The Audi Q5 is a ridiculously popular vehicle, and frankly it deserves all the attention that it receives. When it debuted back in 2009, the automotive landscape was quite different than it is now as CUVs were just starting to trickle onto the market. The Q5 quickly became a hit with a broad range of customers, despite the $38,000 price of entry, and within a year of its debut, the Q5 saw sales grow by nearly 70%. Over the next 6 years the Q5 quadrupled its first year sales figures in the U.S. and I’d expect 2016 to be another year of big growth for the dominant luxury crossover. It’s such a popular vehicle that Mercedes-Benz completely scrapped the unique angular styling of their entry in the segment, the GLK, and borrowed very heavily from the Q5 design, then renamed the vehicle the GLC. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the proverbial coin, there’s the Mazda CX-5. While it’s true that it has vastly outsold the Q5 in the 3 years it has been on the market, it hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of notoriety as the more expensive German alternative, and that’s a shame because the CX-5 is a great little vehicle. Initially the CX-5 was heavily criticized for being underpowered, and given that it was only available in the U.S. with a 2.0L 4cyl good for 155hp, I’d say that’s fair. After two years, Mazda buyers the option of a power bump in the form of a 2.5L 4cyl good for 184hp, and 185 lb-ft of torque. Again, that might not sound like a whole lot, but Mazda’s goofily named Skyactiv Technology allows the driver to make the most of it.
Skyactiv is more of a marketing term, than a real ideology, but either way, it makes driving a lower horsepower Mazda vehicle more enjoyable. The 6spd automatic transmission found in the 2016 CX-5 has been well received, and paired with the torque-y little 4cyl, and tight chassis, it makes the CX-5 a driver oriented crossover. This is important to note because that’s what it was about the Audi Q5 that first impressed automotive journalists and buyers alike back in 2009. A Quattro equipped Q5 is indeed an enjoyable drive, it drives much smaller than it is, and when it comes to crossovers, that’s a huge bonus. After all, crossovers are nothing more than hatchbacks with a little more ground clearance, and raising a vehicle detracts from its driving dynamics. If you can build a vehicle with decent ground clearance, that is also enjoyable to drive, well that’s the makeup of a desirable vehicle indeed. The question is, do you have to shell out a ton of money to get your hands on such a vehicle?
6-7 years ago, the answer was yes, but not anymore. There are a number of new crossovers that offer quality options, and those that offer an enjoyable driving experience, but only a few that offer both, and I see the CX-5 at the top of that bunch. For one thing, the interior closely resembles that of the Q5, from the center console infotainment controls, to the overall aesthetics of the cockpit. In addition to being ergonomically similar to the Q5, the CX-5 is very close to having the same footprint. It’s 3″ shorter, 2″ narrower, and 2″ taller, but has more rear legroom, and more front/rear headroom. Perhaps the most important number on the stat sheet is the curb weight of the CX-5, which is 3,589lbs vs. the Q5’s 4,079. Or maybe it’s the 65.4 cu.ft. of maximum cargo capacity the CX-5 offers vs. that of the Q5 which is 57.3.
So, whether you value driving dynamics, or functionality, the CX-5 has you more than covered, and it has you covered at what I think is a reasonable price range. Used examples can be found for as little as $13k-$14k, and MSRP for a brand new AWD CX-5 ranges from $24,445 for a Sport model, up to $29,470. Of course you can tack on all sorts of options, but you’ll top out at $35,895 which is $4k less than the starting price of a base model Q5. Would you rather have a stripped out luxury crossover, or a fully loaded regular ‘ol crossover? I can’t answer that question for you, but based on my limited driving experience with both vehicles, I’d recommend the Mazda over the Audi every time.