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In the space between regal and rock hopper sits the ideal big SUV fusing comfort, quality and status...

The vehicles tested here are the Audi Q7 45 TDI Quattro S tronic, BMW X5 xDrive30d Steptronic, Range Rover Sport HSE SDV6, Volkswagen Touareg 3,0 V6 TDI Luxury 4Motion AT and Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Geartronic.

The luxury SUV line-up is a micronised version of the three-way tangle of this year’s Top 12 Best Buys finalists, with the reigning Range Rover Sport tasked with seeing off the challenges of the new BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg. The VW is no longer saddled with a reputation for being a cut-price Audi Q7 that helped contenders keep this polished and capable SUV at arm’s length; the new one is fantastically accomplished.

A non-diesel entrant has also moseyed into the picture in the guise of Volvo’s XC90 T6 AWD Inscription. Repeatedly a runner-up in our Top 12 Best Buys awards programme, the big Swede is here represented in petrol rather than diesel guise. While its presence may seem incongruous, we simply could not exclude an XC90 because it drinks from the cleaner side of the forecourt (a D5 simply wasn’t available at the time of Shootout).

Also read: CAR magazine's 2019 SUV Shootout: Premium midsize SUVs

And, lastly, there is the Audi Q7. It may be one of the oldest competitors here but last time it met an XC90 and X5 in a comparative test (in November 2015), it gave them a lashing. Will it do so again?

As you may have noticed, there are two glaring omissions in this group… Porsche could not supply a Cayenne in time, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE’s launch date was after the Shootout trip in early March.

So, let’s not dally any further and get to the result.

THE VOTE

5. Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Geartronic

We’re huge fans of the XC90, admiring not just its chiselled good looks but so too its civilised road manners and generous specification. For it to place last in SUV Shootout 2019 is testimony to just how cutthroat the luxury SUV segment has become. There was always some contention surrounding the inclusion of this petrol-engined model to a predominantly diesel line-up. By and large, the engine is smooth and has enough grunt to deal with most challenges. However, it does feel a little overtaxed by the XC90’s bulk and its dearth of low-end torque compared with its rivals here. This and its somewhat less linear arrival under low-to-medium speeds meant sand driving and the like required far greater caution and a measured foot on the throttle compared with the diesels; to the extent that we left it to relax with some of the premium midsize SUVs halfway through the dunes while the others pressed on.

The emergence of some rattles from the otherwise solid cabin (curious, considering the XC60 felt rock-solid) and a spot of tremor over the rutted sections of dirt road furthered the impression the XC90 is far happier on asphalt, where it continues to serve up a serene and comfortable driving experience.

Another area where the XC90 impresses in this company is value for money. Inscription specification leaves you wanting for little, but our unit wore the recommendable Premium Pack. This R70 000 option adds such items as head-up display, 360-degree parking camera, uprated audio and smartphone connectivity, keyless entry and ignition, heated seats and some extra safety features, while keeping the price competitive. Opt for the D5, though, when you’ve settled on an XC90.

4. Audi Q7 45 TDI Quattro S tronic

Although mechanically related to the Touareg, the Q7 has a character all of its own, allowing you to appreciate just what it can do. While the engine is a mildly detuned version of the VW’s 3,0-litre V6 unit – being 7 kW down – its identical 600 N.m of torque and marginally lighter kerb weight make it feel a touch nippier than its relative. The driving experience is pure Audi, with weighty steering, composed body control and prodigious grip that transitions fluidly into understeer when pushed, making it a touch more engaging than the VW on blacktop.

The ride doesn’t, however, quite measure up to its rivals’. Despite the presence of air suspension, the chassis tuning is tight, leaving things on the firm side and resulting in crashing on corrugated surfaces. Off the beaten track, the Q7 at times feels a little skittish on loose gravel and requires provocation at low speeds when tackling sand and rocks.

Yet, on more challenging sections, it surprised with its ability, gamely ploughing through the challenging sections of dune driving, despite its road-biased footwear.

So, why the fourth placing? When viewed next to the Touareg, the Q7 feels rather dated. The cabin, although bank-vault solid, wants for some of its rivals’ visual panache and the overall styling is conservative to the extent of being near-anonymous. Admittedly, our unit’s S-line addenda lend it some kerbside credibility, but it’s part of a suite of extras that adds an eye-watering R402 000 to this unit’s base price (R54 000 for that gorgeous paintwork alone) which didn’t make it feel significantly better than its peers. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the Q7 but, as was mentioned in the XC90’s précis, very good won’t cut it in this exchange.

3. Range Rover Sport HSE SDV6

If the pricing of the Audi after options is considered steep, the Sport’s sticker price is positively vertical. HSE grade does net you a whole lot of specification and that badge carries some serious clout but, at a premium nearing R500 000 over the less expensive competitors, it’s a little difficult to digest.

It also has to be said that, despite some neat cosmetic updates to the exterior and a huge improvement to the cabin and its previously dated infotainment system, the “Sport” suffix is beginning to wear a little thin. Don’t get us wrong, the Range Rover can be hustled along windy roads without tripping over its feet and that engine feels plenty punchy and possesses an almost V8-esque growl when pushed. But the steering remains numb and you still get that slightly floaty, top-heavy feel which doesn’t present itself as acutely in the others and erodes some of that perceived dynamic confidence.

Bear in mind though, that floatiness is the product of an air-suspension system around which wonderful-motorway speed comfort is centred. And, while its on-road manners don’t inspire the most confidence, the Sport is the gold standard in terms of off-road ability here. An updated Terrain Select drivetrain-management system that’s equally capable of serving up every off-road preset you’d conceivably need as it is automatically adapting to conditions, low range, generous ground clearance and huge axle articulation meant the Sport was always tasked with off-road reconnaissance, easily cutting a track ahead of rivals.

Fantastic as it is though, there’s much better value to be found lower down the range (with the sweet spot the SE TDV6 at R1 254 906), hence why it’s a Top 12 Best Buys 2019 champion but this specific model places no higher than third in SUV Shootout.    

2. BMW X5 xDrive30d Steptronic

We’ve taken in many surprising sights on our road trip but none more so than the new X5 happily rumbling shoulder to shoulder with the Range Rover over some (although not all) off-road conditions the others warily approached. Granted, our test unit was wearing some seriously chunky General off-road tyres, but the usual side effect of such footwear – wearisome tyre noise – couldn’t penetrate the well-insulated and beautifully finished cabin.

We’ve been impressed with the latest X5, having driven both this model and formally tested the thundering M50d in recent issues, and the 30d’s showing here has only strengthened our stance. The inline-six turbodiesel is the smoothest engine of the assembled and it dovetails neatly with the X5’s good road manners to make it a consummate mileage eater with a little bit of dynamic fun thrown in.

We say a little bit because the steering possesses a vagueness which slightly blunts things when pushing on. We also noticed a tendency to tramline along longitudinal road imperfections, requiring small but constant steering corrections, although this could be an upshot of the off-road rubber it was running. Like the Audi, standard specification is adequate rather than overly generous, and ticking the options box without due care can see the price nudging into the Range Rover Sport’s territory without too much effort.

1. Volkswagen Touareg 3,0 V6 TDI Luxury 4Motion AT

Having been a perennial bit player in the luxury SUV market, it’s surprising to see the Touareg besting some of the strongest competition on offer. Those previous wallflower looks have blossomed and now attracts plenty of unexpected attention, while the cabin is both spacious and excellently crafted. The crowning point of the Touareg’s interior, though, has to be that vast, pin-sharp TFT Inno-Vision Cockpit infotainment system pairing a 12-inch instrument screen with a 15-inch centrally sited one. While the system wears a significant R74 000 price tag, it makes the Touareg feel more advanced and forward-thinking than its rivals, not to mention helping it step confidently out of the Q7’s shadow. If you feel it’s too much to pay, though, the standard infotainment system is equally excellent and pairs with classy analogue instrumentation.

The team was particularly taken with the strong but flexible powertrain; that fire-and-forget effortlessness on the open road meant dropping the heavy key into the next drivers’ hand always met with a smile. This test unit wasn’t fitted with the R51 950 air suspension package but its wonderfully supple ride and stable road manners suggest it’s not a vital addition.

The Touareg also made light work of sand driving and rock hopping, and remained assuredly planted travelling gravel tracks at a fair lick. Standard specification is generous, too, but even with the extras on this test unit totalling R150 600, the Touareg remains competitively priced.

Like its hatchback cousin, the Golf, the Touareg doesn’t shine incandescently in any one area. Instead, it serves up a package that’s so well balanced and classily executed, it’s difficult to match, netting it the win.
ATLANTA, GeorgiaThere’s nothing subtle about motoring in the USA. From sprawling eight-lane highways with suitably complex intersections and walls of flashing signage, driving here is already a potentially intimidating experience, even before you factor in the average size of the pick-ups, SUVs and, indeed, big rigs ever present in your peripheral vision. Depending on which of the 50 states you happen to be driving through, the drivers themselves are relativity tolerant yet it's both the sheer size of the surrounding traffic, as well the generally large-and-in-charge grille designs that place suitable emphasis on each imposing shape heading inevitably to the nearest gas station that make you feel that much more vulnerable behind the wheel.

And yet, a relatively short distance from the facility in which its built in, the all-new (G05) BMW X5 blends seamlessly into this environment. In this case returning to the city that in 1999 hosted the first drives of the original X5, Atlanta.

Posted alongside the original X5, the fourth-generation car looks positively gargantuan. It’s also palpably larger than the F15 model it replaces. In addition to an overall length that's 36 mm longer and a significant 66 mm growth in width (to 2 004 mm), the CLAR platform G05 X5 also features a 42 mm stretch in wheelbase length, offering not only increased rear passenger legroom but also the possibility of including a third row of seats in the package.

Even if the numbers don’t already suggest it, the new X5’s carved profile, flared wheel arches and one of the largest examples of its maker’s famous kidney grille ever produced certainly add a newfound sense of purpose, presence and, indeed, distinction to a BMW package competing within an ever diverse yet very lucrative segment. While a slightly generic rear end is characterised by a split tailgate (both pieces electrically operated), for good measure the Munich maker has (for the first time) included a set of 22-inch alloy wheels to the X5’s online configurator.

Also forming part of the configurator module is the choice between a suitably robust-looking xLine (with 19-inch alloys) and racy M Sport (including 20-inch alloys) exterior packages.

If the exterior design of the new car has been suitably beefed up, softer hands have sculpted an interior that is not only a streets ahead of the outgoing model in terms of build quality but also brimming with nice-to-touch surfaces and neat details. While I’m not a fan of the optional glassware upgrade (including transmission lever and start button) included on most of the cars available at the launch, there’s no escaping the grade of premium comfort BMW set out to register  with the its latest X5’s accommodation.

From a driver’s seat I would have liked to adjust just a little lower than permitted, BMW’s latest Live Cockpit Professional facia design is standard fitment throughout the new range. With it the driver-orientated centre console houses a 12,3-inch display screen complete with the brand’s newest operating system (7) including larger, more vivid touchscreen infotainment graphics configurable through up to 10 different page layouts. Also present is a fully digital instrument cluster housing a number of interchangeable displays and functions (including navigation and myriad latest driver assistance programs) flanked on either side by a squared-off speedometer and rev counter that may well have been inspired by 90s arcade racing games.

Launching in South Africa in November, the local X5 range will consist of xDrive30d and xDrive50d derivatives. While the appeal around the latter model will likely revolve around its quad-turbocharged 294 kW/760 N.m inline six-cylinder engine, there’s sill plenty to get excited about within the nicely balanced xDrive30d package. Impressively refined, particularly at start-up and cruising speeds, this B57-family 3,0-litre turbodiesel delivers 195 kW and 620 N.m of torque (between 2 000 and 2 500 r/min) to all four wheels via a suitably slick 8-speed automatic transmission. Although configurable via various preset driving modes, most will likely switch between comfort and sport, the latter turning instrumentation red and deepening the tone of the synthesised exhaust before sharpening throttle, steering and engine responsiveness accordingly - making reasonably light work of the new X5’s 2-tonne curb weight. BMW claims a combined cycle fuel consumption of 6,8 L/100 km with this drivetrain option.

Standard on both models is a dynamically controlled air suspension setup featuring a self-levelling function as well as continuously variable cushioning that adapts to road conditions. While an electronic rear differential is also standard throughout the range, the xDrive50d’s example gains an M Sport upgrade.

The xDrive30d I drove featured the optional xOffroad package, including two-axle air suspension with variable ride height (through an 80 mm range), as well as package specific transmission and diff lock tuning and the inclusion of four new driving modes; xSnow, xSand, xGravel and xRock. While owners will have the option of dealer-sourced off-road tyres, I was genuinely surprised by how capable the new X5 proved wearing road-going rubber over a tougher-than-expected, decidedly slippery off-road course set up for the car’s launch. Although posted further than any owner will likely stray off the blacktop, BMW’s newest sport activity vehicle made the most of both its raisable ride height, clever all-wheel-drive setup (including rear-wheel steering) and myriad cameras, sensors and driver aids (including hill decent control) to make light work of particularly muddy and potentially treacherous course – all while its occupants enjoyed welcome seat ventilation and, indeed, a massage function…

Having pleasantly surprised us after the off-roading course, the fact that the new X5 also proved more than capable of defying both its weight and raised centre of gravity while tackling a tight and twisty road section, including nicely weighted steering and admirable body control (my car fitted with optional Active Roll Stabilisation, 21-inch rubber and M Sport brakes) was surely just BMW showing off its wares in terms of the inherent dynamic ability granted to its products throughout the years. If the ride quality offered by 21-inch alloy wheels (admittedly on Georgia's brilliantly smooth road surfaces) is anything to go by then the standard fitment 18-inch items could well deliver a class-leading compromise between comfort and dynamics.

Bigger, bolder and, indeed, more capable (when specced accordingly) than ever before, there’s a lot to like about the new BMW X5. Pricing starts north of the R1 million mark and is easily escalated via any number of appealing options, but there’s at least a welcome amount of substance (literally and figuratively) to be found within the X5 package, including two hugely impressive powertrain options, genetically entertaining driving dynamics and an interior that can now compete with the best in class when it comes to fit and finish.

Latest Resutls for BMW X5

Manufacturer Specifications

Standard - standard Optional - optional
  • Leather upholstery: Standard
  • Seats quantity: 5
  • Split rear seat: Standard
  • Folding rear seat: Standard
  • Air conditioning: Standard
  • Climate control automatic air conditioning: Standard
  • Cup bottle holders: front + rear
  • Lumbar support adjustment: opt front electric
  • Front armrests: Standard
  • Antilock braking system (ABS): Standard
  • Electronic brake distribution (EBD): Standard
  • Brake assist (BAS/EBA): Standard
  • Traction control: Standard
  • Stability control: Standard
  • Hill descent control downhill brake control: Standard
  • Run flat tyres: Standard
  • Tyre pressure sensor monitor deflation detection system: Standard
  • Driver airbag: Standard
  • Front passenger airbag: Standard
  • Front side airbags: Standard
  • Curtain airbags: Standard
  • Airbag quantity: 6
  • Lane departure warning: opt / opt lane keeping assist
  • Lane change blindspot warning assist monitor: Optional
  • Attention assist rest assist break alert: Standard
  • Automatic drive away locking: Standard
  • ISOFIX child seat mountings: outer rear
  • Approach home safe lighting time delay park headlights: Standard
  • Directional turning headlights: opt LED / opt laser
  • Adaptive headlights varying light distribution: opt LED / opt laser
  • Emergency brake hazardlights: emergency flashing brake lights + hazards
  • Start stop button: Standard
  • Engine auto Stop Start idle stop ecostop: Standard
  • Hillstart assist hillholder: Standard
  • Alloy wheelsrims: Standard
  • Electronically adjustable suspension: opt adaptive
  • Self levelling suspension: Optional
  • Driving mode switch eg sport comfort: Standard
  • Power steering: Standard
  • Multifunction steering wheel controls: Standard
  • Head up display: Optional
  • Night vision: Optional
  • On board computer multi information display: Standard
  • Navigation: Standard
  • Cruise control: std incl brake function (opt adaptive)
  • Active adaptive cruise control: Optional
  • Bluetooth connectivity: Standard
  • Voice control: Optional
  • Aux in auxiliary input: Standard
  • USB port: Standard
  • Powersocket 12V: front + rear
  • Central locking: keyless
  • Remote central locking: Standard
  • Key less access start hands free key: Standard
  • Electric windows: front + rear
  • Rain sensor auto wipers: Standard
  • Auto dim interior mirror: Standard
  • Electric adjust mirrors: Standard
  • Heated exterior mirrors: Standard
  • Auto dimexterior mirrors: driver
  • Sun roof: opt panoramic
  • Panoramic roof: Optional
  • Memory for electric seat adjustment: driver (opt front passenger)
  • Daytime driving running lights: LED
  • Light sensor auto on off lights: Standard
  • Xenon headlights: LED (opt laser)
  • Highbeam assist: Optional
  • Frontfog lamps lights: LED
  • Highlevel 3rd brakelight: Standard
  • Rear fog lamps lights: Standard
  • Camera for park distance control: rear
  • Rear spoiler: Standard
  • Towbar trailer hitch: opt electric
  • Metallic pearl escent paint: Optional
  • Fuel Type: diesel
  • Fuel range average: 1143 km
  • Driven wheels: all
  • Driven wheels quantity: 4
  • All wheel drive: full-time
  • Gearratios quantity: 8
  • Gearshift: automatic
  • Transmission type: automatic
  • Transmission name: Sport Steptronic
  • Gear shift paddles: Standard
  • Electromechanical parking brake: Standard
  • Front tyres: 265/50 R19 (275/45 R20 / opt 275/35 R21 / opt 275/35 R22)
  • Reartyres: 265/50 R19 (305/40 R20 / opt 315/35 R21 / opt 315/30 R22)
  • Air suspension: Optional
  • Length: 4922 mm
  • Width excl mirrors incl mirrors: 2004-2218 mm
  • Height: 1745 mm
  • Wheel base: 2975 mm
  • Turning circle wheels body: 12.6 m
  • Wading/fording (water crossing) depth: 500
  • Load volume / capacity: 650-1870 L
  • Load volume / capacity: 1870 L
  • Unladen/tare/kerb weight: 2185 kg
  • Load carrying capacity / payload: 750
  • Gross weight (GVM): 2860 kg
  • Towing capacity - unbraked: 750
  • Towing capacity - braked: 3500
  • Fuel tank capacity (incl reserve): 80l
  • Fuel consumption average: 7.0 l/100km
  • CO2 emissions average: 184g/km
  • Power maximum: 195 kW
  • Power maximum total: 195 kW
  • Power peak revs: 4000-4400 r/min
  • Power to weight ratio: 89.2 kW/ton
  • Torque maximum: 620 Nm
  • Torque peak revs: 2000-2500 r/min
  • Torque maximum total: 620 Nm
  • Torque to weight ratio: 284 Nm/ton
  • Acceleration 0-100 kmh: 6.5s
  • Maximum top speed: 230 km/h
  • Engine position/ location: front
  • Engine capacity: 2993 cc
  • Engine size: 3.0l
  • enginedetailshort: 3.0TD
  • Engine + detail: 3.0 turbo diesel
  • Cylinder layout: inline
  • Cylinders: 6
  • Cylinder layout + quantity: i6
  • Cam: dohc
  • Valves per cylinder: 4
  • Valves quantity: 24
  • Turbocharger: Standard
  • Warranty time (years): 2
  • Warranty distance (km): unlimited km
  • Maintenance plan: Standard
  • Maintenance plan time (years): 5
  • Maintenance plan distance (km): 100000 km
  • Service interval indicator: Standard
  • Service interval (distance): service interval indicator km
  • Brand: BMW
  • Status: c
  • Segment: passenger car
  • MMcode: 05061143
  • MMVariant: X5 xDRIVE30d xLINE A/T
  • Introdate: 2018-10-01
  • DuoportarecordID: BMWX5_4e1

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BMW X5 xDRIVE30d xLINE A/T (G05) xDrive30d xLine for sale in Western Cape from one of Carmag.co.za's apporoved car dealerships
Used X5 xDRIVE30d xLINE A/T (G05) xDrive30d xLine availbale from the following auto dealer:
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