Yup, this is it. This is my limit. If I hear ‘unprecedented times,’ ‘flatten the curve,’ ‘shelter-in-place,’ or any of the other common language that has assaulted our ears any more, I am going to pull a Henry Thoreau and build a one-room cabin by a lake in the woods and just write a journal for two years. Maybe when I come back, the world will have returned to normal. Or, zombies. I don’t know. Regardless, until then, I’m here writing for the ECS audience. Today, I thought I would do a little exercise and look at what cars I would pick to live out of if I decided to bail on society in the wake of devastation.
First, let’s establish some parameters for what the best bug-out European vehicle should be and what types of uses I specifically would need in the hypothetical event that I’ve concocted. Naturally, it would need to be All-Wheel-Drive, would need to have plenty of room inside without sacrificing drivability, would need to be somewhat quick on the street, definitely not something flashy or attention-drawing, and should be capable of doing some overlanding/offroading for long periods of time. That means it needs to have a measure of reliability and ease of maintenance. So, let’s look at what I’d pick and why.
BMW X5 (E53)
This is probably my first choice. It is basically an E39 with the technology and capabilities of a Range Rover HSE. I would have it with the M54 straight-six engine due to my familiarity with that engine, its rugged dependability, and how cheap it is to maintain. Not only that, but in the event that I am going rogue, that engine was popular enough and similar enough to other BMW engines that I could swipe parts from pretty much any BMW within that year range, of which there are plenty in junkyards.
The interior is large enough to hold plenty of gear. With roof racks, the E53 could easily support a rooftop tent and could potentially keep me off the grid for quite some time.
With the straight-six, it is certainly lacking in this department. The E53 was not a light SUV, and the addition of gear, gasoline, a roof tent, and possibly bigger tires would make it tough to get out of its own way. That said, the 180hp the M54 offers should be enough to at least help it make it to highway speeds.
The choice of engine is certainly a sacrifice when it comes to power, but it offers benefits in maintenance ease and parts cost. It is also hard to find, if not impossible to find, a manual transmission example with the AWD I couldn’t give up. So, I’d have to get an E53 in automatic. Lastly, for the size of the vehicle, it really doesn’t have as much space inside as some competitors on the domestic side that also have more power and the same reliability. However, E53’s aren’t exactly hot cars right now, so they would be cheap if I found one that matched my needs.
Audi Q5 (B8)
The first generation of the Q5 is my next best choice thanks to its Quattro AWD and power output from the 3.2-Liter FSI. It is comparable in size to the X5 but offers more power, a potentially more effective AWD system, and more technology since it is almost a decade newer. However, that itself produces some interesting trade-offs.
Basically the same as the X5. As long as it doesn’t have the glass roof, I could still fit a rooftop tent and have plenty of space for equipment inside.
The 3.2 V6 produces almost 100 more horsepower than the X5, giving it a significant advantage on or off road, especially with all the gear and larger tires.
If you have read any previous articles, you probably know BMW is my forte, not Audi. I don’t know much about the 3.2 in the Q5 short of just engine fundamentals that transfer. Not only that, but these were not as prevalent as the M52, meaning parts would possibly tougher to find on the road and more expensive should I have to purchase them. Lastly, fuel consumption and the cost of the vehicle itself might prove prohibitive without selling something I already have.
Volkswagen Touareg 3.2 VR6
My last choice, but perhaps the all-around best vehicle for the overall needs, is the VW Touareg with the early 3.2 VR6. I have at least some familiarity with the VR6 and parts can be relatively cheap, if hard to find. The Touareg also has a locking center diff, more space than either of the previous cars in this list, and is probably the most logical choice. However, like the Audi, there are some drawbacks.
With more space than either the Q5 or the X5, the Touareg makes for a perfect platform since I could store the most in the car and still have the power under the hood to carry it.
The VR6 is no slouch. With all the added weight, extra gear, and larger tires, it would still be quick enough to get me where I need to go in a hurry. Not to mention it isn’t the worst on fuel economy.
The rarity and complexity of the Touareg make it a tough one to pick since it would have to be off-road for a while. It might be more livable as a physical space, but in terms of maintaining it, I’m not sure I have the confidence to pick the Touareg. The cost and availability of a VR6 Touareg also makes me hesitate to pick this one.
To wrap up, I think I would first seek out a Touareg that meets my specifications in my price range. If I could find one for the right price, then that car makes the most sense in my mind. However, if it was a quick decision and something I needed to pay for now, along with some more gear, I think the X5 would be the car I settle with. It lacks power, but my familiarity with it, the cost of purchase, and its overall abilities are enough to do what I need. So, I would pick the X5 unless a Touareg was cheap enough and close by. What would you pick and why?