‘So, you wanna be an automotive superstar, live large, one brand, five cars’. Not quite the Cypress Hill lyrics you know, but we’re confident that’s how the Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) sing it at HQ. But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s rewind. Ten-years ago, the hottest thing on the automotive circuit was the SUV, it started with one and the next thing, SUVs were spawning crossovers, there were segments within segments and everyone wanted a compact crossover without the SUV size. The SUV was snubbed, relegated to the corner, scorned for its high fuel consumption, ghastly carbon emissions and general bigness, a beacon of gluttony in a world of eco-evangilistical martyrdom. While the crossovers kept themselves occupied in multiplication and redundancy, the clever clogs over at VAG were quietly working on a new SUV. The VW MLB evo architecture would provide one platform to rule them all, creating a new paradigm that ticked the boxes of cooling the world down, carrying multiple people and their bicycles with all-important prestige of ownership. Or as they call it in marketing, creating an aspirational group. Cue the hipsters flocking en masse. So while these five SUVs share a platform and mechanicals, their engine derivatives differ. Are they the same but different, or different but the same?
Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDI Luxury
The previous model never had many fans, except for those who loved vowels. It was big, illogically proportioned, made a production of going around corners, and guzzled fuel like a banker drinking at the nineteenth hole on the company dime. The new one, however, is something else. It’s not even in the same universe as the previous version. Only available as a 3.0-litre TDI (see what we mean about drivetrain differentiation?) it alludes to fuel efficiency and plenty torque for towing more than a pair of lightweight mountain bikes. Somehow, and we’re not even sure how, VW has crafted perfection into the new Touareg, it has everything a big SUV needs and things we didn’t know they needed. Aside from the space and giant luggage compartment it’s bestowed with more convenience features than you can ever imagine: big comfortable seats, heated-steering wheel, built in sun-visors for rear passengers, adaptive cruise control and heated and cooled cup holders that fit real cups. The Touareg wins the prize for looking the most capable on dirt and rocky terrain, backed up by a competent 4Motion all-wheel drive that can be a programmed for different driving conditions. Undoubtably the best value for money out of the five on offer. If you’re all about value, why pay more, frankly.
In a nutshell
The Goldilocks of SUVs does everything the others do for less money
TDI fuel efficiency, numbers in the 7.0 l/100 km range are attainable
Really wants to be a rap superstar with its Lil Wayne-inspired grille.
Porsche Cayenne S
But there’s so much more to life than getting lots for your money, as epitomised time and time again by the Porsche Cayenne. There’s SUVs and then there’s the Cayenne S. It’s big, bold and, above all, a Porsche. That’s pronounced Porsche-uh in case you missed the memo. How Porsche sets itself apart from their DNA sharing brethren is that it emphasises the sports car bit first and the SUV bit second. It’s big, it’s ostentatious, it has Porsche symbols decorating the interior in case you forget what brand you’re in and it’s tall enough that you can look down on the minions in traffic. The Cayenne S model is surprisingly affordable at just over R1.3 million, competing with its family members, it hasn’t outpriced itself for the aspirational underlings. It manages to integrate luxurious comfort with state-of-the-art technology. If you want an SUV for the brand-swinging contest, this is your chariot, the value of status that the marque implies is unparalleled, even against the other SUVs here. The only downside in our market is that Porsche has no diesel option on offer, eco-friendly, perhaps, but we’re here for long road trips and a ridiculous fuel price that even drivers’ of twin-turbo Porsches must pay heed too.
In a nutshell
A competent SUV that competes in the sport and luxury segment
The interior, so plush and it’s a Porsche, dahling
The options list, which makes it pricey, but you own a Porsche so you can afford it
It must be tough for supercar owners, you love your beast but it’s not practical and nothing out there in the SUV realm provides the same feeling or status you’re after. Until now. The Lamborghini Urus is the status symbol of all status symbols for the uber rich. All angles, grilles and spoilers, it is the best looking of the five in every respect; the Urus is the pinnacle of moneyed SUV ownership. The super SUV, as is Lambo’s want. Powered by a tweaked and uprated 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 found in the Cayenne Turbo and Audi RS7, the Urus is easier to live with as a daily driver than the naturally aspirated V10 and V12 units that are Lamborghini’s signature. The exterior is an expressionist piece of automotive design, awash with creases that are not limited to aesthetics but decrease drag and improve downforce, the use of carbon fibre reinforced polymer makes the Urus lighter than the Cayenne, a lot lighter, and therefore a lot quicker (3.6 sec from standstill to 100 km/h). The interior is a study in wealth, opulence, the finest grain leather and sophisticated technologies money can buy, like a fighter-plane cockpit wrapped in swag. It’s practical, too, boasting 250 mm ground clearance and all-wheel drive of course, though we’re not sure how many will be spotted wandering in the open veld like the original bull it was in fact named after.
In a nutshell
The best looking of the lot, the fastest, too, and the most expensive
The superest of super SUVs
No exposed metal buttons near the gorgeous leather seats, please. Linens only
Bentley Bentayga Diesel
Meet the R3-million-and-change Bentley Bentayga with a triple turbo V8 diesel that’s yours for enjoying when it’s not required on interstellar space missions to realign Jupiter’s rings or something. A great differentiator in this bunch is its tri-turbo 4.0-litre V8 diesel motor that boasts 320 kW and 900 Nm of torque, although you can have it with the Urus motor or the good old twin-turbo W12 if you like your Baked Alaska with a side of clubbed baby seal. Harsh but true, because the monster TDI in its nose is actually the sensible and most affordable choice here. A fair argument when you have a mere 210 g/km CO2 coming out the tailpipe of your nearly three-tonne behemoth. You can believe that claimed economy figure of 8.0 l/100 km because it’s easily attainable on a highway cruise, but its teetotaling ways do stop when you shoe yourself from standstill to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, before topping out at ratio limited 270 km/h in no time at all. And it goes without saying the interior is a study in old-world English charm. The pattern on the wood veneer fascia is deliberately mirrored so it looks neat and the all pinstripe detailing is drawn by hand by an old English guy with the steadiest hand in the world who’s been writing pub-menu signs his whole life. We seriously love the bent tiger, the comfort, the waftability; everyone makes SUVs these days but this complete opulence is still somehow in a standalone class. It’s just a pity about how it looks.
In a nutshell
An aristocrat for new money and geriatrics a like
Diesel fuel efficiency, numbers in the 8.0 l/100 km range are totally attainable
Look no further than looking at it
Audi Q8 50 TDI
Did you know that Audi scrapped plans for an A9, a kind of super limo for this – the Q8 sports SUV? Goes to show where the brands’ head is at: EVs and SUVs all the way till 2025, and let’s leave behind the relics from the past. Bringing us swiftly along to the new Q8, another vehicle on the MLB evo platform that commands more respect than the granny-panties Q7. The only motor on offer in SA will be the 190 kW/600 Nm V6 TDI like you’ll find in the Touareg and yet somehow Audi’s managed to up the refinement and wow factor in its iteration. It’s faster, too, 0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds and a limited top end of 250 km/h. Fresh from designer, Marc Lichte’s, mood room, Audi in its post-dieselgate state is clearly not averse to pushing boundaries and creating a stir with a new styling palette. There’s plenty of visual drama to feast your eyes on, and even with the grille that clearly was inspired by Bender from Futurama, it just kind of works. It has loads of polish, strong emotional appeal of a coupe and practicality of a higher-riding SUV. At the time of writing we hadn’t actually driven it yet, but it’s understood there’s plenty of dynamism to how it goes down a road. We estimate pricing in the R1.3 million-range when it does finally make landfall in SA.
In a nutshell
Fastback Touareg/Q7 that ticks all the boxes
TDI fuel efficiency, once again, new-age handsome
Gone are the days of the physical MMI buttons
VAG’s MLB evo. One platform to rule them all, but which comes out tops? Well, we haven’t actually driven the new Q8 yet so we can’t in good conscience give a definitive verdict on it, therefore think of its presence here as an honourable mention. In fourth place is the big oil-burning Bentley. We love its luxuriating, wafting ways, we really do. But it’s maningi money for ma-ugly styling. The Rambo Lambo lives at the extreme side of the spectrum. Super-fast, super excessive, super special. The only thing holding it back on our list is its super asking price. This leaves us with the main event: Cayenne vs Touareg, the two Volkswagen Group heavyweights. The former with more feelgood factor, the latter with practicality and good value in its armoury. The Volkswagen Touareg may lack the joie de vivre of its Porsche stablemate but it’s still a superb vehicle for the money, it’s more economical with its TDI motor, and it’s the one you’re more likely to take off road with having a heart attack. And there you have it, a cut-price Cayenne in every respect.