The hot market segment is the compact crossover, and as much success as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have enjoyed both in America and Europe, the German automakers know that they will have to raise their game as the field gets even more crowded with new hardware.
We've looked into the future with both companies, and we have news of the 2016 Audi Q5 and 2017 BMW X3. As you might expect, lightweight construction, mpg-enhanced powertrains and electrification are part of the program.
BMW Is Crossing OverThe introduction of the third-generation 2017 BMW X3, codenamed G01, will switch the X3 off the old 3 Series-based platform and onto BMW's advanced, much more space-efficient and notably stiffer 35up architecture. Although the new X3 is expected to be around 200 pounds lighter than its predecessor, BMW does not plan to offer its best-selling SUV with a three-cylinder engine. Definitely in the cards are two, more efficient, 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesels as well as the closely related, next-generation 3.0-liter inline-6 in diesel and gas flavors.
The new powerplants have more torque, should be about ten percent more frugal and on average will be roughly 15-hp stronger than the units they replace. Insiders are predicting two new high-performance models, the 360-hp BMW X3 M40i courtesy of the M Performance division and the 422-hp BMW X3 M, which will feature a version of the twin-turbo inline-6 found in the latest BMW M3/M4. The 2017 BMW X3 will also feature a plug-in hybrid (also coming for the 2015 BMW X5) as part of its powertrain mix, pairing a 2.0-liter gas engine with some 240-hp and a 95-hp electric motor. Typical driving range in E-mode is expected to be around 25 miles on the low end.
The next-gen BMW X3's redesigned seats are said to be slimmer and lighter and will recline front and rear. The rear seats also will be fully collapsible in an effort to provide a long cargo area with a usefully flat floor. Also new are a larger extra-cost sunroof, bigger brakes and wheels, aerodynamic wheel covers inspired by the X5, and a choice of X-line and M Sport equipment packs as well as available adaptive LED headlights.
Audi Wins the Race to AmericaNot surprisingly, the new 2016 Audi Q5 will go down the same road as the new BMW X3, only it will do it first. It will ride on the Audi's advanced MLB-evo platform, which will not only reduce weight and improve mpg efficiency but also improve handling.
At the leading edge of the mpg scale, we should find the Audi Q5 e-tron quattro ultra, Audi-speak for an all-wheel-drive Q5 plug-in hybrid. The PHEV model will pair a 252-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 engine with a 109-hp electric motor, which is roughly the same recipe the BMW chefs have cooked up for the next X3 only a little spicier overall. What price for a greener conscience? In both cases, analysts predict a PHEV premium of more than $4000.
Audi Q5 buyers who aren't planning to plug in will have plenty of options, including the 245-hp Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI or the 190-hp Audi Q5 2.0 TDI. One rung up on the gruntmaster scale, we find the punchy 272-hp Audi Q5 3.0 V6 TDI. With a bit of luck, there is even more to come. After all, Audi has already confirmed that a triple-turbo Audi Q5 3.0 V6 TDI good for 354-hp and more than 500 lb-ft is in the works. To get rid of turbo lag once and for all, the third charger is an electric E-boost device designed to beef up the torque curve at the word go! Watch out, Porsche Macan.
Even though the Audi Q5 is arguably one of the best-looking crossovers currently on sale, the follow-up model will be redesigned from scratch. If the customer so desires, Audi will happily install matrix headlights (LED or laser), 20- or 21-inch tires, a more extensive S-line livery, or matte paint options. Inside, a fully flexible, TT-type instrument binnacle, direct-access Drive Select (via a button on the steering wheel) and a more innovative infotainment system conceived in cooperation with Google are all on the docket.
The arrival of the new Audi Q5 will go hand-in-hand with a switch of production sites from Ingolstadt in Germany to San José Chiapa in Mexico, where Audi will reportedly create up to 20,000 new jobs. The initial capacity is 150,000 units a year.
The current Audi Q5 and BMW X3 are pictured.