Despite reeling from the COVID19 pandemic that has afflicted the entire world, people still yearn to move, be mobile and travel. Time is, after all, limited and we want to see as much of the whole wide world before our time is up, right?
International travel will be difficult in the coming months, as countries are battling with controlling the spread of the pandemic in their own way, at different stages. Hence, many predict local tourism will boom once things improve. And with 7,107 islands around, a vastly improved highway system and the wonders of technology, the coming months, more than ever, is a perfect time for a road trip, rediscovering our heritage, our pride, and our national identity. And to escape the hustle and bustle of a very constraining and limited urban living.
A cross-over is perfect for long drives in and around our country: it’s tall-enough to tackle most road conditions, has noticeably larger cargo space, and sits five to seven people depending on size. Crucially, it has close to the comfort and refinement offered by a traditional sedan, matched with driving dynamics far better than a typical SUV. Did I mention that they are easier to get in and out of, and easier to handle in tight spots, as well as driving overall? The taller driving position offers a better view of the road ahead which inspires confidence.
But what cross-over to get?
Well, once you step into the premium segment, it all boils down to preferences. There is no right or wrong choice, to be honest. We take a look at two popular luxury cross-overs from Audi and BMW. This article isn’t a comparo, as I had both test units at different times, and far apart in between. But driving both made me realize their respective strengths and who they would appeal to. Both vehicles are similarly matched: excellent safety (ABS-EBD brakes, traction / stability control, multiple airbags, the works basically). Both are also packing some of the best technologies their brands offer, and both present a truly unique design matched with excellent driving refinement, comfort and dynamics. Both are also priced close to each other, hovering around the mid-P3 million mark, depending on other options and accessories you get these vehicles with.
Both have a very strong presence on the road, the Audi with its signature horseshoe or single frame grill has evolved beautifully, featuring a new lower ducted opening to feed the various heat exchangers. The BMW’s trademark dual kidney grill, together with its equally memorable Hoffmeister kink on the D-pillars are present as always, with the grill having grown in size as well through the years for better cooling and as a styling exercise.
First up is the Audi Q3. The Q3 I drove is powered by a 1.4 TFSI engine which drives the front wheels exclusively via a 7-speed dual-clutch S-Tronic transmission. Output is at 150hp and 250 Newton-Meters of torque. Truthfully, I feel that this engine is at its comfortable limit, which makes all the engineering highly impressive: how can such a small engine power a relatively large vehicle? Audi has truly maximized the available technology available, all while still delivering a 5-year/160,000 kilometer bumper-to-bumper warranty. Quattro AWD and TDI diesel power would have been better, but were unavailable at that time ad drive the price up considerably. The Audi’s bias is truly towards comfort and refinement: it just soaks up the bumps and ruts perfectly; you feel cocooned inside the well-designed and stylish interior, with just the right amount of bright chrome to liven up and stylize the black soft-touch plastics and leather. On long drives which leaves one weary form work and the worries of life, the Audi Q3 is a capable companion. The Audi Virtual Cockpit is truly first-rate, arguably the better of the two vehicles here in their style, functionality and relevance to a technology-driven market that wants the latest useful advancements in their vehicles. With Apple Carplay available, syncing your mobile phone is a breeze. The wife really enjoyed riding and even trying out the Q3; she could sense that Audi engineered it to have a light and easy, almost effortless touch making short stints in city driving less stressful, devoid of the usual heavy-handed Teutonic feel German cars are known for. You also have 675 liters of cargo space in the trunk, and if you fold the seats, you end up with an enormous 1,525 liters.
The second cross-over is the X1. Immediately, you sense and feel that while the two may cater to the same market segment, their personalities couldn’t be farther apart. The BMW is all about exuberance: it wants you to drive hard, push hard, experience true driving joy the brand is known for. Power comes from BMW’s vaunted twin-power turbo diesel engine delivering 190hp and 400 Newton-Meters of torque channeled to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission and X-Drive all-wheel drive. The platform is actually similar to the MINI Countryman cross-over, as evidenced by its transverse engine layout whereas traditional BMW’s of yore always had a longitudinal engine orientation. Where the Audi delivers power smoothly and progressively, the X1’s excitement comes in charging harder and faster. There is a higher level of driver connection and control with the X1. It is still comfortable of course on long drives, but you know the X1 prefers attacking curves and challenging mountain roads and even light dirt trails, rally-style rather than munching up the motorway miles.
Ride comfort is ever so slightly down for the X1: the X1 comes equipped with Bridgestone Turanza run-flat tires so high-frequency chassis modulations are felt more versus the Audi which rides on conventional Bridgestone Alenza rubber, albeit chunkier than the X1’s (235/55R18 for the Audi versus thinner 225/50R18 for the BMW). And the diesel of the X1 is noisy versus the Q3’s turbine-smooth petrol engine, something my wife and some friends commented when they rode it. But then again, this isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, is it?
On the inside, the BMW’s seats are firmer, with more support for dynamic driving. It uses conventional analog / mechanical gauges, and the iDrive still looks a bit after-market, as opposed to the Audi’s more integrated design. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have Apple Carplay, making mobile phone usage in the car for navigation, entertainment and calls more difficult. But then again, the BMW is the type of car that you use to escape from the doldrums of everyday life, whereas the Audi is the sort of vehicle that helps make your life more convenient. Nonetheless, you still have 767 liters of cargo space with in the trunk, besting the Audi, and a potential 1662 liters with the rear seats down.
And as someone who reviews cars, I’ll get the inevitable question: which one do I pick? Truthfully, I’d get both. One for me, one for the missus. Why limit yourself when you can have the best of both worlds?