned towards rapid cornering, these three should be treated with some caution by other road users seeking to impress. But which of these actually impresses the most?
Macan Turbo Performance Pack
List price: Â£70,760
Engine: 3.6-litre, six-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Torque: 443lb ft
Gearbox: 7-spd dual-clutch automatic
Top speed: 169mph
CO2 emissions: 217g/km
At first sight youâ€™d have to say the Porsche. The Macan Turbo has the label, it has 434bhp and it has handling that seriously wouldnâ€™t disgrace a sorted sports car. It can out-accelerate the Range Rover Velar and the Audi SQ5 without breaking a sweat. This is seriously quick off the line, all four wheels squirming the horsepower down.
Feeding through a dual-clutch auto box with seven gears, the Macan Turbo simply shifts into the distance. And when the road gets a-wandering the Porsche continues to keep the hammer down. The steering has reassuring weight, turn in is quick and thereâ€™s minimal body roll even through a flying turn. Okay this is hardly a tall, thin SUV but even so for it to handle like this with what is still a higher centre of gravity than most cars is just astonishing.
If you look behind it youâ€™ll find the Range Rover and the Audi much more evenly matched. Thereâ€™s only 26bhp between them (Range Rover: 375bhp; Audi: 349bhp), although the Audi has the torque advantage. The turbocharged SQ5 gets a move on from low revs and keeps pulling very hard indeed, but the Range Rover, with its supercharger, pulls hard but not as steadily through the range.
This is exacerbated by what is becoming a bit of a Range Rover hallmark â€“ an eight-speed auto transmission that can simply dither alarmingly at inopportune moments, like when youâ€™re trying to pull out onto a busy road. At times like that a momentary hesitation seems to last hours and earns the Velar no friends. The transmission in the Audi is more precise, more definite, and simply more confidence inspiring.
The SQ5 handles crisply, with even sharper turn in than the Porsche, and you can feel the four-wheel drive system shunting power around with real delicacy â€“ again, rather better than in the Porsche actually. Thereâ€™s a touch more body lean but itâ€™s still very controlled, and it doesnâ€™t sway about like the Velar does.
The Velar looks utterly fabulous, the real stand-out of the three, but in performance terms itâ€™s slightly wanting in this company, with the slowest acceleration times and the least torque to keep things thundering away, whatever the revs. To be fair, the acceleration is hindered by that transmission, as mentioned, but it generally feels like you need to row it along more to get there.
Handling is much more on the comfy than the sporting side, a clear differentiator between the Range Rover and the other two. Some might well prefer it, but if youâ€™ve gone for a sporty spec youâ€™d probably be mildly put off by the way the Velar surges and rolls through faster corners. The rear end can get distinctly wallowy and is only brought back into line by the stability control.
This doesnâ€™t translate to a particularly fine ride quality, as it gets upset by rough roads, poor thing, while the Audi wins out on the comfort stakes. Itâ€™s worth pointing out that air suspension is standard on the Velar, but costs an extra Â£1000 or so on the other two.
Range Rover Velar P380 HSE R-Dynamic
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, supercharged, petrol
Torque: 332lb ft
Top speed: 155mph
CO2 emissionsÂ 214g/km
The Velar has an eyebrow-raising cabin of some class and presence. It looks terrific, and the digital instrument display is impressive if harder to read than that in the Audi. In the Velar you sit up high, looking down that long bonnet â€“ itâ€™s the classic SUV set up. Not so in the Porsche, where you sit low, with analogue dials and a real plethora of knobs and buttons to get confused by. You can get a head-up display in the other two but not in the Macan Turbo.
The Audi sits between the two in terms of appearance and practicality, but youâ€™re left in no doubt of the quality of design, materials and fit. Itâ€™s first class, really solid. It also has the best infotainment system, with the 8.3in screen perfectly placed and really easy to use.
The cabin in the Macan is a game of two halves â€“ itâ€™s the most spacious in the front yet the most cramped in the rear. All three have capacious boots with the Audi taking the most luggage, although the Velarâ€™s is a good shape and is the largest when all the seats are folded down. If you care about your rear passengersâ€™ comfort â€“ do you really? â€“ then you wonâ€™t appreciate that the Macan is the only one that doesnâ€™t have a reclining rear bench. You can fold the rear seats by remote release in the Velar if you pay Â£105 for the button, but thatâ€™s standard fitment on the cheaper Audi. You canâ€™t have it on the Macan however much money you have or however nicely you ask.
Speaking of buttons, if you press a button in the boot you can get the air suspension to sink when the vehicle is stopped to help get elderly rellies in and out or to grapple with heavy luggage. In the Velar it does it automatically though, simply by turning the engine off, which is neat.
Audi SQ5 3.0 V6 TFSI quattroÂ
Engine: 3.0-litre, six-cylinder, turbo, petrol
Torque: 369lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 155mph
CO2 emissions: 189g/km
Youâ€™ll have noticed that things keep needing adding to the Macan. Which is disappointing given how much it costs as standard. A cost which is roughly shared by the Range Rover Velar. A cost which is Â£20,00 more than the Audi SQ5. Yes, the Audi is Â£20k cheaper than these two. If you were buying on PCP the Velar is a simply monstrous Â£435 more than the SQ5, the Macan Turbo Â£230 more.
Those are not small figures, I think we can agree. The Audi keeps that economy margin when it comes to serving as a company car too, thanks to lower emissions. It doesnâ€™t need that much adding to it, while the Velar doesnâ€™t really need anything thanks to a huge amount of standard kit.
But for the Macan to be brought up to the same level of kit would add at least another Â£10,000 to the cost. Even so, you still wonâ€™t have automatic emergency braking (AEB) on your Macan Turbo since, somewhat amazingly it isnâ€™t standard and itâ€™s not even available as an option.
So when the scores come in we find that the Porsche Macan Turbo, having impressed and amazed at first glance, actually comes in bottom here. Itâ€™s probably the most extreme driverâ€™s car here, but all that comes at quite a price for every other area of its ability, and the price demanded, particularly for the level of equipment included, just doesnâ€™t stack up.
The Range Rover Velar comes in a steady second, the most easy-going of the three, and arguably the one with the most charisma and good looks.
But the Audi SQ5 blends the positive qualities of both those two into a winning combination. It doesnâ€™t have a weak area, but it has one simply immense plus point â€“ you can have this winning SUV and save Â£20,000 over the other two. Slam dunk.