In recent years a big trend in the UK over the Christmas period has been the adoption of European-style markets in cities all across the UK. Probably the largest and most famous is the one in Birmingham, where the market is twinned with Frankfurt’s and features German stall owners and proper log cabins; I’ve actually been to Birmingham’s Christmas market for the past 3 years but this year I think the closest I will get is the one in Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park, or maybe the one along the Southbank. I really enjoy all the Gluwein and hot mulled cider that these places offer, but my head is still pre-occupied with another couple of German products I might sample over the winter period.
That’s right this is another post about my car hunt! Sorry guys but I continue to dilly-dally over my decision despite the fact I have decided to spend less than the top-end of my budget in order to put something aside for maintenance/running costs/emergency fund/general savings. A mere couple of weeks ago I was more-or-less set on getting the V8 beast that is the Porsche Cayenne S, but me being me I have had to give other options a good hard think and as a result I am a little less resolved to buy the Porker. The car that has really tempted me? Well the BMW X5 has been a car I’ve been in love with since it’s release, and with X5’s offering a very similar package but at a slightly cheaper, it could be hard to refuse. As a result I’ve decided to do a little comparison of the two cars, as there seems to a pretty limited scope of interesting experiences with both cars…not that I’ve had any hands on experience with either but I have read a lot!
Looks and Image:
Both of these things are going to be subjective and in many cases divisive, as both of these cars can create a pretty extreme reaction amongst even car-lovers. Starting with looks and it is undeniable that to me the X5 is the more handsome car; pre-Bangle BMW designs looked very cohesive and classy with just a hint of aggression, and the flared front kidney grille and corona headlamps mean that the X5 stands out…but with the basic design of the car being 14 years old it is starting to look seriously dated! The Cayenne’s design is 4 years newer but a bit more controversial; it’s 911-on-stilts stance can look a bit awkward from some angles and the huge gaping front air intakes look horrible in lighter colours. Things get a bit more interesting when you take into account the image of both cars. I know it’s a terrible thing to take image into account but to be honest it is an important consideration when purchasing something like a car – I mean the whole SUV category in general leaves a bad taste in some people’s mouths, but Porsche purist’s who deride the Cayenne as an ugly cash cow should really question why they bought a 911/Boxster in the first place! Anyway the Cayenne tends to be seen as a bit of an ugly brute but one salvaged by the Porsche badge…plus it’s relative rarity means that it has aged considerably better to the common eye. The X5 on the other hand is a pretty common sight on British roads…not a bad thing per-se but it’s relatively low purchase price/previously premium image mean that it has become the wagon of choice for a certain kind of driver. I’m a total snob I know but you are pretty likely to see an earlier X5 being driven like a maniac by a gangster-type (or his wife), the Cayenne less so…just.
In the cabin:
You see the exterior of vehicles all the time but ownership tends to involve most of your time sitting in the driver’s seat, so a car’s interior is arguably more important than nearly other aspect. As I have only ever had a few minutes of sitting in an X5 (and none at all in a Cayenne) I am not especially well placed to form a judgement, but nevertheless that is what I’ve done; the X5 has a typically late 90’s/early 00’s BMW interior and is none the worse for it. It still looks pretty modern aside from the lack of an iDrive type controller and the standard equipment levels are high in Sport trim, plus there are no quirks when it comes to using it in every day life. My main concern is that the infotainment system might be a little long winded to use and lacks a smaller screen in the instrument cluster, plus from what I saw on the example I viewed the interior trim can get scruffy easily. The Cayenne’s interior is quite similar to Porsche’s of the time but obviously has some VW influence because of the platform’s underpinnings. Equipment levels on cars with navigation seem pretty good (and there is that all-important in-dial screen) and although I am not a fan of the faux-aluminium trim, quality seems to be better than in the X5. It’s the PCM system which seems to be an issue though, as the low down location of the screen would suggest it’s not that easy to read and also seems pretty button heavy to use. Practicality wise there is a bigger void between both cars, as the Cayenne has a boot that is a decent amount bigger vs the X5’s relatively paltry load space. The X5 does have the addition of a clamshell tailgate but the electronic opening mechanism unnerves me a little; it just seems fussy, plus the Cayenne’s tailgate glass opens separately anyway.
On the road:
So it seems that both choices in this German smorgasbord are pretty equally matched, well what about when it comes to driving the things? OK so I havn’t got much experience of either vehicle but from what I can tell there is again little to separate them; the BMW X5 was the first road focused SUV (or SAV as BMW calls it) and as such won much acclaim for it’s car like handling and powerful engines. The X5 comes with a range of engines and that does complicate things slightly (more on that later), but in main I will be focusing on the 4.4 V8 version as it does battle with the Cayenne S specifically; the 3.0i is a little overwhelmed by the weight of the car and the 3.0d is another kettle of fish price wise. The 4.4 is a beefy engine and in facelift cars gets 320bhp (vs 286 before), and when combined with the ZF 6 speed auto it sprints to 60 in 7.2 seconds, and when combined with the tight handling of the X5 it means I would own a vehicle which was quick and pretty similar to a regular car in terms of driving experience (excluding raised seating of course). Ride can be a little harsh on the 19″ wheels but overall I think that the X5 would be a good fit for my driving, and with standard sensors/smallish size the same would apply for parking spaces. However when the Cayenne was launched, the performance SUV market changed forever. Although only slightly better handling than the X5, the Cayenne brought tremendous power to the sector in the form of it’s 340bhp 4.5 V8 S and 450bhp 4.5 V8 Turbo models. Later choices included a 3.2 V6 and twin turbo Turbo S; the V6 is the cheapest way into Cayenne ownership but it offers few benefits over the S. The ride of Cayenne’s can be harsh on 20″ wheels, but optional air suspension can be really helpful, and the S sprints to 60 in 6.9 seconds. Off road in either car is not really a consideration for me, but the Cayenne would be considerably better off road thanks to the low range gearbox and locking differential…on the right tyres of course!
Here we have the most contentious issue with any SUV let alone 2 ones with massive petrol V8’s! I am not stupid and I know that any car like this is going to have hefty running costs, but the degree to which they drain my pocket could be up for debate and is an important consideration for me! Firstly we have the purchase price of both cars; the earliest BMW X5’s are now 14 years old and can be priced from as little as £4k for 2000 models. I want a facelift (2004+) car and nice examples of the V8’s seem to start at around £7k, with ones not far far away being £8k+. Being a Porsche the Cayenne tends to be more expensive, with the earliest models around £7k and decent 2004/5 Cayenne S sometimes being over £10k! However there is one locally which is priced at £8.5k, a much more realistic price. Fuelling these beasts is probably going to be the biggest running cost and again the cars seems closely matched; BMW and Porsche both suggested around 20mpg for both models officially, but owners suggest more of a gap. In the BMW high teens seems to be attainable around town, whilst as much as 27mpg is often realistic on longer runs! Cayenne owners are more pessemistic, with more like 15mpg around town and 23mpg max on a run. I guess these are not too different especially considering my limited miles, but the Cayenne’s fuel consumption does scare me a little! Insurance is more evenly matched though, and although the Cayenne seems to be the more reliable car in general, servicing costs appear to be similar for both cars.
I mentioned earlier that both cars have other engine options and this does cause a fair bit of conflict between my heart and my head for various reasons. With the Cayenne it is actually pretty simple to choose, as the only benefit to choosing the V6 is that for the same money as a V8 you can get a slightly newer V6 but with no real difference in mpg, and although insurance is a little cheaper it would make little difference. The tasty Turbo and Turbo S would be tempting if the prices weren’t so high, but at around £12k plus higher running costs it makes little sense for me. In comparison the X5 has cheaper and more tantalising engine choices to vie with the 4.4 V8. The inline 6 cylinder 3.o petrol is a great engine and would be utterly reliable, but unless I could find one for a decent amount less there seems little point in choosing it over the V8 which offers similar mpg and insurance figures. The other petrol option in facelift cars is the 380bhp 4.8iS, which offers much reduced 0-60 times and a beefed up look unique to the engine. However I can’t help thinking I would be more than satisfied with the cheaper to run and buy 4.4 engine, so have ruled the iS out. What really tempts me in the X5 though is the available 3 litre diesel option, as it is possible to find diesels for around £9k and often owners claim an average return of 30mpg, a figure much more in tune to my wallet than the 15mpg Cayenne. But would it be a false economy to buy the diesel? Some owners have reported not getting much more than 23mpg in primarily urban driving (arguably what I do), plus there is a question mark over the viability of the turbo…my journeys tend to be under 7 miles, which is how long it can take for a turbo to get to it’s optimum temperature mpg and reliability wise. A new turbo could be upwards of £3k so to buy a diesel in order to save 1-2mpg could be a very silly decision.
I’ve got a feeling that whatever I choose could be down to whatever feels right at the time for me, which I guess is the way it’s supposed to be. I actually went to go and view a Cayenne close to where I work on Wednesday but unfortunately it was off being cleaned at the boss’ house when I asked about it. There is also a dealer closer to home which has multiple X5’s for very reasonable prices, but the lack of an actual showroom and sketchy internet reviews have put me off somewhat…as does the fact it turns out I have mutual friends/acquaintances with the supposed ‘dealer’, people I don’t especially like anyway. The diesel/petrol choice is another thing that is probably going to be sorted by how I get on on a prospective test drive, and although I had previously intended to get some sort of inspection (which I know is still a good idea in theory) I might now favour the once over post-purchase by a BMW/Porsche specialist, as those inspections are expensive and apparently don’t always result in the purchase of a solid car!
Hopefully I will chance to view that Cayenne pretty soon, but for the moment I will have to settle for a glass of mulled cider at Winter Wonderland this evening!