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2013 Audi Q5. (audi/Audi)
2013 Audi Q5. (audi/Audi)

Best of the Lot

Which car is best for this German fanboy? Add to ...

Hi: I am in the market for a medium-size SUV that will accommodate a golden retriever and golf clubs, etc., for rides to the cottage. I am interested in the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes ML350 BlueTec. Which would you recommend? I drive a BMW 135i and love the handling and the car. We need more space, yet want a fun and great handling car. Is there anything else we should consider? – Jerry in Toronto

Vaughan: What we have here, Cato, is another case of Germanica Immoderata Stirpis Commendatio. The epidemic continues.

Cato: I had my flu shot and regularly down other Scottish and Irish medicinal tonics to ward off all potential diseases. So I’m fine. You?

Vaughan: I am not sure, but they do, indeed, seem to work on you, Cato. In any case, I am talking about a clinical term for the German obsession. In severe cases, the afflicted have to be put in straitjackets if they can’t have a snobby German brand in their driveway.

“Is there anything else we should consider?” Jerry asks. I guess Jerry hasn’t heard that cars and SUVs are also manufactured in such places as North America, Korea and Japan.

Cato: Of course. But the German seeds of the obsession were plotted and planned two decades ago. That was when Mercedes realized Lexus quality was a threat, Audi stopped being defensive about its runaway problems and BMW woke up to horsepower and design as important attributes in “premium” cars.

And here we are. Mercedes has fixed its quality problems, Audi discovered public relations and reinvented itself, focusing on quattro all-wheel-drive and brilliant interiors. BMW brought in Chris Bangle to shake up design, while also juicing horsepower in all its models. The Munich Mantra: no more dull, underpowered Bimmers. This German plan has infected the marketplace, Jerry, included.

So, Professor Vaughan, let’s not waste any time on Cadillacs, Acuras, Lincolns, or Lexi. What afflicts Jerry must run its course in a German SUV.

2014 BMW X3
 

Vaughan: Yes, Cato, you’re right; he’s a hopeless case. So on to the list.

Jerry has the BMW X3, which is probably the best-driving crossover he’s mentioned, though I prefer the smaller X1. Jerry needs room for golf clubs and a golden retriever. The X1 has enough room for that, plus it will drive like his beloved 1-Series and he’ll save loads of dough. The X3 is good but overpriced.

Cato: Ah, no. Must disagree. Yes, the X1 ($36,999) may be nearly $6,000 less than the X3 ($42,000) but you get more car in the X3. It’s simple, really. The X1 is loosely based on the 1-Series and the X3 is loosely based on the X3. The 1 is too small for Jerry and me and the X3 is more entertaining.

Remember, Jerry has to deal with golf clubs and dogs and all the junk people haul up and back to the cottage so they can do the yard work and house cleaning and such they’re neglecting at home. My bet is that Jerry mows more lawns than he ever mows down golf tees.

Vaughan: You don’t understand the cottage life, Cato. It’s beyond you.

In any case, next up is Audi’s Q5, which I like a lot. It’s a front-wheel-driver at heart, though Audi Canada only sells the all-wheel-drive version. Front-drive is fine; good winter tires and there’s no need for more expensive quattro. But that’s not in Audi Canada’s plan.

Most importantly, take a look at the interior – best on Jerry’s list. He’s obsessed with German brands; I’m obsessed with good seats. Audi is still tops for comfortable bottoms.

Cato: The Q5 is a delicious bit of design and engineering, but the basics here have been around for a few years. At its roots, the Q5 remains an older design. So Audi Canada is doing a bit of discounting to keep interest on the boil.

If Jerry can find an outgoing 2013, not only is the base model $1,000 less (at $39,900) than the base 2014 Q5 ($40,900), Audi Canada has slapped on a $1,000 factory rebate. There is no major difference between the 2013 and 2014, just so you know.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK
 

Vaughan: Now we get to the Mercedes oil-burner, er, I mean BlueTec. At $61,400 to start, it’s a big jump from the other two. I ask you: Is diesel still such a dirty word that the snobby Germans won’t utter it? With the confusing alphabet-soup naming of these rigs, I think what Jerry is trying to identify is the GLK250 BlueTec ($43,500).

This is the one with the turbo-diesel gem. This engine is smooth, quiet, powerful and fuel-efficient. If Jer’s doing the cottage run, diesel’s the answer. The GLK drives a lot like the Mercedes C-Class sedan on which it is based, too.

Cato: I say X3. Simple as that.

Vaughan: GLK for the diesel. Plus it has a big, shiny three-pointed star, which may ease Jerry’s Germanica Immoderata Stirpis Commendatio.

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

HOW THEY COMPARE

 2014 BMW X3 xDrive28i2013 Audi Q5 2.0T2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC

Wheelbase (mm):

2,81002,8072,755

Length (mm):

4,4484,6394,525

Width (mm):

1,8811,8981,886

Height (mm)

1,6611,6551,698

Engine:

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged2.1-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

241/258 lb-ft211/258 lb-ft200/369 lb-ft

Drive system:

all-wheel driveall-wheel driveall-wheel drive

Transmission

eight-speed automaticeight-speed automaticseven-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,8651,8501,925

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

9.5 city/7.0 highway10.5 city/7.2 highway8.3 city/5.9 highway

Base price

$42,800$39,900$43,500

Source: car manufacturers

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