Time for luxury SUVs: Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Range Rover TDV8?

What to choose when you've got the money to burn
by Botchi Santos | Jan 27, 2010

Hi, Botchi!

I am a reader of Top Gear Philippines. My father would like to buy a new luxury sport-utility vehicle. I would like to ask for your advice on what vehicle to buy and what type of engine it should have. Should it be diesel- or gasoline-fed?

My dad is choosing between a BMW X5, Audi Q7 and the new Land Rover Range Rover.

Please help me. Thanks!

Pong Shi

Ni hao, Pong Shi!

Pardon me for assuming you're of Chinese origin. I work with a whole lot of Fil-Chi people and I try to learn the common words and greetings whenever I can.

Now on to your choices--I have to say this is a mighty fine selection you have. Here's my take on the following cars:

1. Land Rover Range Rover TDV8 - Ooh, girls love this SUV the most! I've driven numerous Porsches and Ferraris, a couple of Lambos and a whole slew of Japanese super-tuner cars but the memory all pale in comparison whenever I remember driving a Range Rover into a hotel or mall and how girls of all ages ogle at it. It's definitely the SUV with the most presence. Unfortunately--if you like driving--the Range, in my opinion, has the worst driving feel. It feels like a big boat you have to command rather than something you are connected to and that you can drive with an almost telepathic link. Think of it as a Rolls-Royce SUV. You sit in the back, enjoy the commanding view and appreciate the very classy, very English-themed interior with lots of wood trim and supple seats that feel more like a sofa in an old English manor's parlor room. It is perfect for taking someone out on a date or even to a wedding--as long as you're being chauffeured. Surprisingly, the Range Rover TDV8 still retains serious off-road capability and has the best off-road performance among the three SUV's you mentioned. Serious 4X4 enthusiasts will give respect to this SUV as well. Stay away from the TDV6 and go all-out with the eight-cylinder diesel. You won't regret it.

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2. BMW X5 3.0i Diesel - This SUV is really optimized for street/highway use. It's fun, feels very much like a car to drive and has that feeling of solidness you get from all BMWs. I like how this SUV can be accessorized without looking too gaudy with all-original BMW equipment. It's pretty close to being the ultimate on-road SUV in my book. But it rides really firm. Even I, who prefers a firm suspension, have found that recent BMWs have become too firm for our roads, making them tiresome for everyday use. Chicks dig this SUV, too. BMW's iDrive, though, is still a bit distracting and annoying to use as ever. But I find the X5 expensive for what you get; BMW really wants you to pay through the nose for a well-equipped X5. I also think the BMW diesels are inferior to the Audi diesels, which seem to have the best German-made diesel engines. The 3.0 X5 isn't as fast as I would like it to be but this is the only local diesel engine variant for the X5. In the EU, there's a V8 diesel available.

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3. Audi Q7 3.0 TDi - Now this is, surprisingly, my top-pick for an SUV. PGA sells a lot of these and there's always a waiting list. It looks weird but is very roomy inside. It has arguably the best 3.0 diesel engine and one of the most advanced, most powerful and efficient ones at that. I've thrashed a Q7 a lot, driven it everywhere and have given people rides in it. Everyone came out impressed. Quattro AWD is standard so this is also one sure-footed Audi and handles almost as well as the BMW on-road. Interior is, in my opinion the best: futuristic but well-organized and minimal clutter. Audi's MMi interface is also more intuitive to use, even for a first-time user. You can get it with paddle shifters as an option too so going up and down a twisting mountain road makes handling this huge SUV even easier. Even if it's just a V6, there's ample power and, more importantly, torque mated with the six-speed automatic transmission.

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Good luck, and please keep us posted! Xie xie

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle!   

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