Acumen's motoring expert reviews the Audi RS5 and the BMW X5 xDrive30d.

Audi RS5

Show off a little: Audi RS5 Sportback

WHAT IS IT?

A sportback is a cross between a sedan, a hatchback and a coupe – a sexy vehicle with five doors, a racy profile and usable space. RS means that this is one of Audi’s properly fast cars – their take on BMW’s M cars or Merc’s AMGs.

WHY THIS?

This is not the time to get practical and sensible on me – if you don your thinking cap you might walk past this deep-green RS5 and choose a diesel Toyota, and I fear you would regret that. This is the time for your heart-on-your-sleeve cap, your thinking-with-emotions cap. The RS5 is a great car (using the original, more correct meaning of the word ‘great’). If you do need to explain yourself, tell Doubting Thomas that this is actually a sensible family car with four doors and a very big boot, and it’s safer than most cars on the road.

OUTSIDE

If there were any questions about the RS5 Sportback being too subtle, they disappear if you choose it in a colour like this magnificent green. If you’d prefer subtler (but why?), choose it in white, when the red brake callipers make the boldest statement of intent.

INSIDE

Audi interiors are up there with the very best, and the RS cars are even better. Audi manages to add touches of sportiness without ruining the sophistication, while the standard levels of convenience and comfort features are very high indeed. The highlights have to be the sport bucket seats, finished with a honeycomb pattern in fine Nappa leather. 

THE DRIVE

With great power comes great responsibility. The RS5 is an absolute brute of a vehicle – a mafia hitman with a gloss of respectability about it thanks to a tailored suit and handmade Italian shoes. It is Thor's hammer wrapped in a velvet bag. Treat it right and it will make your life exciting and pleasurable – but push it too far and you will find yourself in a whole heap of trouble. And while I drove this delectable bruiser, it struck me that a car like this might be a great daily reminder of how to carefully and respectfully do business. It’s like a handkerchief in your pocket, with a knot tied in one corner, not letting you forget to be considerate with your power.

With a 2.9 TFSI V6 petrol engine good for 331kW and 600Nm and an 8-speed Tiptronic gearbox, the RS5 Sportback can accelerate from 0-100km/h in just 3.9 seconds. When you’re cruising on the highway the power is always there, no matter the speed you’re travelling or the gear you’re in. Revel in it. 

FINAL WORD

This is a car that you can enjoy in every facet of your life – easy to drive when your mind is on other things, and even easier to drive at pace to help you forget those other things. It has every feature you could conceivably want, and it is so much more pleasurable to drive daily than an SUV of immense proportions. It is a car that you should test drive if the price is even remotely within your means.

GO GET IT

Brace yourself – my uncle always said that you pay for power, and while he was alluding to the fuel consumption of a V8, the same is true with the purchase price of an RS5 Sportback – R1 312 000. This comes standard with the five-year/100 000km Audi Freeway Plan.

See www.audi.co.za for more information. 

Ever practical: BMW X5 xDrive30d

WHAT IS IT?

I’m sure you all know the X5 – BMW’s large SUV that was also their first foray into this now-congested segment. The fourth-generation model arrived recently, and it truly is the best X5 yet.

WHY THIS?

SUVs are cool and desirable, but you want them to be fun to drive and have that premium feel to them. Well, the X5 does all of this effortlessly. There are only two models in the X5 range at the moment, both turbo-diesel. The xDrive30d that we recommend is ‘sufficient’ in every way, while the more extreme M50d goes beyond that into the realm of those who steadfastly believe that more is better.

OUTSIDE

While cars get bigger with every generation, it seems as though one part of a BMWs anatomy grows a little faster than the rest – its grille. Much has been made of this of late, but the fact remains that the grille does seem to dominate an otherwise subtle vehicle. Other than that, this is another evolution of the successful X5 design, immediately recognisable as an X5 but with enough changes to make an upgrade worthwhile.

INSIDE

I used the X5 to go on a long roadtrip and we were mightily impressed. Space is obviously not much of an issue with a car of these hefty dimensions (although the angle of the boot reduces packing space somewhat), and the suspension is perfectly engineered to achieve a balance between an entertaining drive and a comfortable one. And an interesting touch is that you can use Skype Business or even Microsoft 365 while you drive, in case you need to stay connected.

It’s also very hard to fault BMW's cabin design, which could be on the poster for German efficiency. A spectacular touchscreen display is the centre of your driving world, while everything else has been done with the utmost of classy simplicity. One exception to this was the optional gear lever in my test car, which was some kind of faux crystal, but really a faux pas.

THE DRIVE

The one thing you know when you get into a BMW is that life behind the wheel will be enjoyable. It is testament to the company’s greatness that they can achieve this even with their SUVs, and the X5 is probably the best of them (and arguably the most driveable SUV on the market, although some British and Italian companies might disagree!) Steering, engines, gearboxes, road handling, ride quality – the X5 ticks all these boxes conclusively. The 3-litre straight-six turbo-diesel engine is tractable and refined, and the 195kW of power as usable as the 620Nm of torque, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox is as brilliant as ever.

A detail that cannot be overlooked with this particular X5 is that it was fitted with a set of proper offroad tyres (275/45 R20 General Grabber AT3s) that added a ruggedness to the vehicle without unduly affecting road performance. They’re absolutely superb, and make a great car even better.

FINAL WORD

The X5 may be a road-biased SUV, but the offroad package that is available and which includes those excellent tyres makes it significantly more versatile. It remains one of the best SUVs on the market, worthy of the prestige associated with the badge.

GO GET IT

The X5 xDrive30d is the less expensive of the two models, but it still costs R1 186 200. The bigger brother, the X5 M50d, is R1 493 600. All new BMWs come with a five-year/100 000km motorplan and warranty.

Visit www.bmw.co.za for more information.

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