Audi’s Q5 SUV is a sales leader for Audi, but others are moving in on Audi’s turf in the small luxury SUV world and showing that you can buy a lot of SUV for less than $45,000. Audi, though, seems to have set a standard with its long-running Q5, which will see a refresh for 2023. There are a lot of great SUVs in this class, but among those, you’ll probably cross-shop with the Audi with SUVs from Cadillac, Mercedes, Lincoln, and Lexus.
We wish we could include Porsche’s svelte Macan on the list, but it starts t $57,500, or the Jaguar E-Pace, which starts at $48,000. But, $45,000 seems to be the magic number for many manufacturers in the small luxury SUV class.
The Audi Q5 set a standard
Audi sells more Q5 SUVs than any other SUV. It makes sense because the Q5 combines powerful engines, quattro all-wheel drive, five comfortable seats, good cargo capability, and a badge that makes the neighbors jealous. It comes in several trim levels, but the base 2022 version starts at $43,500.
The Q5 was launched in 2009 and saw a significant update for 2018, and a small refresh in 2021. Every 2023 Q5 packs 54 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear seats folded, three engine options, and handling that belies its tall stance. The Q5 seats five and has a dual-clutch automated gearbox, quattro all-wheel drive, and more. Many reviewers give the 2023 Q5 high marks for performance and reliability. It also has Android Auto and AppleCarPlay, several cool color options, and more.
The obvious Audi Q5 alternative is Mercedes’s GLC
The Mercedes GLC 300 just skates under our price limit and starts at $43,850. The GLC is Mercedes’s top-selling vehicle ever, and it’s easy to why. It combines all of the luxury features you’d expect from a Mercedes at this level. It was completely redesigned for the 2023 model year, so it may be hard to find a new one at your local dealer. However, the new SUV has a sleek interior with a twin cockpit look and wood-grain center stack topped with a new touchscreen.
Though it’s a relative bargain in this class, options will send the price soaring quickly. Heated seats are a $450 option and the passenger memory seat is a $350 option, wireless charging adds $200, a heated steering wheel will run $350 more, while heated rear seats are $580. The multimedia package, which adds navigation and navigation with augmented video, adds $1,300, and the driver assistance package with several safety aids adds $1,700. The GLC will hold 49.4 cubic feet of stuff.
Lincoln Nautilus is the American alternative to the Q5
The 2023 Lincoln Nautilus pricing hasn’t been announced, however we expect it to stay similar to the $44,090 price of the 2022 model. For that, you get a compact Navigator that seats five in some impressive luxury, which includes a giant 13.2-inch screen and a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, and Ford’s easy-to-use SYNC 4 system. You also get Lincoln’s Soft Touch Seats, with power and memory features, and several driver’s aids like pedestrian detection and Co-Pilot360 1.0. Inside, the Nautilus looks super mid-century modern with a dose of modern tech that keeps it classy and modern.
All-wheel drive is a $2,500 option on the Nautilus. The nautilus is a larger SUV and it holds a lot more than the Audi, with 68.8 cubic feet of stuff in the back.
The NX is a bit smaller, but packs a lot of value
While the new-for-2023 RX gets the headlines, don’t miss out on the smaller NX. The Lexus NX may be a bit smaller than others on this list and it starts at $39,500 which leaves room for plenty of options. Even the Hybrid version starts at $42,700. The NX 250 is front-wheel drive and has a 203-horsepower engine which is a bit overwhelmed by the NX. Rejoice because the faster NX 350 AWD is $43,100 and has a slick modern interior that is dominated by a driver-focused cabin, especially with the optional 14-inch touchscreen.
Lexus has integrated a voice-operated system for the Lexus Interface Assistant for controlling many of the NX’s functions. While it’s a smaller SUV, it still holds 46.9 cubic feet of stuff in the back. The NX also earned a Top Safety Pick Plus award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Cadillac XT5 is like a baby Escalade
We get it, when you think Cadillac SUV, you think Escalade. But, the XT5 should be on your list, and it just slides in under our artificial $45,000 price point at $44,195. For that money, you get a comfortable baby Escalade that seats five and with a 235-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder it can keep pace. Of course, you don’t get all-wheel drive, but you do get heated seats, a power liftgate, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and the new (but not always loved) Cadillac user experience touchscreen. All of it comes wrapped with leather, while Cadillac’s new edgy styling should keep this SUV looking sharp for years to come.
The XT5 can hold 63 cubic feet of stuff with the rear seats down.
The Audi may have set a standard, but there are some good Audi Q5 alternatives out there. We know that sometimes you want to put the utility in your sport utility, so the Lincoln may be more up your alley. But, then, if you want unique styling you won’t see around every corner, the Cadillac may be more up your alley. The NX makes a compelling case on price alone, as a great Audi Q5 alternative, and the Mercedes is a best seller for many reasons.