I was in the fortunate position recently to be new-car shopping. This time around I decided to go a bit more up-market than everything I've owned in recent history. It was a long list to start with but in the end it boiled down to these four vehicles : Audi Q5, BMW X1, Mercedes GLK and Range Rover Evoque.
I was able to test drive all the vehicles within a few days of each other so I was able to make a fairly good comparison between them. The most disappointing of all was the Mercedes. It was smaller inside than my VW Tiguan, the controls were extremely peculiar in their layout and it really didn't drive very well. The 3.0 V6 was perky enough, but the whole package felt a bit numb.
The BMW X1 was ruled out almost before the test drive. It too was small inside - so small that with the seat in a good driving position for me, I wouldn't be able to carry any passengers in the back, and I regularly have three or four people in my car. On top of that, the plastics they've used inside felt cheap and hard and scratchy, and the centre console layout was very 1980's. Plus it had that awful iDrive computer. The drive wasn't much better. Vague steering, vague throttle response, vague brakes. Not at all what I was expecting from BMW.
The Audi rose to the top of the pile simply by virtue of not being eliminated. The drive was lovely, the layout inside was very familiar because of my ownership of the VW Tiguan. Everything was just-so. The steering had the same unusual electro-mechanical feel to it as my VW (which I'm used to) but it was nowhere near as disconnected from the wheels as the Mercedes or the BMW. In all it's a brilliant car, even if I'm not sold on the jelly-mould shape of the exterior.
Finally, the Range Rover Evoque had a drive that, for me, belied its size. It's more nimble than any of the others (in so far as any crossover can be 'nimble'), the interior was a bloody nice place to be, and the steering, brakes and throttle were all quite similar in overall feel to my VW, and the Audi. Not great, but not wooden. The big downside is the tiny slit that masquerades as a rear window, but I was willing to overlook that for two reasons. First, all US-spec Evoques come with a backup camera as standard, and second, my second ever car was an Audi Quattro that had a similarly tiny rear view when looked at in the mirrors. That's to say - I'm used to it.
The Audi is certainly the pick of the bunch if I was to pick with my head. But I've done that for so many cars now that I decided to throw caution to the wind and pick the Evoque with my heart instead. Time will tell if this was a wise choice, or if it's going to be something I'll look back on as "one of life's rich experiences".