Tested: CX-5 vs X-Trail vs Tiguan vs CR-V vs XC60
Yes, we know, the vast majority of SUVs sold on the local market will never be used to their full potential, but owning one safe in the knowledge that if an off-road adventure was to present itself, the family transport of choice would meet the challenge without flinching has proven to be a highly successful marketing ploy. Rightly or wrongly, that SUVs are seldom tasked with unearthing unchartered territory is not the point: they stand as a haven of safe travel for the family in any conditions and in today’s world that stands for a lot.
Two all-new additions to the ever-growing ranks of mid-range SUVs are the Mazda CX-5 2.2DE Akera AWD and the Nissan X-Trail 1.6dCi LE 4WD, each representing the top of the range for their respective model lines and, as a result, carry a sticker price in the heady R450000-R500000 range. To see how they stack up against some worthy rivals, we brought them together with TopCar’s ex-long-term Honda CR-V 2.2i-DTEC Elegance auto, the current long-term VW Tiguan 2.0TSI 4Motion Sport & Style and Volvo’s XC60 D4 Geartronic Elite. Quite a mixed bag: four turbodiesels ranging from 1.6 to 2.2 litres, one forced-induction 2.0 petrol, three autos, one manual, one dual-clutch, and a variety of front-wheel drive as well as part-time, selectable and permanent four-wheel drive systems to savour. They are all, in fact, what are known as crossovers, vehicles (usually, but not always) built on a passenger car platform combining (in varying degrees) the features of a pukka SUV with those of a station wagon/hatchback.
To experience this handful of flagship sport-utility vehicles over various terrains, the plan was to leave Cape Town at 03h00 (er, just whose idea was this?) in order to catch the sunrise at one of the Western Cape’s well-known getaway locations, McGregor a near 400km round trip. At that time of the morning, using the lightly trafficked Du Toit’s Kloof Pass rather than the slightly quicker and shorter Huguenot Tunnel route was a natural choice and set the tone for a revealing day’s testing. Would the Honda retain its popularity against the spec-bristling Mazda and Nissan? Does either the more compact VW or bulky Volvo offer a better compromise? Customer expectations are high at this level, so time to wakey-wakey and hit the road…